Introducing… Bill Grundy 

25 April 2017

From the Radio Times North of England edition for 10-16 May 1969

This week, as usual, Bill Grundy will introduce another edition of ‘It’s Saturday.’ Mal Griffiths met the man whose instantly recognisable provocative style has become one of the features of this popular weekend programme

It is seven o’clock on a chilly morning in Manchester. We all yawn as we wait for Bill Grundy to appear in the studio ready to introduce his weekly programme. The streets outside are dead. And that’s the way we all feel inside. Then Grundy walks in wearing an immaculate suit and, rather incongruously, a sweater. Suddenly, everyone wakes up and reacts to his personality.

Putting on his earphones, he does a quick run-through of the programme, which is a mixture of facts both serious and amusing with a smattering of enjoyable music.

On this particular Saturday, Grundy had done a probing series of interviews into the lack of funds for the home-help system; other reporters talked to vicars at a Blackpool conference, to a young American girl who trains whales, and to sailors landlocked in Manchester after a Ship Canal gate was damaged in a crash.

During the broadcasting of these interviews Grundy bounces around the studio, listening carefully to the words or conducting taped music with his pencil.

‘It is the sort of programme that I would like to listen to on a Saturday morning,’ says Grundy as he tucks into a studio breakfast of bacon and eggs after the programme. ‘I hate all this go-go-go stuff you hear so often nowadays.

‘This Saturday-morning programme tells you about human beings and their problems. There is nothing of the chocolate soft-centre bits you get on some shows.’ Grundy, known for his bluntness on television, also emphasises the fact that he does not set out to please listeners.

‘If something amuses me, I laugh. But if something irritates me I say so. In fact after one rather dull item in the programme I told listeners: “What an extremely boring interview that was.”

‘Whether people are not used to straight talking nowadays or not I don’t know. But I do know the letters we get give the impression that listeners like straight talking on this programme. I’m not ashamed to admit that this is a middle-aged programme and is not aimed at youngsters lounging about the house on a Saturday morning. It is a square programme because it does not go in for gimmicks and is greatly concerned about everyday human problems.’

Somewhat angrily, he adds: ‘This current cult for the young is silly. The young people of today are no better or worse than previous generations — just better off financially. But if some of them listen to this show they will learn about life and its problems.’

Although Grundy lives in a luxurious home in the Cheshire countryside he has tremendous feeling for and rapport with the ordinary people who live in terraced houses.

‘They always talk so well,’ he says. ‘And their turn of phrase can be amusing. One of the funniest happened to me in Wigan. I was interviewing an old man about the problems of dampness in his home. He wasn’t too worried about the damp but rather more concerned about a neighbour across the road. He pointed towards his house, and in all seriousness said: “Yon fellow there had a bit of bad luck last Thursday. He died!”.’

On another occasion Grundy was recording a feature about Blackpool’s Golden Mile. He came up to a stall displaying the skills of a fortune-teller. He went on and on about crystal-ball gazing, then held the microphone to a little lady in the stall and asked her about life and fortune-telling. She looked up at him blankly and said: ‘I don’t know a thing about it. I’m just looking after the stall while the fortune-teller has nipped out for a cup of tea.’

This was never broadcast. But nearly everything else is. ‘That’s the aim of the show,’ says Grundy. ‘We want to intrigue and interest people all the time, even though it is so early in the morning.’

In fact, having to get up early is one of the things he enjoys most. ‘It’s fresh and invigorating at that time of the day,’ he says. ‘I like getting up, arriving at the studio, and then telling my listeners: “Well, I am up — isn’t it about time you were too?”.’

You Say

4 responses to this article

Paul Mason 26 April 2017 at 4:18 am

Bill Grundy had a long association with Granada TV before he moved to London (broadcasting) but his career hit the rocks with the infamous punk rock interview. The Today programme was only broadcast on Thames TV in the London area only in 1976. Shortly after his suspension he did a What The Papers Say when the word “punk” came up. I never want to hear that word again, he’d say.

Paul Mason 30 April 2017 at 4:49 am

I read Michael Parkinson’s auto-biography a couple of years ago (borrowed) and Bill Grundy is quoted as “easily produced, but hard to keep sober”. It appears that Bill Grundy was an alcoholic, and while he kept off the skids his career suffered. Parky stated he was considered as a replacement presenter for BBC1 Panorama after Richard Dimbleby’s death, but it wasn’t to be.
Grundy died in 1993 short of his 70th birthday. His Guardian obituary was written by Brian Inglis, a Granada colleague who also alluded to his drinking. After typing and faxing the obit to the Guardian, Brian Inglis died himself.

Paul Mason 30 April 2017 at 4:56 am

I must point out that three Granada TV figures died in February 1993, Lord Bernstein on the 5th, Bill Grundy on the 9th and Brian Inglis on the.11th.

Paul Mason 30 April 2017 at 10:42 am

Can I point out that the Today Thames TV programme ran from 1968 until 1978 and was not only in 1976 as I put it. Although In the Granada area I found out that Eamonn Andrews and Bill Grundy were the presenters.

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