Keith was born in Sandwich and was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral. He trained in catering, then joined the Merchant Navy but illness brought him home and he started work in the advertising department of Granada Television in London. Keith was involved with British offshore radio from its very earliest days and in 1960 met John Thompson, a journalist who planned to launch Britain’s first offshore station, to be called GBLN (after his wife Ellen). Keith, along with Roger Gomez, recorded various programmes for the station but the project never materialised. Thompson later helped launch Radio Invicta and King Radio. In 1964, Keith joined Radio Atlanta, staying on as the station changed into Radio Caroline South. He left the ship in December that year but continued to work for the station on land. He returned to the Mi Amigo for a brief stint the following Easter.
While with Caroline, he put together the tribute to Winston Churchill, presented by Simon Dee, which was broadcast on the day of Churchill’s funeral in January 1965. He also worked at ABC Television, the north of England and Midlands weekend contractor, until 1968, as an in-vision continuity announcer, but also found time to broadcast on Radio 390 under the name Gary Courtney, from the forts on the Whitstable coast. Following his pirate days, Keith was involved with the Local Radio Association’s successful campaign to introduce commercial radio to Britain. He has worked for a number of broadcasters both in the UK and Canada, both seen and heard on the British Forces (BFBS) network and lectured on various aspects of the media.
Keith also worked as an announcer on many ITV regional stations, including: Southern TV (1959 – 1961); ATV; HTV; Yorkshire TV; Anglia TV (1971 – 1998); Thames TV; Border TV; Television South; LWT (c. 1984). We don’t have exact dates for most of the ITV regional announcing work but most of this work was in the 1970s and 1980s. He also worked as an announcer on BBC Radio External Services (c. 1965) and on BBC TV as a network announcer (mid-1970s). Keith went on to specialise in voice coaching – his clients included former Prime Minister John Major, which entailed a visit to Downing Street. With thanks to The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame website for information on his radio career.
Paul R. Jackson met up with Keith in London in January and May 2018 to discuss his long broadcasting career.
Give Us a Rundown of Your Career and Any Stand Out Moments
“I worked in the carpet department at Selfridges before joining the navy and I left because of glandular fever. My first broadcast was in the early 1960s for Roundabout on the Light Programme, all about bottles and what were inside them and I was paid five guineas. I later knocked on doors at Broadcasting House and they were fascinated that I had worked on the pirate radio stations. I read listeners letters on Letterbox and presented All Time Hits which was carefully scripted. I befriended the doorkeeper at the London Palladium and was fortunate to see some of the Sunday Night at the London Palladium with Tommy Trinder during the late-1950s.
“I worked in the sales and advertising department of Granada Television in their Oxford Street office in the early 1960s and worked on ad campaigns for the original mini, the start of the Sunday Telegraph (founded February 1961) and Wagon Train that was shown on a Monday night. In May 1964, I joined full-time on pirate radio and met an Australian called Alan Crawford, who was a music publisher for Merit Music/Southern Music and a pioneer of project Atlanta. After Easter 1965, I was sent back to the Radio Caroline ship. I didn’t want to return to an admin job. I did my ABC audition at Teddington and wasn’t good at learning scripts and hadn’t realised that it would be in-vision. I had got to know John Benson who was working at ABC and he was introducing The Eamonn Andrews Show which paid well for him, so he could give up some weekend shifts, which is how I began weekends in Birmingham and Manchester. Announcers were very formal in those days but David Hamilton introduced a more conversational style. David and I did the closing announcements for ABC and I also occasionally did the introduction to Opportunity Knocks. Richard Barnes wrote scripts for me at ABC and he used to drive me back to London in his car and he told me that he would like my job – well he eventually became an announcer at Anglia TV. When I did the ‘Good Night’ for Rediffusion from their Kingsway, London studios, BBC Bush House could be seen through the triple glazed window!
“I had a cameo in No Hiding Place on film at Fountain Studios in Wembley and later regular work as a pub extra on Stars and Garters. I then ran autocue including for Michael Miles on Take Your Pick – the typewriter was very heavy and had toilet roll size paper which could tear. Along with Redvers Kyle, I was one of the announcers in the final few months of Rediffusion’s franchise in the summer of 1968. I was very fortunate that whilst at Granada I walked the cobbles of Coronation Street where I met cast members; at ATV met the cast of Crossroads; and at Yorkshire met the cast of Emmerdale Farm. I also gyrated in the audience to Ready Steady Go, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Top of the Pops and watched top bands and groups sing live and mimed.
“I went to live in Canada c. 1969 for 18 months and worked at Standard Broadcasting Corporation and returned in the early 1970s and worked for ATV. Southern TV had a very formal approach to announcing and I got told off when I said ‘Uranus’ in a different way to how they wanted it spoken and I wanted to be chattier. Once at Anglia, there was a wig in the continuity booth and I put it on and scared the children I was told and was taken off air for a short period. Richard Barnes took over from me and reminded me of this only last summer. My old friend John Benson filled in for several months and three months later I was asked back. I also did some introductions for Sale of the Century when John was unavailable and also once read the football results on World of Sport far too fast. I was not asked back!
“I also worked for Pearl and Dean, who produced cinema adverts and worked in the John Wood Studios in Berwick Street, London and later for Blue Danube Radio in Vienna. I worked at De Lane Lea studios on commercials including one for Kit Kats. I also did film dubbing – adding voices – and worked with Italian actor Robert Rietti and on Waterloo at Pinewood Studios, as I voiced many Russian soldiers. I once went to the Dorchester Hotel and interviewed American star of the musical Camelot, Robert Goulet, whilst he was lying in bed. As I left, he sang If Ever I Should Leave You. I worked at Anglia TV for 27 years (1971 – 1998). Sometimes you got stations mixed up – when at ABC, I wished BBC viewers a good night and the engineer pointed it out and when in-vision at Southern TV, I wished viewers a good night from Anglia!”
How Did You Come to Work for the BBC?
“I had voiced BBC TV presentation trails (1965 – 1972) and worked with the wonderful Ray Moore and actor Richard Bebb. We did them live in the small Pres studio and would see the weatherman in the corner of our eye rehearsing. I then applied for a formal audition as an announcer and was sent pages of the Radio Times and asked to write a script. Not being a sports fan, I mispronounced Frank Bough’s name as Bow and John Trevor picked me up on it.
“However they took me on (c. 1973) for a couple of years and as with all new announcers, I did a lot of Open University shifts on an early Sunday and opened up BBC Two continuity. There was a special key to switch on the Crystal Palace transmitter. Colin Ward-Lewis trained me and I later did BBC One shifts. One of the BBC Two announcers, Ian de Stains had a very light voice in person and put on a much deeper voice when on BBC Two. I met up with Michael Speake, who was a very avuncular and cosy type and an experimental announcer. He was originally an engineer and thought he could do better and became an announcer and mended watches in between programmes. When I introduced the film It’s a Mad Mad World, I changed key on every word and I was told ‘You’re not on Anglia now!’ I still have my BBC ID card! I also later presented Newsroom South East.
“I left the BBC and did trails at LWT for the ITV Network which were recorded on a Wednesday and once sat next to Alan Bennett and did the tag line. John Crosse reminded me about my time with Yorkshire TV when the last item on the local programme was about the ‘plucking of Christmas’. I followed with the weather and read ‘and now the plucking weather’. YTV then offered me a full time job! I would close Anglia and drive to London and open up LWT on a Saturday morning. I once did an ITN newsflash (July 1981) on the Toxteth riots and only because no-one else was available! Once when working for HTV in Bristol they switched the transmitter over so viewers in Wales also saw me. I worked at Channel TV and helped train new announcers. In 1983, I pioneered the television presenter course in the UK (for a number of years there was no other like it) for the media faculty of what is now the University of Westminster. I trained Helen Sharman (the world’s first female to orbit the earth) and did media training with key clients including British Gas and a major political party for potential MPs.”
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Keith which we found on social media sites or have made available from our own archive. The clips are presented here for additional reference. Inclusion of a video does not constitute an endorsement of the hosting site/channel/user. If you find any broken links below or are aware of an additional clip(s) which you believe may be a useful addition to this profile, please get in touch with us via our Contact page.
Keith Martin introduces the Nine o'Clock News in 1975.
PICTURED: Keith Martin (BFBS). SUPPLIED BY: Keith Martin. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.