Keith Skues

Keith Skues

Richard Keith Skues has always been interested in show business. From the age of 10 he wanted to be a radio announcer. His first public appearance was via a perambulator but his publicity handout assures us that it was in a parish church pantomime. He appeared annually in various productions, and at the age of 16 wrote and produced a full length youth variety show. Keith was Youth Leader of his church club.

About this time he founded and edited the “Youth Fellowship Times” (1956-1958).

He was called up for national service in 1958 and admits there was more to it than marching up and down the parade square. Whilst stationed at RAF Chivenor he wrote “The History of Heanton Punchardon”, one of Britain’s oldest hamlets in the county of Devon.

At the beginning of 1959 Keith was posted to Germany and he secured, wangled, maneuvered (we are not told how) a post to British Forces Network in Cologne. He began as a presentation assistant, moved to production and later became an announcer. It was in 1959 that the now famous “Cardboard Shoes” gimmick was born. Instead of using his own name he tried a pseudonym. It has followed him around the world since.

After his release from the RAF he joined British Forces Network (which later changed its name to British Forces Broadcasting Service) as a civilian announcer and his first assignment was in 1961 posted to the sweltering hot desert of Kuwait during the Iraqi crisis. Here he set up a small station and broadcast to most parts of the world from where service personnel had been sent to Kuwait.

Later that year he was moved to Kenya with Forces radio. Mention the years 1916-1964 [sic: 1956-1964 – Ed] and Keith’s reaction is “those were the good old days”. Busy days, too for as usual he began to look for something completely different to do. In this case we substitute “do” for “conquer”. He successfully reached the summit of Mount Kilamanjaro (19,340 feet) in October 1962 along with a team of RAF personnel, who were the first services expedition not to lose any one on the way up, or down. Asked why he attempted such an exhausting feat Keith replied; “I wanted to get to the top in life!”.

Whilst in Kenya he wrote a pop page for the “Daily Nation”, and edited a features page for the “Sunday Post”.

On radio he picked up awards two years running for his series “Skues Me” and “Skueball Speshall” … climbed yet another mountain — Mount Kenya (17,058 feet) … directed a number of films including “The BFBS Story”, “Kilamanjaro — What a Long Walk”, “Wild Life in East Africa” … and appeared on local television.

In 1963 he returned to London and was attached to the BBC on a three month senior programme training course. It was just after his return to Nairobi that Kenya gained its independence, BFBS was closed down and after a stint in Swaziland, Keith was posted to Aden where he remained for three months.

“Trouble seems to follow me around the world — Kuwait, Zanzibar, Tanzyanika, Uganda and Kenya which had uprisings and mutinies, and I spent a few weeks in Swaziland during some trouble they had down there. In Aden I was up to my neck in it with the Radfan fighting. So I opted for a more peaceful life and packed my numerous kit bags and returned to England.”

Whilst at the BBC the bug for radio in Britain had bitten him and he came back once again to do something completely different. It was in 1964 that pirate radio began broadcasting off the shores of the British Isles and Keith joined Radio Caroline which was anchored off the Essex coast and where he worked two weeks on board and a week ashore. He became a regular presenter of the 9-12 morning show and admits that the highlight of his days with Caroline was when he escorted Prince Richard of Gloucester to the ship and interviewed him on air.

Keith moved to land based commercial radio in January 1966 working for Radio Luxembourg and presenting his own show sponsored by CBS records.

In May 1966 he was back at sea again but this time with Radio London — “I was writing a book about the pirates and wanted to experience as much variety as possible.”

He worked with many disc jockeys who are now broadcasting with ILR stations today.

“The pirates were outlawed by the British Government in August 1967 which was a sad blow. Pirate radio had proved really popular and had created a need for all day music and entertainment with an informal approach. Radio One was set up as a substitute, if you like, but on a national network. It more or less replaced the pirate stations.”

Keith came ashore and was offered a regular job with the BBC and was one of the original disc jockeys on Radio One. He was best known perhaps for his compering of “Saturday Club” but he was also a regular host of “Radio One Club”, “Family Choice”, “Pop Inn”, “Today”, “Disc Jockey Derby”, “Night Ride” and “Coming Home”.

He has appeared on many television shows including “Top Of The Pops”, “Thank Your Lucky Stars”, “Juke Box Jury”, “Pop The Question”, “Rough with the Smooth”, “Pop Quest”, “Calendar” and the “Kenneth Williams Show”.

He remained with the BBC until 1974 having worked on “The Story of Pop”, a radio series which was sold around the world. He co-wrote many of the episodes and was editor of the series. He joined Radio Hallam as Programme Director in March 1974.

Keith was appointed Vice-President of the National Association of Youth Clubs (Patron — HM The Queen Mother) in 1972 and is actively involved in voluntary work for the organisation up and down the country.

Off the air he likes writing and to his credit are “Pop Went The Pirates”, “Radio Onederland” (the story of Radio One) and “The History of the Skues Family”. Keith is a Lord’s Taverner, holds a private pilots licence, writes sleeve notes for LP record covers, has appeared in the film “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, is the voice behind many television and radio commercials, has represented Great Britain as a DJ in South Africa (1971) and in the last three years has been presented to HM the Queen Mother, HRH Duke of Edinburgh, HRH Prince Charles, HRH Princess Alice of Athlone, and HRH Princess Alexandra.

He is sorry that no-one from Radio Hallam met the Queen during her visit to Sheffield. Says Keith “We could quite easily have spoken to Her Majesty during our broadcast, as we were within touching distance, but that would not have been protocol.

Skues is the only Programme Director in Britain who is heard seven days a week with his own show, including “Lunch with a Punch” every weekday 12.00 midday-2.00 p.m. “It’s better than working,” he admits.

1975 ● THIS IS TRANSDIFFUSION