Greatest Radio Voices

The Guardian recently published a list of the Top 10 Radio Voices, and in response, an alternative Top 10 list, as proposed by its readers.

I could not let this opportunity pass without using it as an excuse to compile my own Top 10 list. With radio being such an important part of my life, both professionally and personally, I found it nigh on impossible to restrict myself to one list.

I ❤ my radio: With thanks to

I ❤ my radio: With thanks to

As a result, here follows one list which tries to capture my current favourite voices; one list compiled from those names/stations I have worked for, or with; and finally, a list of names who were favourites on programmes which no longer air, or those voices who have sadly passed away.

I hope it does something to share the breadth of radio’s magic, and the ability these names have.  I am sure many will disagree with my choices, but I felt the urge to collect them together in one place.  Apologies to any I adore that I have had to leave out in such limited space.  There are so many other programmes and output to celebrate, but I wanted an opportunity to celebrate my favourite voices.


1. Nick Abbot


Nick Abbot: Credit via

I was rather late to the party when it comes to Nick Abbot.  I know many people who had ‘raved’ about him over the years, when he had gigs on BBC GLR, and Virgin Radio.  Now at LBC, Nick is my ONE appointment to listen every week.  It is genuinely free-form radio, deftly incorporating unscripted phone-in with the deployment of a clever range of sound effects which manage to get straight to the heart of the paucity of the quality of arguments in politics and current affairs, without any need to be particularly controversial.  In the process, he’s probably the last hope for any questioning/challenging of accepted orthodoxies because he is able to bring and include a mainstream audience, particularly of elderly phone-in callers with him.  I love Nick Abbot’s show.  I wish LBC would put him on more – and allow him to continue to do the humour and sound effects even when he covers for other presenters too.  Listen to Nick Abbot, LBC:  Fridays and Saturdays, 10.00pm-1.00am

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

2. Rhod Sharp


Rhod Sharp: Credit via Jon Super

Rhod has become one of my ‘best friends’ on radio as insomnia has crept into my life over the years.  His approach is so laid back, and he genuinely sounds as intrigued as the listener would be when he is interviewing guests, usually from a much wider gene pool than the standard fare of guests you find on mainstream UK radio.  His ‘Up All Night’ show tends to explore what is happening in a much wider range of places around the world, and seeks to incorporate a more disparate range of voices.  I dread the day that Rhod Sharp ever decides to call it a day.  Only one of his cover presenters (Giles Dilnot) has ever come anywhere near being a patch on what he can create on-air, for the particular demands of that time of night.  Listen to Rhod Sharp, BBC Radio Five Live (Up All Night): Mon-Weds (1.00-5.00am)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

3. Josie Long


Josie Long: Credit via

Josie plays audio ring-master to around three or four short audio stories in a single half hour, based around a single theme, in a BBC Radio 4 show called ‘Short Cuts’.  It is the closest we have to a US-style NPR radio show in the UK, celebrating the particular – the commonplace, but the unique that it is all to easy to overlook.  I usually listen to the programme when it is broadcast at 11.30pm, and Josie’s voice makes you want to hanker down, as if you are reading a favourite book, under a blanket in a shed as the rain falls outside.  Josie Long was a more recent joyous discovery – and I love her on the radio.  You can listen to Josie on the radio at various times.

Audio (via BBC iPlayer On Demand and podcasts) – click here.

4. Jo Whiley


JO Whiley: Credit, PR via Guardian

Jo Whiley’s love of new music isn’t at all ‘anorak’ as can be a tendency with many enthusiasts on the radio – it is something that is shared with the listener, with a voice that immediately brings her trusted status from her having as much of the thrill of the reveal as you.  Her move from Radio 1 to Radio 2 did nothing to diminish that – indeed, it seems to further ensure she spreads that passion further and wider.  Listen to Jo Whiley (Radio 2):  Mon-Thurs (8.00-10.00pm)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

5. Janice Long


Janice Long: Credit, via S Mag (Express)

A hidden gem on the Radio 2 schedule – I have no idea why she is not used more widely during the day.  That being said, it gives her more freedom to be herself, to talk about the everyday, to laugh incessantly, which emphasises what sounds like a smoking tinged throat – which all goes to make for one of my favourite voices on the radio.  It’s also great to hear a voice from Merseyside with such prominence.  The show has a loyal band of listeners, which the texts and emails help to foster a community following in the small hours.  I regularly texted-in as ‘Paul from New Cross‘, and when I met her for the first time at Radio 1’s 40th Birthday – well, let’s just say there are not many celebrities who will turn my legs to jelly.  Suffice to say, it was a big thrill to get her in to do a guest lecture at the university I was then teaching at about new music, and how best to catch the DJ’s ear if you are a new act promoting yourself.  Listen to Janice Long: After Midnight (Radio 2): Sun-Weds (12.00midnight-3.00am)

Audio clip (via BBC iPlayer On Demand) – click here.

6. Danny Baker


Danny Baker: Credit, BBC via Express

Genius.  Captivating.  Never obvious, but dealing with the common-place in a non-common way.  For some reason, the powers that be will not give him the slots he deserves.  He was BBC London in the afternoon, but they took him off.  I loved him on BBC Radio 1 at the weekend when he took over the slots from DLT, and I’d love it if Radio 2 or 6Music could give him a platform.  But for now, we just have two hours on a talk-only station to savour him.  Listen to Danny Baker (BBC Radio Five Live):  Saturdays (9.00-11.00am)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

7. Don Letts


Don Letts: Credit via

Don has slowly emerged as a Sunday night appointment to listen.  Sunday nights and radio have always been an important time for me – a period of still before the madness in the week ahead.  David Jacobs has been a friend in that slot.  Jarvis Cocker.  Various Radio 4 thought provokers like ‘Something Understood’.  Don has seen them all off.  Unaffected, no nonsense and refusing to be pigeon-holed, he signposts more music for me to discover every week than any other DJ I have every known.  Thankfully, his producer has now fixed the tracklisting feature on DAB (it was driving me mad not knowing what he was playing), but now I can relax, ready to add a track to one of my own playlists if it catches my ear.  Listen to Don Letts Culture Clash Radio (BBC 6 Music):  Sundays (10.00pm-12.00Midnight).

Video clip (via YouTube) – click here.

8. Ritula Shah


Ritula Shah: Credit, BBC

At Ten O’Clock in the evening, I do not listen out for Big Ben’s chimes, or the pips – I listen out for those crucial words – “It’s Ten O’Clock, good evening, you’re listening to the World Tonight, I’m Ritula Shah.”  Authority, without pomposity.  Flair, without grandstanding.  Clarity, without being boring.  Ritula Shah is quite simply my current favourite radio news broadcast voice, and I want to hear more of her.  Listen to Ritula Shah on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight:  Monday-Friday (10.00-10.45pm)

Audio clip (via BBC iPlayer On Demand) – click here.

9. Sarah Ward


Sarah Ward: Credit (Unknown) via

I discovered Sarah Ward’s distinctive gravely tones when I first started lecturing in the evenings, some time in the mid-noughties.  She was presenting the same slot she does now on Jazz FM – Dinner Jazz, except then it was on during the week, whereas now it is into the weekend.  I am not a particularly big jazz fan, but I found she set a particularly ambience, perfect after an afternoon and evening lecturing for a novice teacher on the long drive home.  It was not until more recently that I discovered Sarah’s mammoth radio pedigree – having presented shows on Classic FM, BBC Radio 4, the breakfast show on the original BBC Radio 5 in the 1990s, and the late show on Capital Radio in the 1970s.  I find her voice both warm and comforting, but also a little bit illicit at the same time.  Listen to Sarah Ward (Dinner Jazz) on Jazz FM: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays (7.00-10.00pm).

Audio (via Mixcloud) – click here.

10. Roger McGough


Roger McGough: Credit, Eamonn McCabe via Guardian

The fact that Waitrose made him the voice of their adverts says it all really.  A Merseyside voice on an otherwise very ‘RP’ Queen’s English network.  He makes poetry inviting, and makes difficult, new material accessible.  He has a very warm, yet quite clearly ‘radical’ voice.  Always a tonic.  Listen to Roger McGough on BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please:  Tends to be on Sunday afternoons, around 4.30pm.

Video (via YouTube) – click here.

Honourable mentions for Iain Lee and Sarah Montague.  Ian for daring to do something different with the medium (even if his employer’s don’t have the balls to back him), and Sarah Montague, because you can so clearly hear her smile – and I find it so infectious when she is on-air.

Audio clips of Sarah (video via BBC iPlayer – click here) and Iain (audio via Soundcloud – click here.)  Photo credits BBC and Gay Times (via Instagram) respectively.


1. Annie Nightingale


Annie Nightingale: Credit, Unknown, via

Annie has an incredible, double-speed, passion-fuelled voice, which sounds as if it is sat at a buffet of new music treats, and can’t wait to report back what she can see, smell and taste.  In my first few months at Radio 1, I was honoured to be allowed to be allowed to be a member of the ‘pink pussy posse’ on the show, taking calls when I accompanied a journalist onto the show to review it at around 2.00am on a Saturday night. First Lady of Radio 1 – cliche, but true.  Listen to Annie Nightingale on BBC Radio 1:  Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (1.00-4.00am).

Audio clip (via YouTube clip) – click here.

2. Bam Bam


Bam Bam: Credit (Unknown) via

Bam Bam is one of the cleverest minds  I have had the pleasure of working with on the radio when he presented the breakfast show at Kiss FM.  Bam has an inventive mind when it comes to the uses the medium can be put to, and the limits to which formats can be stretched.  He really has the knack of putting himself in the mind of the listener and how they will hear what is being created, which sounds obvious, but is far too often overlooked.  Add to that the fact that he will never compromise – period, often to the conventional cost of his career.  To many of my generation, particularly in London and the South East, it means his reputation will always be huge.  Often overlooked is his voice itself.  To put no finer point on it, that voice is sexy.  Not in a sultry way, or a masculine, but in a ‘get under your skin and into your head’ kind of way.  Before I became fully aware of him in industry circles, I had thought he was black.  His voice is difficult to pin down, apart from being mesmerising, playful and intriguing.  I know some people have found Bam Bam difficult to work for, but I found that an ever greater part of his allure, and can safely say I am proud to have worked for him – and love listening to him.  Listen to Bam Bam (on Sam FM South Coast): Mon-Fri, 5.00-10.00am

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

3. Jo Whiley


See paragraph above.

4. Nicky Campbell


Nicky Campbell: Credit, Sara Lee for the Guardian

Nicky has a beautiful ‘burr’.  A softer edged voice than most you will find on a talk radio station, it makes for a friendly, accessible tone.  Nicky’s profile has changed a great deal over the years, but his radio voice has remained pretty consistent. His late-night radio show of the early 1990s on BBC Radio 1 was of a format, combining long form interviews, with music that has not really been equalled.  The voice is now deployed to great effect in a phone-in that unpacks some of the most sensitive of subjects, such as mental health, rather than giving yet another airing to the latest populist headlines, instead allowing listeners to feel safe enough to contribute their own experiences.  Listen to Nicky Campbell on BBC Radio Five:  Monday-Friday (7.00-9.00am for Breakfast, and 9.00-10.00am for Your Call).

Audio clip (via YouTube) from BBC Radio 1 late-nights – click here;  and from BBC Radio 5 Live (via YouTube) – click here.

5. David Rodigan

Rodigan has established himself as the ‘don’ when it comes to reggae.  A unique style which has toasted listeners to dip their toe further into this genre, whether while he was on Kiss FM for many years, and now in the BBC family at 1Xtra and Radio 2.  A true gentleman too.  Listen to David Rodigan on BBC Radio 1Xtra:  Sundays (7.00-9.00pm)

Audio (via YouTube) from BBC Radio 1Xtra – click here.

6. Sara Cox


Sara Cox: Credit, (Unknown) via

I don’t feel Sara has got the respect she deserves as a radio broadcaster. Unlike many other of her peers, she combines a distinctive voice, with an extremely quick wit.  A strong Bolton accent, together with a sense of humour which resides somewhere as dark as my own, I’ve come to appreciate the intelligence Sara brings to the conversation between the tracks, which can often be missing from many other music broadcasters.  No wonder she is regular called upon as cover on the breakfast show on Radio 2, and that she had been a feature on Radio 1’s schedule for so long..  Listen to Sara Cox’s Sound of the 80s (BBC Radio 2): Saturdays (10.00pm-12.00midnight).

Audio (clip via YouTube) – click here.

7. Lynn Parsons


Lynn Parsons: Credit via

One of the most charming, friendly, happy voices you will ever hear on the radio.  I was so pleased when Jazz FM made her their breakfast show host, after she had been the mid-morning presenter on Smooth FM for a few years.  Prior to that, Lynn has been a mainstay of early mornings and late nights on Radio 1 and Radio 2, but there was always a sense that they could do so much more with her.  I was lucky enough to work with her briefly at Radio 1 – very exciting for someone who had listened to her in the 80s on County Sound.  I hope we hear her reappear on-air soon.  Listen to Lynn Parsons via her website:

Audio (via her website) – click here.

8. Sarah HB


Sarah HB: Credit, via Twitter

An intelligent club DJ who made her name on Kiss FM, somehow, Radio 1 never gave her enough freedom to find her true voice on the station, restricting her to a more mainstream format than it originally intended.  An enthusiastic, intelligent voice – just a real shame that we have not got to hear more of it in recent years.

I could not find ANY audio clips of Sarah, but have found this video clip of her on the decks alongside Jamie Oliver and Alex James (via YouTube) – click here.

9. Steve Lamacq


Steve Lamacq: Credit, BBC

Steve is the very essence of what the BBC’s new music mission is about.  Steve’s voice is dedicated; it is battle scarred by gigs and sessions; it is to the point, interested in the music, and none of the faff that associates itself with the industry.  Having the opportunity to work with Steve was one of my proudest responsibilities, and I am so pleased he has gone on to continued success at 6 Music.  Listen to Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music:  Monday-Friday (4.00-7.00pm)

Audio clip (via YouTube) – click here.

10. Chris Moyles


Chris Moyles: Credit, via Independent

I cannot fail to mention Chris Moyles.  Like Danny Baker, he DOES something with the medium.  I found it so easy to promote Chris when I worked at Radio 1 because I believed in what he was doing. He spent hours crafting his shows.  He was dedicated.  And while I was there, he spoke to his Mum almost every day.  Perfect timing, and ear for sounds/words, and where they will fit in.  I might not be so enamoured with the populist uses to which they are deployed, or the aggression with which they come across, but Chris Moyles has to be in my top 10,.  Listen to Chris Moyles on Radio X:  Monday-Friday (6.30-10.00am).

Audio of Chris’ mammoth jingle packages (via YouTube) – click here.

Honourable mentions for Mark Goodier and Mary Anne Hobbs. Mark, for being a master of his craft and being THE voice of the chart, and Mary Anne for a voice that is sheer enthusiasm.

Audio for Mark (via BBC iPlayer On Demand – click here) and for Mary Anne (via video on ‘risk’ – click here).  Photo credits via Wikipedia and BBC respectively.


1. Big George


‘Big George’ Webley: Credit, BBC via Guardian

Big George had made his name in the music business.  His radio career appeared accidental.  His voice sounded real.  Nothing manufactured for broadcast – almost slapdash.  It was also authentically London.  The mix made for compelling listening, and I, like one of the most fiercely loyal bands of listeners I have ever known to a radio show came to love Big George.  He became a real neighbour, introducing you to other neighbours across London who regularly called in. I felt I knew them too.  On the day I heard he had died, I bawled my eyes out. Cabbies took to the streets of London in mourning (he regularly used to invite listeners to drop in on him in the studio in the middle of the night).  He was quite a surprise to me as a broadcaster, but I came to love him.  RIP.

Audio (via Mixcloud) – click here.

2. Kevin Greening


Kevin Greening: Credit (Unknown)

One of the most unassuming voices I have ever heard (or worked with) on UK radio.  Kevin was a refreshing anecdote to brashness, and obsession with celebrity, and since this this was juxtaposed against the backdrop of the UK’s biggest pop music station, it added to the curiosity. As time went on, he was allowed less room for using the medium for comedy, but it didn’t cramp his voice.  RIP.

Audio (via Soundcloud) – click here.

3. Diana Luke


Diana Luke: Credit, via

I grew up with her as a presenter on my local radio station, but she went on to become the first voice on Jazz FM, and one of the voices on the ‘stand-out’ sound of GLR.  You can still hear her voice on videos for her mindfulness workshops – and she still has the same sublime, smooth, velvety, tones, given extra depth by a Canadian accent.  Her voice is a sheer delight.  If I ran a radio station, she would be my number one hire.  I have no idea why she does not continue to have a national profile – perhaps it is through choice.  All I know is that she has one of radio’s best ever voices.  Listen to Diana Luke on BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Humberside and BBC Radio York:  Saturdays (10.00pm-1.00am)

Audio (via AudioBoom) being interviewed by Lynn Parsons – click here.

4. Brian Redhead


Brian Redhead: Credit (Unknown) via BBC

The kind, uncle sounding broadcaster who was the presenter who introduced me to the Radio 4 Today programme.  A much more rounded voice than the current inhabitants of the chair.  RIP

Audio (via AudioBoom) of a short clip from an interview with Nigel Lawson – click here.

5. Sue MacGregor


Sue MacGregor: Credit, Peter MacDiarmid via Telegraph

Adorable.  Authoritative.  Polite.  Polished.  Only in this choice of ten because her outings on the radio are now less regular. You can listen to Sue in various slots on the radio, mainly BBC Radio 4.

Audio (via AudioBoom) – click here.

6. Simon Cummings


Simon Cummings: Credit (Unknown) via

Not a particularly credible claim to fame, but during my teenage years, my appointment to listen was not John Peel, but my local commercial radio stations, such as Radio 210 in Reading, and County Sound in Guildford.  My favourite voice was that of Simon Cummings, who I particularly loved listening to when I got in from school, and got particular joy from getting my letters and telephone calls read out by on air.  He sounded more youthful than most of the other presenters, and seemed to directly to you.  Little did us listeners realise that behind the microphone, he was seriously ill, and he died well before his time in 1996.  RIP.

Audio (via AudioBoom, particularly from 44m 15s) – click here.

7. Simon Dee


Simon Dee: Credit, Rex via Telegraph

If you don’t know the story of Simon Dee, you really need to investigate – supposedly the model for Austin Powers. A consummate broadcaster who understood how to use his voice to full effect, particularly when it came to timing.  But he allowed the celebrity life get the better of him, and before he had chance to reach his full potential, the machine spat him out the other side into ruin, from which he never recovered. Listen to him interviewed later in his life, and the voice is still there, uncompromising as before, which goes some way to explain why he never returned to our airwaves.  RIP.

Video (via YouTube) – click here.

8. Emma Freud


Emma Freud: Credit via BBC

The choice of Emma Freud may surprise many, but Emma’s voice on the radio was the perfect one for me when I first heard it on music radio on GLR.  Here was an intelligent voice, playing pop music – like combining Radio 1 and Radio 4.  When Matthew Bannister took the risk of bringing her to Radio 1 to takeover the lunchtime show in the mid 1990s, I was transfixed – and in part, she was one of the reasons that made me want to work at Radio 1.  Here was intelligent, public service broadcasting, doing something different and challenging for a mainstream audience.  I haven’t heard many voices deliver that trick since.  Even today, I can remember where I was when she introduced specific tracks, and hear her talking up to the intro.  I’d better call myself a cab!  Emma is no longer a regular on music radio.

Audio (via RadioRewind website) – click here.

9. Douglas Cameron


Douglas Cameron: Credit

The voice of commercial radio news in my youth, and one of the central voices of LBC.  Douglas’ voice defies description.  Sharp, angular, but deep, it had rich authority.  It was not always serious – it was known for that voice to convey a smile as it read a story as the photo confirms, but above all it was a distinctive voice.  RIP.

Audio (via AudioBoom) – click here.

10. Cash Peters


Cash Peters: Credit (unknown) via

Cash had a weekly spot on Rhod Sharp’s Up All Night show until a few years ago, providing US TV gossip, from across the Atlantic. His style was breakneck, and decidedly trashy, but the report he established with Rhod was strangely compelling.  I found myself setting my alarm for the middle of the night to ensure that I did not miss it.  A change in production personnel on the show spelt the end of Cash’s half hour slot. There was a backlash from listeners, but to no avail.  I think he could have bagged his own show, and definitely voiceover work – so slick – but we don’t hear enough of Cash.  Cash no longer has a regular slot on UK radio, but does have a podcast – click here.

Audio (via YouTube) – click here.

Honourable mentions for Brian Hayes and Chris Morris.

Audio clips for Brian – the original radio talk show presenter (via LBC, click here) and for Chris Morris (‘On The Hour’, via YouTube’, click here).  Photo credits (Unknown via BBC) and via Twitter, respectively.



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