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Kenny Everett

Kenny Everett & raunchy radio shows: The biography of a radio star

Who’s the most unforgettable disc jockey you can remember?

When it comes to naming some of the most influential figures in British broadcasting, it’s impossible not to spare a thought to Kenny Everett. Perhaps one of the most shocking, yet entertaining individuals on the airwaves, Everett remains a beloved household name across the country.

Earning his “big break” in 1964 when working on a pirate radio station in London, Everett captured the hearts and minds of the British public with surrealist and anarchic humour. Over the years, he earned millions of listeners, both for his sense of humour, and his unique abilities with sound mixing and dubbing.

Kenny wasn’t afraid to let his eccentric side show through when he was broadcasting. However, there was another side to this man that only began to appear in his later years.

Today, we’re going to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Kenny Everett, and we’re going to do it in the “best possible taste.”

Who was Kenny Everett?

Born “Maurice Cole” on the 25th of December 1944, Kenny Everett was the son of a tugboat captain in Liverpool. He grew up in the suburbs, spending a short time in seminary school before he started to work in the advertising department of a shipping magazine. He also made regular audition tapes, which he sent to the BBC and Radio London – one of the most well-known pirate radio stations of the day.

Although the Kenny Everett characters that appeared during television shows in later days became incredibly famous, Kenny’s original role was the one he built for himself. When Radio London hired him, he had to change his name – a precaution often demanded by pirate broadcasters.

During his pirate days, Everett also teamed up with Dave Cash to create one of the most popular pirate radio programmes in the UK. Unfortunately, he was eventually sacked from Radio London after making some outspoken religious remarks. Kenny ended up creating his pirate station “Radio Luxembourg” in 1966.

Eventually, Everett moved away from pirate radio, as the British government began cracking down on restricted stations. He became one of the first DJs to join the newly created BBC Radio 1 station in 1967. It was here where Kenny really began to discover himself and his unique sense of style. With the BBC, Everett proved that he was a highly diverse and versatile performer, capable of producing his scripts, and even composing inventive jingles. Eventually, his personality made him so compelling that he appeared regularly on chat shows and programmes such as Blankety Blank.

Everett earned a reputation for his bizarre sense of humour and became one of the best-known personalities in the radio world. However, his eccentric nature also got him into a lot of trouble over the years, with multiple radio stations.

As television began to grow in popularity, the Kenny Everett radio shows quickly became television broadcasts, where the disc jockey showed off some incredibly memorable characters. The Kenny Everett Video Show, and the Kenny Everett Television Show, running between 1878 and 1988 showcased Kenny’s obsession with the ever-evolving possibilities of video and audio.

Everett eventually died on the 4th of April 1995, at the young age of 50, after years of suffering from an HIV-related illness.

Kenny Everett

The Kenny Everett biopic: A complicated history

Despite his somewhat “surreal” sense of humour and odd personality, Kenny liked to be known as “Cuddly Ken.” He first came into the public eye in the 1960s, when his fast-paced and exciting broadcasts for pirate radio earned him the attention of rebellious teenagers across the country.

Everett was a pioneer in the disc jockey world. The Kenny Everett radio shows that appeared during his lifetime, along with his television appearances are some of the most memorable events in UK entertainment history. However, away from the cameras and broadcasting stations, Everett lived a complicated life. He was plagued by insecurities about his sexuality and looks, and unconfident in his own company.

According to an interview published in Everett’s obituary, Kenny said that radio was a good place to work for people who wanted to “appear” to be jolly.

Beneath the surface of his radio appearances and television programmes, Everett was a confusing and complicated individual. He seemed to support the right in politics, and openly showed his love of the Conservative party, appearing at rallies and conferences. However, as a gay man, his support of the right side of politics earned him a lot of criticism, particularly after the Local Government Act allowed councils to opt-out of dealing with homosexual issues.

Everett was highly unwilling to address the reality of his sexuality too. His marriage to Lee Middleton became the centre of a Kenny Everett biopic, where the women in Kenny’s life discussed their bizarre relationships with him. Within a decade of marrying Middleton, he had realised that he was gay, and Lee actually helped him to find his first boyfriend.

However, when Kenny came out as homosexual, and admitted that his preferences had led him to attempt suicide twice, he said that he couldn’t accept the label of “gay.” Many of Everett’s fans reacted negatively to the announcement.

Kenny Everett Capital Radio and later years

Despite his complicated personal life, Kenny Everett was committed to becoming a radio DJ. In 1962, he wrote to the BBC and sent the company a tape that was so good they offered him a role on the spot. However, Kenny had already been given a job on pirate radio, and he believed that the anarchic radio station would better suit his personality and ideas.

Even on pirate radio stations, Kenny’s bad-boy nature and inventive attitude made him very popular with listeners. However, he also stepped over the line frequently in his career. Kenny was fired twice by BBC radio, once for suggesting that the Transport Minister’s wife had passed her test through bribery, and once for telling an offensive joke about Margaret Thatcher.

When the legislation was passed to allow for the licensing of commercial radio stations in the UK, Capital Radio was one of the first programmes to appear. Kenny Everett’s Capital Radio days began in 1973, and only 18 months after, Everette took an overdose of sleeping pills. Following his recovery, Kenny continued to work with Capital but eventually switched to weekend shows to reduce the pressure on his schedule. In 1980, Kenny left Capital and found a new outlet in television, first with the Kenny Everette Video show. Everett also earned some television experience hosting a programme called “Nice Time.” Kenny Everett’s characters appeared in earnest when he started appearing in television programs.

Throughout his career, Kenny spent a lot of time moving in and out of positions with the BBC and Capital Radio. In October 1981, he returned to the BBC Radio network on Channel 2. He was fired after making a joke about Margaret Thatcher that was handed to him on a piece of paper by his producer.

In June 1984, Everett went back to Capital Radio, where he revived his previous lunchtime shows on Saturdays. Additionally, in 1985, he was asked to stand in for Graeme Garden on an episode of Radio 4’s show, “I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue.” When Capital eventually split its frequencies in 1988, Everett went back to daily broadcasting on Capital Gold. Kenny’s shows included appearances from some of the biggest names of the day, including David Hamilton and Tony Blackburn.

Everett presented his daytime shows on Weekdays up until 1994, when his health began to deteriorate more aggressively. Eventually, Kenny couldn’t perform anymore, but he still earned the Gold Award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards in 1994.

Kenny Everett

After radio: Kenny Everett characters on TV

The Kenny Everette Radio Show days weren’t his only claim to fame.

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As such an exciting character and robust personality, Everett had a natural charm on television programmes too. His first appearance on television happened in 1965, during a programme called “Dateline Diamonds,” which had a plot based around the MV Galaxy pirate ship. Everett has also appeared on various other channels across the years. In 1968, he was a regular on a television series called “Nice Time” which was presented by Jonathan Routh and Germaine Greer.

During the 1970s, Kenny put his creative side to the test, making a series of three programmes for the London Weekend Television broadcasting channel. He also took part in an ongoing TV series for the BBC named “Up Sunday.”

Everett even had a strong background in the voice-actor world too. In 1973, he was the voice of a cat named “Charley” in a series of public information films called Charley Says. He also acted as the announcer for the Celebrity Squares game show, which was active on the ITV channel for four years, between 1975 and 1979.

It was Kenny’s naturally endearing personality and exciting attitude that made him such a valuable figure for entertainment purposes. Whether on television or over the radio, Everett’s voice became a staple of many households. He was even a panel guest on the Blankety Blank quiz show too. Everett ended up hosting two quiz shows of his own during his career also, including Gibberish and Brainstorm. However, the shows were very short-lived.

In 1978, building on the Kenny Everett Radio Show, the London Thames Television company offered Kenny a new position on the “Kenny Everett Video Show.” The broadcasting station wanted to give Everett a chance to show off some of the impressive characters he had begun to build over the years. Aside from sketches developed by Everett, the programme also included sketches from other writers, interspersed with chart-topping hits, dance routines, and more.

Kenny Everett

Enduring personalities: What happened to Kenny’s characters?

For a while, the Thames Television show seemed like an excellent opportunity for Everett, who built numerous relationships with leading pop culture figures during his career. The Kenny Everett Video Show featured appearances from everyone from Rod Steward, to Cliff Richard and Freddie Mercury. Unfortunately, like many of Everett’s entertainment roles, his relationship with Thames Television ended on a sour note.

Eventually, according to the Kenny Everett biopic, Kenny fell out with Thames Television over the scheduling of his Video Show. Once again, Everette decided to join the BBC, complaining that his show was competing with the Top of the Pops show on Thursday evenings. The programme was renamed the “Kenny Everett Television Show,” and ran for another 7 years, between 1981 and 1988.

Interestingly, Kenny almost had trouble to deal with when Thames Television claimed that it owned the Kenny Everett characters that had appeared on its channels. Fortunately, Everett had no problem overcoming this issue. Although Thames didn’t actually win their copyright case, Kenny created new, but similar characters with different names.

Some of the best-known versions of Kenny Everett’s characters include:

  • General Cheeseburger: A parody version of a typical general in America. Some people claimed that General Cheeseburger was taking the mickey out of General George Patton. The character had huge shoulders covered in hand grenades and medals and was famous for having a “shoot first, ask questions later” strategy.
  • Marcel Wave: The Marcel Wave character was named after a hairstyle from the 1920s. He was a lecherous hairdresser from France, and to play him, Everett often covered his beard with a fake chin. This was particularly strange, as Kenny constantly left his beard on show when he was playing female characters.
  • Cupid Stunt: Probably the most famous of the Kenny Everett characters, thanks to the biopic that aired using her catchphrase, Cupid Stunt was a bearded lady and movies star. Long before Lucas and Walliams created the characters of Emily and Florence, Cupid Stunt was loved for her ridiculous behaviour, and the phrase “It’s all done in the best possible taste.” The biopic with the same name discusses Everett’s life and sexuality.
  • Sid Snot: A hells angel past his time, Sid Snot always failed in his efforts to be cool, and had a grimy, punk-rocker appearance.
  • Captain Kremmen: An animated character that came from Everett’s own sci-fi radio show, Captain Kremmen was inspired by Kenny’s childhood and his love of Flash Gordon. Eventually, the cartoon appeared on both the Kenny Everett Video Show and the television show.
  • Morris Mimer: Not a very vocal character, but still a very popular one, Morris Mimer interacted with video in a unique way, often “drawing” on the television screen. Mimer was an excellent insight into Everett’s love of playing with technology.
Kenny Everett

Kenny Everett: An icon in radio history

For people growing up with Kenny Everett on the radios and television screens, this was a man that they’ll never forget. Everett was more than just a rude attitude and a handful of risqué characters; he was also an inspirational and highly complex figure.

Everett was even one of the men responsible for helping to get the “Bohemian Rhapsody” song on the radio and released as a single. Kenny already happened to be a close friend of Freddie Mercury. When he heard the song that many other radio stations had refused to air due to its length and complexity, he claimed that it was going to be a number one for centuries. When Everett revealed a copy of the single, he was asked to keep it to himself. However, despite strict instructions to keep the song under wraps, he began playing clips on his morning show with Capital FM. Every time he played a portion of the song, Kenny would say that his “finger had slipped,” and that listeners weren’t supposed to have heard anything.

Gradually, public interest in the hidden Queen song began to grow and calls flooded in with requests. Eventually, Kenny relented to his fans and played the song 14 times over 48 hours. Dickie Beau recently portrayed Kenny in the hit movie Bohemian Rhapsody.

Of course, snippets of Kenny Everett film and representations of him appear in many different environments today. Everett was the subject of an episode of the “Heroes of Comedy” television series in 1997, where celebrities discussed his amazing life. Additionally, on the 18th of November, the ITV broadcasting channel created a tribute show for Everett called “License to Laugh.” The show celebrated the 30 years since Everett had first appeared on ITV with the Kenny Everett Video Show.

ITV also published another Kenny Everett film at a later date, which they named “The World according to Kenny Everett.” The special one-hour programme looked at the comic background and DJ experiences of the disc jockey. Today, you can still find snippets of his shows on YouTube, broadcast on BBC, and more.

Further exploring the relationship between Kenny and Freddie Mercury, a documentary was published on Channel 4 too, named “When Freddie Mercury Met Kenny Everett.” The story tells the tale of a relationship between the two men and discusses the complexity of the AIDS disease which both men suffered from.

Kenny Everett

Remembering Kenny Everette today

Kenny discovered that he was HIV positive at the age of 44 and announced the news to the public four years later, in 1993. Eventually, he passed away from his illness in April 1995.

Despite his untimely passing, Kenny remains one of the most-loved and talked-about people in radio.

Perhaps one of the most unforgettable people in radio and UK television history, Kenny made a resounding impact on entertainment. Over the years, countless friends and colleagues have revealed what it was like to work alongside the man they affectionately named “Cuddly Ken.” Even celebrities like Chris Tarrant and Noel Edmunds have spoken about their love for the controversial man.

According to Noel Edmonds, Everett was a “genius,” and one of his main inspirations in the days that he listened to pirate radio.

Though Kenny’s sense of humour and unusual behaviour may have gotten him into trouble over the years, it also earned him the love and appreciation of millions of listeners in the UK. Now that you can find Kenny’s shows online too, people around the world are beginning to discover the voice and characters that were so popular in Britain throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties.

With so many movies, documentaries, and interviews created over the years, Britain will never forget one of its zaniest personalities.

Stay tuned to the latest radio industry insights with Radio Fidelity.

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