KEN Bruce is what they call “a national treasure”. Nice guy. Not nice as in Smashie and Nicey, the Radio 1 DJs mercilessly mocked by comedians Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. 

Apart from anything else, Ken is – or was – very Radio 2. There, his amiable, laid-back presence garnered six million listeners, who were shocked when he announced earlier this year that he was moving on.

Which he did, to commercial station Greatest Hits Radio, where he’s been bumbling gently into millions of ears again.

Ken Bruce first bumbled gently into the world on February 2, 1951, happily embraced by a secure, comfortably off family in Giffnock. Father was a footwear middleman between factory and department store. 

He also owned a newsagent’s in Ingram Street. Bruce remembered him as a “reassuring, calm presence”, sitting with paper, cigarette and dram of an evening.

Mother was a kindly influence: “I was brought up to think you didn’t have to be the best at everything. As long as you were doing good work and were happy and were nice to people …” The last of four children, he found his voice trying to get a word in. 

After schooling at yon Hutchie, he worked as a trainee accountant before taking a step up career-wise to wash cars.

Radio began in the early 1970s with Glasgow’s Hospital Broadcasting Service in Glasgow. It’s a genre Ken remembers fondly. He’s patron of Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio.

The Herald:

Man from Auntie 
Gigs as a continuity announcer on the BBC followed before he got the chance to present Nightbeat and a Saturday morning show on newly-created Radio Scotland

Contracts with Radio 2 followed and, in 1985, he took over from Terry Wogan on The Breakfast Show.

However, he was replaced the following year by former tabloid editor Derek Jameson and, instead, was moved to the mid-morning show where he remained. 

Good move.

Listeners were wary at first. “I think they thought, ooh, he’s a little bit sharp,” he told The Scotsman. 

“I’m not. That’s just what you do. People get a bit of needle from me but I reserve the sharpest needle for myself. It’s a Scottish thing. Good … tough … a wee bit harsh. You give it and you take it back.” 
Still basically nice, though.

Bruce’s Radio 2 show became known for its dedications as well as Record of the Week, Album of the Week, and Tracks of My Years, where a celebrity picked two songs that meant something to them over the course of the week. 

Most famous, though, was the PopMaster quiz. You could even get drinks mugs saying “I stop for PopMaster”. 

However, it was stopped from July 2007 until January 2008 following the phone-in scandal, some jiggery-pokery involving allegedly rigged winners, which took in several BBC shows including Children In Need, Comic Relief and Match of the Day.

New guidelines then came in stating that competition winners must be genuine “and never invented, pre-chosen or planted by the production team”. 

On PopMaster’s return, one listener emailed in to say: “As if it was going to be fixed for that kind of prize,” referring to the trifling rewards.

Since leaving Radio 2, Bruce has hosted the series PopMaster TV on Channel 4.

Back at Radio 2, while Bruce was on holiday in August 2007, TV presenter Davina McCall sat in for him, attracting more than 150 complaints and comments from listeners about her “inane chatter” and “cringeworthy” style. Difficult audience.

The Herald:

Rob the Bruce
COMEDIAN Rob Brydon, who could do a fine impression of Bruce, sat in for him one day in 2008 and again as an April fool prank in 2011, impersonating Bruce throughout. 

Many listeners were taken in and choked on their morning Hobnob to hear his seemingly more caustic tone.

Ken’s show has never really been controversial. 

However, in 2008, there was an incident – nothing to do with him – when theatre producer Bill Kenwright told Bruce that Tommy Steele had taken Elvis Presley on a secret tour of London in 1958. 
Oh, my giddy aunt!

Hitherto, legend held that Elvis had only ever set foot in the UK during a stopover at Prestwick Airport in 1960. A stooshie ensued when two of Elvis’s entourage denied the pompadour-crimped crooner had set foot in England at that time. 

It’s important to get these details right. I’ll just read that again: It’s not important to get these details right.

It is important not to sail onto rocks. In December 2008, a crew of fishermen listeners inadvertently relayed the show to every ship and coastguard station for miles around. 

Beyond official contact, Bruce was asked to relay them a message on the show, which he duly did: “If you are on a ship near the Small rocks, please turn me off.”

With six million listeners, Ken continued to be a great turn-on for Radio 2, so imagine a nation’s surprise when, after all these years, he announced on air in January that he’d be leaving the station“to pursue other opportunities”, principally hosting a new mid-morning show for Greatest Hits Radio. 

It was, said parent company Bauer Audio UK, “a hugely significant moment for the industry”. 
Ken stressed the move was “entirely my decision”.

He presented his final Radio 2 show in March, promising no “secret messages” in the songs and telling listeners: “I’ve had such fun, such a laugh.” 

Bruce thanked in particular the Ken Bruce Preservation Society, and played out with Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End, the medley that closes The Beatles’ Abbey Road. 

“And in the end,” he quoted, “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” He added: “And I have loved being here with you.” 

Some wee factoids before we play ourselves out. 

He is the co-owner of several AEC Routemaster buses. 

In December 2012, he won Celebrity Mastermind. Specialist subject: P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels.

He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) this year for services to radio, autism awareness and charity.

Not so serious
HE is married to Kerith, with whom he has two sons and one daughter. He also has two sons from his first marriage and a daughter from his second. He lives in Towersey, Oxfordshire. 

Bruce still loves Glasgow, where there are “no class divisions”. He’s never taken his job “at all seriously”.

He doesn’t fret about the meaning of life: “I’ll worry about that on the last day. Where am I going? I’ll look over the parapet and think, what’s going to happen to me now?” 

Surely, in any afterlife, there’s bound to be a radio station that might benefit from a comforting presence.