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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 November, 2004, 22:15 GMT
Obituary: John Dunn
John Dunn
John Dunn: Long-running Radio 2 broadcaster
The urbane tones of John Dunn, who has died aged 70, graced BBC Radio 2 for 30 years, 23 of them as the presenter of the station's early evening programme.

He built up an audience of three million for his daily magazine programme, which featured music, guest interviews and reviews.

Though he usually broadcast from a studio, on occasion his programme came from more exotic locations, including a hot air balloon, a Nimrod aircraft and from the middle of the English Channel in a Force 9 gale.

John Dunn, who eventually stood 6'7" in his stockinged feet, was born in Glasgow in 1934, the son of an electrical engineer.

He was educated at Christ Church Cathedral Choir School - his youthful voice was said to be excellent - and The Kings School, Canterbury.
They said I lacked experience and perhaps the BBC was the place to acquire it
John Dunn

He did his National Service with the Royal Air Force in Germany, followed by diverse jobs which included running a car wash, portering at Euston Station and working in a cigarette factory in Bristol.

But working on radio was his dream.

"Having acquired a taste for radio in Germany, I applied to Forces Broadcasting for a job," he later explained.

John Dunn with Radio 2 DJs
Big man: John Dunn (top) with Radio 2 DJs
"They said I lacked experience and perhaps the BBC was the place to acquire it."

He joined the Corporation in 1957, working first as a studio manager for the Nine O'Clock News on what was then the Home Service.

In those days, the famous wartime newsreaders, Alvar Lidell and Frank Phillips, were still broadcasting. Their insouciance thrilled him.

"Big Ben would be on its third stroke before Alvar of Frank would come wandering in, pour a drink of water, sit down casually - and start reading the news. I was deeply impressed."

Criticised Birt

Before long, Dunn was himself reading the radio news.

He worked on BBC World Service as well as all the domestic networks, including Radio One, where he once followed the defiantly transatlantic Emperor Rosko by announcing "And now here is the news.. in English."

But Radio 2 would eventually become his home. He first worked for in 1966, when it was still the Light Programme, presenting Breakfast Special and, for a year, Late Night Extra.

In the mid-1970s, John Dunn moved to his familiar spot, between five and seven in the evening.

The programme was relaxed, pleasant, listening. This is not to say that it was simplistic, as his annual Budget Day special showed.

John Dunn in the studio
The master at work: John Dunn in the studio
But, above all, Dunn wanted his show to be a comfort.

"After a long scratchy day at the office, stuck in a traffic jam and it's raining, I just wanted to remind listeners that 98 per cent of people out there are extremely nice," he once said.

When he retired, aged 62, in October 1998, Dunn had harsh words for the BBC's the Director General, John (now Lord) Birt. "I certainly don't like what Birt has done to the surroundings in which I work," he said.

"The atmosphere is terrible, morale is bad."

Despite a number of gaffes - including the time when he asked the South American novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, "Do you write in Peruvian?" - John Dunn's professionalism brought him the title of Radio Personality of the Year on three occasions.

And, as they said when he retired, he was the broadcaster's broadcaster.

Radio 2 DJ John Dunn dies
28 Nov 04 |  Entertainment



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