INTERVIEW by Hilary Porter

HE is a legend of the airwaves and inspired the cult of the radio DJ.

Now Tony Blackburn is taking his BBC Radio 2 Sounds Of The 60s show on tour stopping at Eastleigh's Concorde Club on Saturday February 23 and The Regent Centre in Christchurch on October 20.

Taking in 22 dates, all hosted by the iconic radio presenter, it features songs, stories and memories from the 60s performed live by the Sounds Of The 60s All-Star Band & Singers.

Thrilled to be celebrating the 60's he said: "It is my favourite era as everything changed so much, with the style of music and the pirate radio ship and the opening of Radio 1 and all the fashion with Carnaby Street. Tony Hatch once said to me they were only two and a half minute songs but boy they were very memorable."

The son of a doctor in Lilliput near Poole, Dorset, Tony studied business at Bournemouth College. He made his first public appearance with the Ian Ralfini Dance Orchestra at Bournemouth Pavilion and later appeared with various bands in hotels.

He read in the music press that disc jockeys were wanted by a pirate radio station and joined Radio Caroline in 1964. In 1966, he joined Radio London and introduced the first ever soul programme in the UK.

When BBC Radio One commenced broadcasting on 30 September 1967, Tony presented the daily Breakfast Show, and was the first disc jockey on the new network. He hosted the Breakfast Show until 1974 when he took over the morning show for several years, followed by Junior Choice. He remained with Radio One until 1984.

His radio career has never waned and even today- aged 76, he works for four different radio stations!

He told me:"When you get older some people lead a different life and feel different but I don't- that's why I keep going. I do it because I want to do it , not because I have to.

This tour is something I've not done before and to have a challenge like this is great. I enjoy it and I enjoy getting out and meeting the audience and finding out what they love. Some broadcasters don't get to leave their room but I love doing that as well.

"Now I work for four different radio stations every week. People ask me why don't you retire. I've known people retire and then keel over. If I have a couple of days at home I get bored very easily. I love having all of this to do. I'm particularly looking forward to working with other people on tour.

It's funny, I'm 76 now but when I started my ambition was to get to the end of the month!"

Tony says he particularly loves The Beatles and will tell stories about them and people like Bobby Vee, The Drifters, and also American music stars like Diana Ross.

"I was very lucky as I did the very first soul programme on Radio 1 and I introduced a lot of people to that music - and I'm very proud of that. So still to be doing this on the radio is wonderful.

"A lot of youngsters like this music and people are very fascinated by Pirate Radio and Radio 1. It became the home of people like Stevie Wonder, Gene Pitney and Diana Ross so I got to know a lot of them really well -even Frank Sinatra. If I do a Q & A people can ask me all about that but it will mainly be an evening of music and celebrating the sounds of the 60's . It's the first time we've brought the radio show out on the road and we are bringing it out in a different way- it's a very special era. "

Tony says he will not be coming off air whilst doing the tour and is looking forward to visiting the South Coast where he grew up.

"It will be nice to come to Eastleigh and Christchurch.I do come down to the area regularly as my sister lives in Poole and I visit every month.

I have a problem because on shows like X Factor people always have a back story where they say how bad their childhood or life has been but I had a very happy childhood, brought up on the South Coast half a mile from Sandbanks."

Tony was, of course the very first winner of ITV's 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2002. Asked about his proudest achievement, he says: "I have 37 awards in my little office. As for what I'm most proud of over the years I've been very lucky with Pirate Radio, Radio 1 and I'm a Celebrity and The Sony Radio Awards . I think when you get an award it's lovely as people voted for you."

As for doing more reality TV shows Tony says: "I did a caravan show last summer and we all got on so well I would like to do something like that again. I've turned down Big Brother- I wouldn't want to do that- I'm not one for fighting and screaming at people."

Had he expected to do well in I'm a Celebrity?

"Not at all. I didn't expect it but I did enjoy it. It was something different but a hard show to do. I wouldn't like to do it again!"

Do you have any ambitions?

"Not really. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. I work for four radio stations and I'd like to carry on and also do another reality show- maybe something like Carry On Barging with three or four other people.Apart from that I'm really happy to just keep going ."

How does he manage to pack four radio station jobs into his week?

"I just like working . I' m a workaholic and I'm only doing what I enjoy. I think it's very important if I do a job that I really enjoy it. I've been very lucky and just done what I love! "