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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 16:10 GMT
Obituary: Alan Keith
Alan Keith
Alan Keith: Veteran broadcaster
Alan Keith was a familiar voice for three generations of BBC radio listeners, and he presented the BBC Radio 2 music programme, Your Hundred Best Tunes, for 44 years.

For more than 43 years, Alan Keith delighted his many listeners with his selection of popular and light classical music, his clipped tones instantly recognisable to all who heard them.

He was born Alec Kossoff, in October 1908, when King Edward VII was still on the throne.

The brother of the actor and broadcaster, David Kossoff and the uncle of the late rock guitarist, Paul Kossoff, he changed his name to Alan Keith in the 1920s.

He studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), where he won a silver medal in 1928.

Soon afterwards, he was appearing in George Bernard Shaw's own production of Major Barbara in London's West End.

By 1935, Alan Keith was already an established voice on BBC radio.

His career also featured a spell as a stand-up comic at London's Windmill Theatre and he worked, for three years, as an interviewer for BBC radio's In Town Tonight.

Alan Keith came up with the idea for Your Hundred Best Tunes, and the programme's first edition broadcast on the Light Programme, later to become BBC Radio 2, on 15 November 1959.

Little did anyone know at the time that it would keep him employed well into his 90s.

Alan Keith holding a record
Alan Keith graced the airwaves since 1935
The show was originally commissioned for a 13-week run, but its huge success, and positive feedback from listeners, led to an open-ended run which has continued right up to today.

Alan Keith selected his own music, regularly visiting the listening room at the BBC's gramophone library to choose his favourite tracks.

Interviewed by the Radio Times, Alan Keith spoke frankly about his programme.

"It was a very tentative choice and likely to arouse listeners as much as the planners," he said.

"I hope people write and tell me their favourites in case I've missed anything. They must, however, bear in mind the standard I used in choosing.

"A tune must be popular, and it must be good of its kind - even if it's only a Cockney ballad it must have class."

Of all the tunes which Alan Keith played over the years, perhaps the most popular was the duet from Bizet's opera, the Pearl Fishers.

But he featured everything from Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, through O Sole Mio and Albinoni's Adagio.

The programme's playlist, which changed very little over the years, inspired a number of albums - which sold three million copies between them - and a loyal audience of listeners with whom Alan Keith built his own personal rapport.

Veteran DJ Alan Keith dies
18 Mar 03 |  Entertainment

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