Having passed away on the same day that this show was already scheduled to be broadcast, Desmond Carrington: All Time Great turned out to be a timely and fitting tribute to a truly great broadcaster. After a long battle with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, the presenter of The Music Goes Round on Radio 2 for 35 years sadly died at the age of 90. In this one-hour special, fellow Radio 2 presenter Clare Teal took us on a journey through Carrington’s broadcasting life.
Having begun his career on Radio SEAC, a British Forces Broadcasting Service, during World War 2, he returned to Britain in 1946. He had been an actor before the outbreak of war and resumed acting on his return home. He also began producing radio shows for Radio Luxembourg and the BBC, yet it was television that first earned him public recognition. In the late ’50s he joined the cast of medical soap Emergency Ward 10, and set hearts racing as Doctor Chris Anderson. In 1981, he began presenting a weekly show on Radio 2 which was initially titled “All-Time Greats”. This Sunday show was to be a staple of the schedule for some 26 years, a slot which Des would become synonymous with. There were two broadcasts in particular that defined his Radio 2 career: a powerful 50th anniversary broadcast of the outbreak of the Second World War; and an unprecedented live show from his home in Perthshire in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. The latter was a unique undertaking at the time – he’d never broadcast from his home studio before – yet “Evening all, from home in Perthshire” soon became a staple introduction. He moved to Tuesday evenings in 2004 with a re-titled show, The Music Goes Round, finishing as recently as October 2016, now in a Friday evening slot, when his health could no longer keep up with his enthusiasm for broadcasting.
This 60-minute special revealed his incredible love of music. Both Clare Teal and fellow Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce spoke of his great knowledge and love of the medium. His choice of music could best be described as “eccentric”, ranging from unfamiliar recordings to quite risque songs. As Mark Radcliffe described, his show “seemed to exist in its own little world”. Yet it was “a private club where everyone was welcome”. Like his contemporary and great friend David Jacobs, and fellow Radio 2 stalwart Terry Wogan, Carrington was an inclusive presenter – warm, friendly, a gentle voice, positive about life, and a desire to share with listeners his musical passion. As former Radio 2 controller Jim Moir emphasised, “the music was always paramount”. This is why Desmond Carrington will be listed among the greats of radio broadcasting. He was always meticulous in creating his shows’ playlist with long-time producer Dave Aylott. He was a champion of new music, being the first to play Michael Buble on BBC radio. In his final broadcast, his wish was for listeners to “pass some of the best bits to the next generation”.
Desmond Carrington: All Time Great is like a gentle ride on a steamboat along a river where the banks are laden with memories. It is 60 minutes of heartwarming and life-affirming stuff. A wonderful tribute to a truly wonderful man.
Featured image (C) BBC