Search

Radio legend Charles Chilton dies, aged 95

16:03 03 January 2013

Charles Chilton BBC writer/ producer of many radio shows including 50

Charles Chilton BBC writer/ producer of many radio shows including 50's Sci fi thriller 'Journey into space' later in life gave guided tours of Hampstead

© Nigel Sutton

Radio legend Charles Chilton, who created some of the most popular programmes of his era, has died aged 95.

Dubbed the “only genius to come out of the BBC”, during his 46-year career Mr Chilton wrote and produced hit shows Riders of the Range and Journey Into Space which was the last radio show in the UK to pull in a bigger evening audience than television. He also helped produce episodes of The Goon Show.

Mr Chilton, who was awarded an MBE for his services to radio in 1976, will be remembered for his conscientious approach to a broad range of subjects ranging from jazz to science fiction.

Wife Penny Chilton, who moved into Phyllida Law’s old home in Crediton Hill in West Hampstead 27 years ago with her husband, said: “He never really lost his cockney humour and he was a very good storyteller. Whatever he took up he took it on very enthusiastically.

“When he was working on Journey into Space he bought a telescope and joined the Royal Astronomical Society. That was the kind of man he was.”

Born into poverty in King’s Cross, Mr Chilton’s father was killed in the First World War and he lost his mother aged six.

Brought up by his grandmother, he left school aged 14 and took up an apprenticeship making electric signs, but was persuaded by an older colleague to get out of the business.

Attracted by the “spaceship-like” BBC building the 14-year-old was helped by a kindly security guard to get a job as a messenger boy, delivering the Radio Times to different BBC departments among other duties.

He joined at a time when the radio industry was booming and his fascination with the medium led him to newly-formed gramophone library department looking after the records.

A music lover from a young age and a self-taught musician, Mr Chilton set up the BBC Boys’ Jazz Band, playing the clarinet, flute and guitar before going on to write and produce the first ever jazz programme Radio Rhythm Club.

His first break as a presenter came on late-night show Swing Time. But after the programme first aired he was told by his boss that he “would never broadcast again, we will not have that cockney accent on the BBC”.

His burgeoning radio career was interrupted by the onset of the Second World War in which he served as a radio operator for the RAF before developing a case of the bends which prevented him from flying.

He returned to the BBC after the war, but this time to the BBC Light Programme station where he wrote and produced Riders of the Range set on the American frontier. The show attracted audiences of around 10million.

But he eventually decided “he’d had enough of cowboys” and was asked to write and produce Journey Into Space.

With his usual meticulous preparation, Mr Chilton bought a telescope and installed in the garden to stargaze and also joined the Royal Astronomical Society

Mrs Chilton, 91, said: “Even though it was fiction he wanted to know how rockets actually worked and tried to make it as accurate as he could be.”

Although he retired aged 60, he carried on contributing to the BBC and went on to help adapt his radio programme The Long, Long Trail into stage play Oh What a Lovely War!

Mr Chilton’s final project was to finish his autobiography Auntie’s Charlie, which was published last year.

Mr Chilton died from pneumonia at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead on Wednesday (January 2).

He is survived by wife Penny, children Anthony, Mary and David and 10 grandchildren.

0 comments

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 18:12
Ian Campbell outside Hendon Magistrates' Court. Picture: Polly Hancock.

A man who threatened to burn down a bus packed with Jewish women and children has been jailed for five months for his anti-Semitic tirade.

Yesterday, 17:00
Left to right: Jeremy Clynes, Deborah Warland, Hetty Colchester and Jonathan Seres, who all helped to set up Garden Suburb Community Library. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Campaigners who took over running their local library to save it from closure fear that new multi-million pound cuts will “decimate” Barnet’s library service.

Yesterday, 16:45
Will Jenkins, of Highgate School, was a finalist in the 11-14 category at the 50th Wildlife Photograher of the Year Awards

When an 11-year-old Highgate schoolboy leapt out of a swimming pool to capture a striking dragon-like iguana on camera, he had no clue the snap would class him among the best young photographers in the world.

Yesterday, 08:56
Patrick O'Leary

A member of a violent gang that burst into a woman’s home and stabbed her in the face with a screwdriver has been jailed.

Most read news

“Space is hard and today was a tough day.”

One pilot is dead and another seriously injured after the craft exploded over the Mojave desert.

One pilot has died and another is seriously injured after a rocket belonging to billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism venture crashed during a test flight. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket came down in the Mojave Desert in California. An eyewitness reported that the craft exploded in flight after ignition. A Virgin Galactic spokesman said the […]

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition