Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 12:46 UK

In pictures: Bill Cotton

Bill Cotton in 1957 when he was the Assistant Head of Light Entertainment Variety

Sir Bill Cotton, who has died at 80, was the man behind scores of the BBC's top-rated shows between the 1950s and 1980s.

Bill Cotton and Billy Cotton in May 1961

The son of band leader Billy Cotton, he produced his long-running Billy Cotton Band Show for BBC television. Cotton senior started each show with his trademark "Wakey wakey!"

Six-Five Special in 1957

Cotton brought pop music show Six-Five Special to BBC television - here featuring Jon Pertwee leading a skiffle band.

Producer Ernest Maxin, Kathy Kirby, Bill Cotton, and light entertainment head Tom Sloan

Cotton (centre) helped oversee the BBC's Eurovision entries - such as 1965 Song for Europe winner Kathy Kirby, who sang I Belong. Kirby came second in the Eurovision Song Contest later that year.

Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker in their first series in 1971

Bill Cotton first saw the Two Ronnies performing during a breakdown at a Bafta ceremony. He signed them up for 13 weeks, and they stayed on the BBC for 16 years.

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1968

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were lured to the BBC in 1968 by the promise of colour television - and a lucrative contract. Cotton was hurt when they returned to ITV a decade later.

Bruce Forsyth and Anthea Redfern, 1974

The rights to the Generation Game cost Cotton just 25, and the show became a Saturday night stalwart throughout the 1970s.

Michael Parkinson with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1971

Cotton wanted the BBC to have a regular, US-style chat show - and young reporter Michael Parkinson was picked for the role in 1971.

Rosemary James and Bill Cotton

As controller of BBC One, Cotton was on hand to congratulate Rosemary James, the winner of 1978's Mastermind contest.

Leslie Grantham and Anita Dobson, EastEnders, 1985

By 1985, Cotton was managing director of television, overseeing the launch of EastEnders as well as taking on Michael Grade to run BBC One.

Sir Bill Cotton

Bill Cotton left the BBC in 1988, but stayed involved in TV, becoming chairman of ITV station Meridian. He was knighted in 2001.

Tributes paid to BBC TV's Cotton
12 Aug 08 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Sir Bill Cotton
12 Aug 08 |  Entertainment

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