Bill was born in Burton-on-Trent. He’s a radio/TV presenter, journalist, songwriter and former actor. While working as a newspaper reporter in his native West Midlands, he was chosen from thousands of hopefuls to become one of Esther Rantzen’s team of presenters on the BBC One consumer programme That’s Life!.
His mother had entered him for the That’s Life! job, unbeknownst to him. As he states on his website: “I didn’t mind swapping the industrial tribunals and magistrates’ courts of Sandwell for the broken washing machines and phallic parsnips of Shepherd’s Bush a bit! I stayed with the show for three years, during which time, I was also in at the birth of breakfast television. I was a regional presenter, reporter and topical songwriter-and-performer for BBC Breakfast Time (the one with Frank and Selina on the sofa). Writing a witty, three-minute song overnight then singing it to a sleepy nation at 6.45am and 8.45am was quite an experience.”
Bill then spent six years travelling the world as a reporter for the Holiday programme (BBC One) and years later he returned to travel journalism as a reporter on BBC Radio 4’s Breakaway. Whilst on the Holiday programme, Bill finally started doing what he’d wanted to do since he was a little boy – regular radio presenting. As he explains: “My first station was BBC Radio Solent, based in Southampton, where I presented and produced the lunchtime show. Then came spells with South Coast Radio, Newstalk 1152 (what LBC was calling its AM service at the time), BBC Radio Berkshire, the Lite AM in Manchester, nine years at BBC Southern Counties Radio and London talk station, LBC 97.3. On Friday 14th September 2007, I appeared on Ken Bruce’s show on BBC Radio 2 as a celebrity contestant in his Popmaster quiz. I thrashed the charming lead singer of Del Maitri, Justin Curren, 30 points to nine (but it’s the taking part that counts!).” Since April 2016, he has presented a show on BBC Radio Berkshire.
Bill has presented all sorts of TV over the years, including all kinds of regional programmes for Meridian during his years on the south coast – everything from consumer affairs via politics to amateur filmmaking – plus appearances on shows as diverse as Blankety Blank (“Les Dawson referred to me as ‘ballast’ – undoubtedly a career high spot”), Songs of Praise (he sang David Essex’s hit A Winter’s Tale, backed by a huge orchestra and choir), Children in Need and Call My Bluff (“a ‘chattee’ is someone having a conversation in which the other party – the ‘chatter’ – is doing most of the talking. Isn’t it funny the things you remember?”).
Bill has fond memories of his time as Channel 5’s senior continuity announcer: “One of the most interesting and longest-lasting TV jobs I had was weeknights continuity announcer for Channel 5 television. Our brief was to be unlike any other announcers: witty, opinionated and informal (whilst still clearly signposting the viewer through the schedule, of course). Listen to continuity on other channels these days, and you’ll hear how much we loosened the industry up! I had five happy years at Channel 5 and was first heard on its second night (31st March 1997 until 2002).” He became well known for his commentary over the closing credits of the channel’s late-night/early morning run of Prisoner: Cell Block H, over which he read out viewers’ letters and made comments about the episode just broadcast.
He also starred in ten pantomimes, played Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and toured in the black comedy, Widow’s Weeds. He wrote a hit song, Starting Together, which was the theme music to Desmond Wilcox’s acclaimed documentary series The Marriage and went to number two in the charts; vocals were provided by Hi-de-Hi star, Su Pollard. His first-ever professional recording was when he was a 21-year-old cub reporter on the Sandwell Express and Star newspaper in the Black Country, at the time when Noele Gordon was sensationally axed by ATV in 1981 from her role as Crossroads matriarch, Meg Richardson/Mortimer. He wrote a tongue-in-cheek lament at home, made a tape of it and took it to work the next day. When they’d finished laughing, his fellow journos said it was so good, he should get it released as a record.
Bill entered into a civil partnership in August 2011.
Paul R. Jackson corresponded with Bill in September 2017.
Who Was on the Original Channel 5 Team at Launch and What Are Your Memories from that Period?
“Weekdays was John Darvall on earlies (now mainly a radio presenter), Pauline Eyre middle shift (now a stand-up comedienne) and me on evenings. A radio man called Jim Colvin was one of the weekend team. Can’t remember the names of the others!
“One of the joys of working for Channel 5 was reading the duty log each evening, hoping for a gem. One of my favourites was: ‘Caller asked whether a little, grey man was jumping up and down in the bottom right hand corner of the screen during the final 20 minutes of tonight’s film. When advised this was not the case, caller commented: ‘Oh no, it sounds like my old trouble’s coming back.”
“I much enjoyed providing the continuity for Prisoner Cell Block H. There was plenty of time on the end credits to have a bit of fun. A minority of diehard fans hated my flippancy – PCBH was their religion and was to be revered. I even received a death threat which I didn’t take seriously and didn’t even bother to report. The majority, however, loved it and soon started sending in material – doing my job for me, basically. One gentleman phoned the Duty Office to say how much he enjoyed my efforts and that he would like to ‘bugger me gently’. This caused much hilarity amongst my colleagues but what they didn’t know was that he was quoting the favourite exclamation of a PCBH character, old lag Lizzie Birdsworth, ‘well, bugger me gently!’ meaning ‘well, I never!’ or ‘get away with you!’ I felt the addition of ‘gently’ showed great consideration on the part of my fan but I didn’t take him up on his offer.
“Another frequently used expression in Prisoner Cell Block H was ‘Buckley’s chance’, as in ‘he hasn’t got a Buckley’s chance’ or just ‘she doesn’t stand a Buckley’s’, meaning no chance whatsoever. (There are various theories as to who the original, unfortunate Buckley was, and the expression is peculiar to Australia and New Zealand). Viewers loved it when they discovered that Buckley is my surname and would send in particularly rude or slanderous material for the show’s end credits and add: ‘There isn’t a Buckley’s of them letting you read this out, Bill!’ Such happy days and such a personal relationship with the viewers. I can’t believe announcers on any other channel have enjoyed a connection quite like it.
“Every now and then, someone from my past would recognise my voice and contact the Duty Office who would pass on their contact details to me. I was thrilled to learn that one of my favourite teachers, Miss Norris, my class teacher when I was eight, had rung in. Once I’d introduced the nine o’clock film and therefore had a few minutes to spare, I rang her, expecting praise and congratulation, as was usually the case. Not a bit of it! ‘Billy Buckley, I am very displeased with you!’ she began. I was instantly a shamefaced eight-year-old again. ‘In all my years of teaching, you were the most musically gifted child I taught,’ she continued (she was extremely musical herself and, even at the age of eight, I was writing music which I would play to her to get her opinion and advice). ‘You could have been the next Andrew Lloyd Webber or Paul McCartney and you’re just talking on the television instead!’ I wanted to point out that maintaining a career in broadcasting was no mean feat but I couldn’t argue with Miss Norris so, instead, the eight-year-old me muttered: ‘Sorry, miss.’ And our brief reunion was over!”
Video Clips on the Internet
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Some late-1990s Channel 5 continuity, courtesy of Bill Buckley.
PICTURED: Bill Buckley. SUPPLIED BY: Bill Buckley. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.