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:
|Bristol / Bath||1260 kHz AM and DAB|
|Bournemouth, Dorset||828 AM|
|Coventry & Warwickshire||1359 AM and DAB|
|Exeter & Torbay||666 / 954 AM|
|Gloucester & Cheltenham||774 AM|
|Herts, Beds & Bucks||792 / 828 AM|
|Norfolk / North Suffolk||1152 AM|
|Nottingham / Derby||945 / 999 AM|
|Reading||1431 / 1485 AM|
|Suffolk (Ipswich / Bury St Edmunds)||1170 / 1251 AM|
|Swindon/Wiltshire||936 / 1161 AM|
|Wolverhampton / Shropshire||990 / 1017 AM and DAB|
|Crawley / Reigate||1521AM|
|Southend, Essex||1359 / 1431 AM|
|UK wide||SkyDigital Channel 0189|
Since this article was written, Classic Gold was merged with Capital Gold to form a new station - Gold.