Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A Baker Boy, And Some Early Spice Girls

Over the weekend, the death was announced of Richard Baker, who was the newsreader of my childhood on the BBC. He was born in 1925, the son of a plasterer - but academically gifted, he won a scholarship to Grammar School and later, a place at Cambridge. The war got in the way, and he interrupted his studies to serve in the Navy on the Russian convoys.
But afterwards, he wrote to the BBC and got a job, presenting classical music programmes on radio, on "The Third Programme" [forerunner of Radio 3] It was a dream job for a bright young man who loved classical music. Then the BBC started planning News Bulletins on TV. Richard introduced the first bulletin in 1954 [altho it was John Snagge who read the news - altho he was not seen, just pictures were shown] But then they decided to allow the readers to be pictured, by 1957, Richard was the 'face' of BBC news. He did this job for 25 years. 
I vividly remember coming home from school in 1966, and the house was empty. I switched on children's TV - and it was interrupted by RB announcing, with deep sadness, the Aberfan Disaster.  He was a consummate professional, and delivered the news, good, bad, and amusing, with just the right touch of solemnity or levity as appropriate. 
Even after leaving the newsdesk, he continued to appear on other TV programmes, and presented These You Have Loved, and Your Hundred Best Tunes on the radio. Her was also involved in the BBC Proms.Many people will remember his appearance in the amazing Morecambe and Wise Christmas 1977 Newsreaders song and dance routine [here]
He was always considered a kind, witty and generous man. My parents and I used to watch him on "Face the Music" -  a classical music quiz programme - with Joyce Grenfell [there she is again!] In his latter years, he lived in a retirement home- and used to spend his days cutting clippings from the newspapers, and reading them to his fellow residents over dinner!
RIP to a man whose voice I can still hear in my head  "This is the six o'clock news from the BBC"
Also last week, we heard of the death at 89 of Babs Beverley. Along with twin sister Teddie, and elder sister Joy, she belonged to "The Beverley Sisters". This trio, popular through the 50's and 60's were almost the original Spice Girls.
They began their career when they were evacuated to Nottingham, and a photographer heard them singing [a hymn] but decided these teenagers would be great advertising Ovaltine. They could harmonise beautifully, and their career took off. 
Their hits included "Little Donkey", and "I saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus" - and their signature tune "Sisters!" written especially for them by Irving Berlin. They sang at the London Palladium, and for twenty years had great success. Some people complained that their songs were sometimes a little too racy [the girls usually protested their innocence!] They did Panto regularly [often having the scripts re-written to include three principle boys] They also covered hits from the US group The Andrews Sisters [eg Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't sit Under the Apple Tree etc] Joy died 3 years ago, and Teddie remains. Here's one of their seasonal pieces


  1. It was sad to hear Richard Baker had died and was surprise of his age. Thank you for reminding of ather good people.

    Hazel c uk

  2. Richard Baker (along with Robert Dougall and Kenneth Kendall) we’re very much childhood fixtures. The nine o’clock news was important viewing and if we stayed quiet enough our parents might not notice we hadn’t gone to bed. Vietnam, Biafra, student riots, and Aberfan were all fixed in the memory. We used to watch Face the Music, too. Remember the dummy keyboard?

  3. I don't think I've heard of Richard Baker, but I have heard the song "Sisters", although I didn't know who sang it!

  4. Sad to hear he died but what an inspiration from humble backgrounds!

  5. When I was little was so facinated by the fact that they all dressed the same.


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