Golden Oldies

By Simon Parry

The first in GWR's chain of Classic Gold stations was their own Brunel Classic Gold, which began on 15th November 1988 on 936/1161/1260kHz AM.

It was then rolled out to other stations which GWR owned at that time in Bournemouth (2CR Classic Gold on 828kHz AM) and Reading (210 Classic Gold on 1431kHz AM). This was as far as it got until GWR bought Midlands Radio plc in 1993. It was then introduced to Coventry (Mercia Classic Gold on 1359kHz AM), but at this point GEM AM, which they got as part of Midlands Radio, and WABC, which they got when they bought Beacon Radio in 1993, were left to be run live and local 24 hours a day, unlike 2CR and 210 which took some programming from Brunel in Swindon.

Following the takeover of Chiltern Radio in 1995, Classic Gold then arrived in Luton and Bedford (Classic Gold 792/828), Northampton (Classic Gold 1557) and Gloucester (Classic Gold 774). At this point the local names were dropped and the naming became Classic Gold whatever frequency. GWR had also bought Hereward Radio previously, so WGMS (The World's Greatest Music Station) became Classic Gold 1332. The takeover of Chiltern Radio also enabled GWR to base Classic Gold at Chiltern's HQ in Dunstable, where Chiltern's own SuperGold service had previously been based.

More acquisitions in 1996, when GWR bought East Anglian Radio, so Classic Gold eventually arrived in Norwich, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds (Classic Gold Amber) although it did take quite some time for the changeover in this case. GWR also bought Radio Wyvern in Hereford/Worcester during 1996, and Classic Gold was introduced to the area, on 954kHz and 1530khz AM, but they later sold the AM station to Muff Murfin, who still operates it as Classic Gold, but it carries no networked programming.

During 1998 GWR began to pressure the Radio Authority to allow them to network Classic Gold for up to 20 hours a day. Their argument was that the use of higher profile presenters (such as Mike Read, Dave Lee Travis, Simon Bates) would allow listeners a better quality service than they would otherwise receive. The Radio Authority agreed, and so at this point all the Classic Gold stations (including GEM and WABC) began to be networked from Dunstable for 20 hours a day, with the exception of the Breakfast Show, which was presented locally. The local programme was later changed to be Drivetime, to allow Mike Read and later Dave Lee Travis to present a networked breakfast show.

In 1999, GWR bought Essex Radio, bringing Classic Gold (after much petitioning by locals) to Southend and Chelmsford (Classic Gold Breeze on 1359/1431kHz AM), as well as Reigate and Crawley (Classic Gold Breeze 1521). This deal meant that GWR had to sell a number of its licences to avoid going over the ownership points limit, so it sold 12 of the Classic Gold stations to a new company, Classic Gold Digital Ltd (of which GWR is a major shareholder). GWR also ensured that they have the right to buy back the stations, when ownership rules allow. The network is still run from Dunstable, so not a lot has changed, although all the stations are now branded Classic Gold Digital, which brings with it some ridiculously long names!

In 1999 GWR also purchased Orchard Media, meaning that Classic Gold arrived in Plymouth (Classic Gold Digital 1152) and Exeter (Classic Gold Digital 666/954)

Classic Gold can now be heard in the following areas:

AreaAvailable On
Bristol / Bath1260 kHz AM and DAB
Bournemouth, Dorset828 AM
Coventry & Warwickshire1359 AM and DAB
Exeter & Torbay666 / 954 AM
Gloucester & Cheltenham774 AM
Herts, Beds & Bucks792 / 828 AM
Norfolk / North Suffolk1152 AM
Northamptonshire1557 AM
Nottingham / Derby945 / 999 AM
Peterborough1332 AM
Plymouth1152 AM
Reading1431 / 1485 AM
Suffolk (Ipswich / Bury St Edmunds)1170 / 1251 AM
Swindon/Wiltshire936 / 1161 AM
Wolverhampton / Shropshire990 / 1017 AM and DAB
Crawley / Reigate1521AM
Southend, Essex1359 / 1431 AM
South YorkshireDAB
LiverpoolDAB
Wrexham1260kHz AM
UK wideSkyDigital Channel 0189

Since this article was written, Classic Gold was merged with Capital Gold to form a new station - Gold.

Points from the Post

what a lot of crap same artists same music repeat repeat repeat awful presenters wont listen again

bill forrestbilly

Posted 1:50 PM, 30 April 2011

Reply to this comment

radio seemed more fun in the 70s,when ilr first started.there was more choice,more variety and the presenters sounded as though they enjoyed what they were doing.today the local stations are no longer local,most are local for just a few hours,the rest of the day output comes from london and local news and traffic,are added over existing prog,depending where you are,rather like itv network.this format is dreadful and i gave up listening a long time ago.the music has suffered too,i used to be able to hear artists like chris rainbow or brian protheroe,due to the input of the presenter of whatever show,but these days its all formular,ie elton john,you only hear your song.when was the last time you heard crazy water?

pete

Posted 2:26 PM, 10 March 2012

Reply to this comment

I hate all the oldies stations and totally agree with the above posts. Bland unadventerous formats,I rarely listen. I must however give credit where its due to Smooth FM; they present a Motown specialist show every Saturday, they play a lot of the lesser known tracks instead of usual suspects.

Oldies stations in the U.S.A. and Canada are also pretty naff, I soon found out that when I first started listening to the radio online. Plenty of specialist channels though if you have a good trawl around.

Barrie Howells

Posted 1:08 PM, 22 June 2012

Reply to this comment

I agree with the above, although Q Radio's 80's show plays some tracks you otherwise wouldn't hear. Some community stations try to be different and well I may be slightly bias here but Jazzfm sounds quite unique a lot of the time.

Martin Clayton

Posted 11:26 PM, 27 November 2012

Reply to this comment

All roads inevitably lead back to BBC Radio 2. Commercial radio in the UK just isn't worth a listen.

Joseph Town

Posted 5:30 PM, 21 June 2013

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Article ©2001 Simon Parry

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