Jazz FM marks its 25th anniversary

The original Jazz FM logo

The station launched March 4th 1990 with two gala concerts from Ella Fitzgerald at the Royal Albert Hall. It all started with Jazz FM founder Dave Lee.

Jazz FM is 25

Jazz FM has reached a very respectable landmark, a 25th anniversary. The station launched on Sunday March 4th 1990. It all started ten years before launch, with the aspirations of Jazz FM founder Dave Lee.

Dave is an accomplished composer, band and orchestra leader and jazz pianist now in his 89th year. He enjoyed a successful career scoring films, television shows including music for ‘The Avengers’, commercials and songwriting - including the Peter Sellers and Sofia Loren hit ‘Goodness Gracious Me’. He also played with Johnny Dankworth on his American dates. 

Dave spent time working in Hollywood writing music for adverts and enjoyed listening to the Los Angeles former jazz radio station KKGO. At heart Dave is a jazz fan and it led him to ask why we didn’t have a jazz radio station in London. He wrote a letter to the regulatory body called the IBA in 1980 that simply read, “Dear Sir, I hereby apply for a licence to open a jazz radio station in London." The rest is history. Dave’s lobbying changed the landscape of British radio with the subsequent addition of so called ‘incremental’ radio stations to London and other cities in the UK.

Twenty-five years on Jazz FM’s original analogue 102.2 FM licence has made way for a fully digital radio station (on DAB, DTV, online, smartphone and tablet), and several of the original team of presenters from that first day are still on Jazz FM today - Helen Mayhew, Peter Young and Chris Philips.
All day today, Wednesday March 4th, we’ll have some very special moments from Jazz FM’s past as the station starts its 25th anniversary year-long celebrations. There will be live sessions and concert recordings every hour from the musicians and artists who have been part of Jazz FM along the way, to some of the original station jingles and a conversation between breakfast presenter Lynn Parsons and Diana Luke - the station’s first one.
Jazzfm.com is hosting a special birthday area featuring exclusive audio and videos of programmes from the past, original presenter photos and press cuttings alongside a digitised programme of the concert that kicked it all off – Ella Fitzgerald with the Count Basie Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.
Content Director Nick Pitts said “It’s not often you get to celebrate such a momentous occasion. We’ve spent hours going through a mountain of (badly filed) archive tapes and have come up with some real gems including live sessions and concerts recorded in our first month on air! Jazz FM may have had its fair share of ups and downs but has always created amazing programmes with incredible music. Here’s to the next 25 years”.

Jazz FM founder, jazz pianist Dave Lee (arrowed) with Johnny Dankworth in 1959.

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