A comedian, DJ, presenter and a singer with a top ten single. In the modern day this would be the supposed career of Big Brother housemate post leaving the house (or Chris Moyles). But for nearly three decades it was the career of one of Britain’s national treasures, Kenny Everett.
Born Maurice James Christopher Cole on Christmas Day 1944 he would later change his name to avoid legal action when DJing for pirate station ‘Radio London’.
After auditioning for and then turning down a presenting on the ‘BBC Light Program’ Kenny joined ‘Radio London’ in 1962. One of many offshore pirate stations Kenny was attracted by the lack of rules of broadcast content and the chance to play the top 40 records of the day.
Teaming up with Dave Cash he helped create one of the most popular pirate radio shows in history the ‘Kenny & Cash Show’. He would later be sacked in 1965 after he made some derogatory remarks regarding organised religion.
Less than a year later he was given his own show on ‘Radio Luxemburg’ and again was given very few restrictions on the broadcast content.
During his time at ‘Radio London’ Kenny was by ‘BBC’ producer Johnny Beerling. He enjoyed Everett’s irreverent style and commented that, unlike other DJ’s; Kenny didn’t just read off a script and play records. A demo was organised and Kenny was chosen as one of the DJ’s on the ‘BBC’s’ new flagship station ‘Radio 1’.
In 1967 Everett started on ‘Radio 1’ and used his connections from his days in pirate radio (which included being close friends with The Beatles) to secure first plays of many artists new singles. He also was given free range to create his own jingles and trailers.
By 1970 Kenny was now one of the stations top DJ’s, but after comments made regarding a politician’s wife he was sacked. After his death friends revealed that he intentionally did this as he was unhappy with the way ‘Radio 1’ was heading and some of the backroom policies recently adopted by the ‘BBC’.
He would later be interviewed on ‘Radio Solent’, which led to a new deal with the BBC where he submitted pre-recorded shows. These shows would then be transmitted on various BBC local stations. By 1973 he was back on ‘Radio 1’ presenting a pre-recorded show that went out on a Sunday afternoon.
By the end of 73 commercial stations had been legalised and Everett joined ‘Capital Radio’. Starting off with a pre-recorded show he would later reunite with Dave Cash and was given the coveted breakfast slot.
In 1975 Everett would play a pivotal role in the success of the band ‘Queen’s’ single ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. He had visited the band in the studio and after being played the newly finished song begged for a copy. After hours of him begging the band allowed him a copy on the agreement he would not play it on air. Over the next three days Everett played the song on air five times.
During his time on ‘Capital’ Everett also presented a pre-recorded Saturday afternoon show on Portsmouth’s ‘Radio Victory’. The continuation of these pre-recorded shows allowed him to develop his sketch writing and use of technology for comic effect.
In 1982 Everett join ‘Radio 2’, but only lasted a year. His show received multiple complaints and after voicing some political beliefs he was put under investigation. By mid 1983 he was sacked.
In 1984 he returned to ‘Capital’ and in 1988, when they split frequencies, he joined their new station ‘Capital Gold’ reuniting with most of the DJ’s from his pirate radio and ‘Radio 1’ days.
Along his work as a DJ Kenny had slowly started cultivating a successful TV career. This included being a guest on many of the celebrity game shows of the day, an appearance in the 1965 film ‘Dateline Diamonds’ and his own 1975 show ‘The Kenny Everett Explosion’. On top of this he was also a successful voiceover artist providing the voice of ‘Charly’ in the ‘Charly Says’ adverts and was the announcer on ‘Celebrity Squares’.
In 1978 Everett signed a deal with ‘Thames Television’ and produced ‘The Kenny Everett Video Show’. It was massively successful and innovative for its time. Using his connections Everett managed to pull together a respected group of writers such as Ray Cameron, Barry Cryer and Dick Vosburgh. The show allowed Everett space to develop characters he’d only had a chance to touch on his radio shows.
The lack of an audience, laugh track and the involvement of the crew would later have a influence on many of the ‘youth’ based shows of the 1990’s. It also became the show to be seen on with celebrities such as Billy Connolly, Kate Bush and Freddie Mercury all making appearances.
The last series changed its name to ‘Kenny Everett Video Cassette’ and became more of a stand-up and variety show, which increasingly relied on musical acts.
Everett would later fall out with ‘Thames’ and after they changed the shows timeslot to clash with ‘Top of the Pops’ he cancelled his contract with them. In 1981 he debuted ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ on ‘BBC 1’. Impressed with their work he added some new faces to his writing team. This included David Renwick who would later go on to create ‘One Foot in the Grave’ and ‘Jonathan Creek’. He developed new characters and for seven years the show was a massive ratings winner.
In 1984 he starred in the spoof horror film Bloodbath at the House of Death and his later TV career would see him present a few unsuccessful game shows and continue his voiceover work mainly working on commercials. His major TV success during this time was as a team captain on the panel show ‘That’s Show Business’.
Everett had been diagnosed with HIV in 1987. In 1993 he made his condition public, begging the press to give him more privacy than they had given his friend Freddie Mercury during his battle with the condition. He would die of an AIDS related illness on April 4th 1995.
Kenny Everett was a unique and innovative talent. His style of DJing would later influence many of the top 90’s and 00’s stars of Radio such as Mark Radcliffe, Mark Riley and Chris Moyles. He would also have an influence on 1990’s TV with shows such as ‘The Word’ and ‘Big Breakfast’ owing a debt to his shows.