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Farewell to Fluff: Alan Freeman dies aged 79

November 2006

Broadcaster Alan Freeman, the man who coined the phase "Greetings, Pop Pickers", has died peacefully after a brief illness.

Freeman was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1927. He came to Britain on holiday in 1957 and enjoyed almost 50 years in the radio industry.  His first job was as an announcer on 7LA, a radio station in Launceston, Tasmania, in 1952 and he gained further radio experience on 3KZ in Mebourne between 1953 and 1957.

Unimpressed with UK radio, Freeman took the decision not to return to Australia but landed himself a job as a summer relief disc jockey on Radio Luxembourg.  He was soon recruited to the BBC Light Programme as presenter of the Records Around Five show where, in 1960, he first introduced his familiar signature tune, At the Sign of the Swinging Cymbal, written by Brian Fahey.
 
In 1961, Freeman took over Pick of the Pops from David Jacobs.  He continued to present the weekly countdown of the singles chart until 1972.  He also established himself as a regular fixture on BBC TV's Top of the Pops, having been appointed as one of the original four presenters in 1964, alongside Jacobs, Pete Murray and Jimmy Savile. He also became chairman of the panel game Play Your Hunch.

In 1973, he assumed his next big role on BBC Radio – the Light Programme had been renamed Radio 1 in September 1967 - when he became host of the Saturday Rock Show.  Freeman chose to concentrate on hard or progressive rock groups including Bachmann Turner Overdrive, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Vangelis and Yes.  By this time, Freeman was widely known by his nickname "Fluff", apparently derived from his fondness for wearing a loose-fitting submariner's pullover given to him by his mother, Annie.  The story goes that when Freeman took the garment to be dry-cleaned, it came back looking like a shapeless ball of fluff, but he continued to wear it regardless.
 
In 1978 he jumped ship to Capital Radio, the London pop music station.  Freeman presented a show called Pick of the Pops Take Two on Saturday mornings but, after 11 years in the commercial sector he was back on Radio 1 in 1989, once again at the helm of both Pick of the Pops and the Saturday Rock Show.  However, by 1994 the increasingly restless jock was lured away again to Capital, where he could be heard crashing his way through Pick of the Pops Take Three at weekends, and to Virgin Radio, which took up his rock show.
 
Freeman was awarded an MBE in 1998 and over the years picked up an assortment of prestigious gongs for his radio work, including the Sony awards radio personality of the year in 1987, the Radio Academy's outstanding contribution to UK music radio award in 1988, and a special Sony award in May 2000 commemorating 40 years of service to broadcasting.  The last was handed to Freeman, now severely hampered by arthritis, by Dale Winton, who had succeeded him as the presenter of Pick of the Pops in its Radio 2 incarnation, recently revived on Sunday afternoons.
 
He also found time for some film acting, and is preserved on celluloid in Julien Temple's garish musical Absolute Beginners (1986), in Dr Terror's House Of Horrors (1965), and as a DJ in the 1968 Dirk Bogarde vehicle, Sebastian.

Broadcaster Chris Tarrant once expressed his amazement that any man could build an entire career on three phrases, "All right", "Stay Bright" and "Not 'Arf".

In 1994 he appeared as himself in the television special Smashey and Nicey, the End of an Era. This was the final appearance of the two fictional DJs created by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. However, by that time, Freeman had already propelled himself safely into broadcasting mythology.

· Alan Leslie Freeman, disc jockey, born July 6 1927; died November 27 2006

 

 

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