Football Phone pioneer Tony Butler dies

  • By Andrew Dawkins & Vanessa Pearce
  • BBC News, West Midlands

image source, Good pictures

image caption,

Tony Butler is credited with inventing the radio football phone-in in England

Tony Butler, credited with inventing the radio football phone-in in England, has died aged 88.

The radio legend’s expressive and unique style made him one of the earliest stars in local radio.

Butler worked in the 1970s at Birmingham’s BRMB, one of England’s first commercial stations.

BBC Radio WM’s Daz Hale paid tribute to the „bigger than big” character, broadcasting that „he was a giant”.

„He was an icon, he was a great, he changed broadcasting in this country and around the world,” he said.

image source, Orion Media

image caption,

Tony Butler, wearing a jacket, was attacked by a mob while collecting Christmas presents for Birmingham children

The sometimes controversial presenter later hosted BBC Radio WM in Birmingham for several years, including a slot on the weekday breakfast show.

The 88-year-old became popular with national audiences as part of comedian Jasper Garrett’s routine.

Broadcaster and former colleague Stuart Linnell called him a „legendary broadcaster”.

In the 1970s, Butler worked as a freelance sports journalist for BBC Radio Birmingham, as it was then called, he explained.

„They used him on air but his Midlands accent was so strong that they felt listeners, even Birmingham listeners, wouldn’t really understand him on the radio, so they gave him elocution lessons.

„I learned a lot from Butler and I will always remember him with great, great fondness,” added Mr Linnell.

image caption,

Tony Butler was known for his distinctive local accent and expressive delivery style

Butler won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sony Radio Awards in 2007 and retired in 2012.

In 1951, aged 16, he joined the Birmingham Post and Mail newspaper organization as a trainee reporter before completing his National Service before working for the Daily Telegraph.

Butler first presented for the BBC on regional radio in 1963, but became a notable sports phone-in pioneer when he hosted on BRMB before the format reached national radio in the 1990s – the decade in which football’s premiership emerged.

’on a bike’

In the 1970s, when there were only a handful of BBC radio stations and three television channels on the dial in competition, he commanded huge audiences.

Although most notable for being a regular on radio in the West Midlands for nearly four decades, he also presented three television series for BBC Midlands.

Butler, who includes the catchphrase „on a bike”, worked at WM in the 90s before joining BRMB’s sister station Xtra AM, which had an oldies music format, before returning to the BBC local station.

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