Bruce presenting BBC Proms in the Park in 2006
Kenneth Robertson Bruce
2 February 1951
|Show||Weekday mid-mornings (1986–1990, 1992–present)|
|Station(s)||BBC Radio 2|
|Time slot||Weekdays: 9:30 am – 11:00 am (1986–1990)|
9:30 am – 11:30 am (1992–1998)
9:30 am – 12:00 pm (1998–present)
|Show||Friday Night Is Music Night|
|Time slot||Fridays: 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm|
Kenneth Robertson Bruce (born 2 February 1951) is a Scottish broadcaster who is best known for hosting his long-running weekday mid-morning show on BBC Radio 2 from 1986 to 1990, and then again since 1992.
Early life and career
Bruce was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. He attended Hutchesons' Boys' Grammar School, Glasgow, before training as a chartered accountant, Bruce's first job was washing cars. He began his broadcasting career with the Hospital Broadcasting Service in Glasgow.
Bruce became a staff announcer for BBC Radio 4 Scotland and after BBC Radio Scotland launched in November 1978, became one of the original presenters of Nightbeat alongside Iain Purdon. Charles Nove subsequently joined the presentation rota. He also presented a Saturday morning show.
His first broadcasts were from Scotland when he took over the presentation of Radio 2 Ballroom from Scotland after the death of BBC Radio Scotland's announcer/presenter of Scottish Dance Music programmes, David Findlay. He presented Radio 2 Ballroom programmes regularly from November 1980 until 1982 featuring Jim MacLeod and His Band mainly from their resident base of Dunblane Hydro Hotel. Bruce does not mention the Radio 2 Ballroom broadcasts much if at all and don't feature them in his autobiography either. He joined Radio 2 more regularly in 1982 as a stand-in presenter, mainly covering for Ray Moore on the Early show. Bruce also presented shows for BBC Radio Scotland from London. Bruce became a regular presenter for Radio 2 in January 1984 when he assumed hosting duties for the Saturday late night show in addition to his continuing show on BBC Radio Scotland.
In January 1985, Bruce replaced Terry Wogan on the breakfast programme, being replaced himself by Derek Jameson in April 1986. Following Wogan's death in 2016, his tenure of the show became the oldest for a presenter still living. He then began his first stint on the mid-morning show which lasted until the end of March 1990, when he took over the late show until the end of that year. He then hosted the early show throughout 1991, and on 6 January 1992 he returned to the mid-morning slot, where he remains today. As of 14 January 2019, Bruce follows Zoe Ball at 9:30 am and is followed by Jeremy Vine at 12 noon. On Thursday 1 August 2019 it was announced that his show had become the most popular radio programme in the UK, with 8.49m daily listeners, following a fall in the popularity of Zoe Ball's breakfast show.
Programme format and features
Bruce's show emphasises music, including regular live performances. Competitions are usually music-based, with a love song and dedications feature at 10:15 am. A music news slot with (usually) Matt Everitt appears at about 11:10 am on Thursdays. Other regular features include the Record of the Week and the Album of the Week and the Tracks of My Years, where a celebrity picks two songs each day for their particular meaning. The Love Song is played at 10:15 am each day, preceded by dedications, although a number of songs in the rotation are not romantic love songs (e.g. "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian, "The Greatest Love of All" by George Benson).
As a result of health restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, since 23 March 2020 Ken has presented his show from his home as he has to self-isolate.
The show also includes a daily quiz, PopMaster. It previously included other competitions such as Spin It to Win It and Words Don't Come Easily, although these were dropped in 2007 over possible abuse of phone-ins (despite no allegation of impropriety against Radio 2). PopMaster returned to Bruce's show in January 2008 with new jingles and a modified selection procedure where listeners had to register first and if successful the production team would call back. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, contestants are currently required to email the BBC rather than telephone.
Bruce maintains a bantering relationship with the traffic presenter (Richie Anderson since January 2019, previously Lynn Bowles and Rachel Horne), whereby the two tease each other and respond to listeners' comments. Such comments are read throughout the programme, generally on a theme of the day, such as a news story.
Although the programme's playlist is almost exclusively rock, pop and soul from the 1960s onwards, until early 2008 its Radio Data System flag identified it as programme type 12, "M.O.R." It is now identified as programme type 10, "Pop music". From its beginning in 1992 until 15 May 1998, the show was two hours long, running from 9:30 to 11:30am. From and since 25 May 1998, the show was extended by 30 minutes, ending at 12:00pm.
The comedian and impressionist Rob Brydon, who is noted for his mimicry of Bruce, sat in for him on 25 August 2008 and again as an April fool prank in 2011 when Brydon impersonated Bruce throughout. Bruce took his first day off sick in 23 years on 10 September 2008. On that occasion, the show was presented by Richard Allinson.
In 2013, the audience for the Ken Bruce Show reached a record 8.17 million. This was surpassed in 2019, as it became the most popular radio programme in the UK, with 8.49m weekly listeners. In 2021, he was named as 'Britain’s favourite radio presenter' in a survey carried out by digital radio manufacturer Pure, coming in front of Roman Kemp and Zoe Ball (in second and third place).
PopMaster has run as a feature of Bruce's show since 16 February 1998. With questions set by music expert Phil Swern, it offers a DAB radio for successfully completing the 3 in 10 bonus round. If the listener fails, they are awarded a Bluetooth speaker (replacing the previous consolation prize of an mp3 player). An earlier consolation prize, a 'Space' radio, has been known to appear on eBay, to Bruce's amusement. The losing contestant is given a T-shirt with 'One Year Out' printed across the front (a catchphrase Bruce uses in the quiz when a contestant trying to place the year a song was in the charts is out by one year). This 'prize' replaced a CD wallet as of 27 February 2012.
The public phone-in PopMaster quiz was suspended after airing on 18 July 2007. A celebrity version was quickly introduced on 20 July 2007, and continued until 18 January 2008. "3 in 10" was not played in the celebrity version and there was no tie-breaker in the event of a draw. It was rumoured that members of the public would be able to play again before Christmas 2007, however this did not happen. Following an announcement by Bruce on 7 January 2008, the normal format returned on 21 January 2008. The game returned with new dramatic, orchestral and guitar based jingles.
Bruce himself was a Popmaster contestant during his show on 17 May 2013, when he took part in a special Eurovision edition of the quiz, live from Malmo, Sweden. Bruce competed against Paddy O'Connell with John Kennedy O'Connor chairing the quiz.
During his show on 21 April 2008, theatre producer Bill Kenwright told Bruce that Elvis Presley once visited London in 1958 and was taken on a tour of the city by Tommy Steele. It was believed that Presley had never visited England and the claim caused considerable controversy.
In December 2008, a crew of fishermen listeners were inadvertently relaying the show to every ship and coastguard station for miles around. It was not possible to contact the vessel, so a request was made to Bruce, who duly said: "If you are on a ship near the Small rocks, please turn me off."
Soon after, while duetting with Steve Wright's 'Ask Elvis' (a.k.a. Mitch Benn), Bruce recorded a version of the Andy Stewart song “Donald, Where’s yer Troosers?” for the Bandaged CD to raise money for the charity BBC Children in Need. This was released as a download.
In December 2008, Bruce was officially inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame.
On April Fools' Day 2011, Bruce's radio show was presented by comedian Rob Brydon impersonating Bruce throughout. Brydon interviewed "Sir Terry Wogan" (impersonated by Peter Serafinowicz), and Bruce himself appeared at the end of the show as his "brother Kenn with two Ns".
Bruce has presented BBC Proms in the Park for many years. Since 1988, he has been Radio 2's commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest, having taken over from fellow broadcaster and friend Ray Moore. In 1998, he shared this role with being UK spokesman for that year's contest, reading out the points for the UK telephone vote, taking it over from Colin Berry, who then returned the following year. and presented the Eurovision Song Contest Previews from 1989 to 1991 on BBC1. He is a regular presenter of the long-running Friday Night is Music Night.
He occasionally makes appearances in the "Dictionary Corner" on Channel 4's Countdown, the latest during the week of 11 February 2013. When the original presenter Richard Whiteley died in 2005, Bruce said: "[he was] such a nice man – that was the defining quality of him, a genuinely nice man. And he had no real ego."
Bruce holds a PCV (Passenger Carrying Vehicle) driving licence and is the co-owner of a number of AEC Routemaster buses with Charles Nove, Alan Dedicoat and Steve Madden. He has referred to the buses as "a fantastic piece of engineering and such fun to have".
In 2014, Bruce narrated the BBC One game show Reflex. On 4 October 2014, he took part in a celebrity episode of The Chase. Bruce featured with his son Charlie on the fifth series of Big Star's Little Star and in October 2018, he appeared as a cameo on Hollyoaks.
Bruce has four sons and two daughters. His youngest son was born in February 2008. He lives with his third wife Kerith near Thame in Oxfordshire. One of his sons is autistic and Bruce is an active charity campaigner for autism.
His autobiography was published on 4 September 2009, entitled The Tracks of My Years: The Autobiography.
In September 2018, Bruce became the patron of Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio, replacing former mayor of Aylesbury and long-standing patron and co-founder of the station, Freda Roberts MBE JP. Ken said "Hospital Radio continues to thrive and I am delighted to take on the role of patron."
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- Ken Bruce (BBC Radio 2)
| BBC Radio 2
Breakfast Show Presenter