Ken Bruce “rejuvenated” by new job at 72

The much-loved former Radio 2 DJ says that he has no plans to retire – and revealed what drove him away from Radio 2.

News of Ken Bruce’s departure from Radio 2 came as a shock to his loyal listeners earlier this year – and now the DJ has opened up about his decision to leave his popular mid-morning show.

In a forthcoming episode of Gyles Brandreth’s new podcast, Rosebud, Bruce is still feeling that same excitement and passion as he did when he started out on Radio Scotland in 1977, telling the host that his new job has been a positive move. “I do feel that it’s rejuvenated me to a certain extent. I loved working for the BBC. I think it’s a great institution. But maybe for the last couple of years I can’t be blamed for just trying something else,” he says.

Gyles Brandreth with Ken Bruce
Ken Bruce (right) talks about leaving Radio 2 in a podcast hosted by Gyles Brandreth (left)

Taking on new challenges

Bruce’s move from Radio 2 to Greatest Hits Radio, which plays hits from the Seventies to Nineties, last April, saw him nearly double the amount of listeners in the 10am to 1pm slot. The Ken Effect was credited with boosting Greatest Hits Radio’s popularity, with Bruce’s trademark mix of quality music, easy chat and his fiendish PopMaster quiz proving popular with listeners.

When the news of Bruce’s listening figures broke in August, he also announced plans to front a subscriber-only station, Ken Bruce’s Secret 60s, after admitting he’d been sneaking older songs into his shows.

While changing jobs in his seventies could have been seen as a risk, Bruce didn’t shy away from the new challenge, as he told Saga Magazine earlier this year:

“One of the things I wanted to show is that you can, over 70, take on a whole new way of life, a way of work. You’re not on the scrapheap. Of course it’s very easy just to stay, it’s comfy. Someone once described the BBC as a fur-lined rut.”

The much-loved DJ could never be accused of being stuck in a rut and he tells Brandreth he has no plans to retire, as he’s still paying for his children’s education. “There are a couple of reasons why I’m not retired now at the age of 72. One of them being that I still have children going through education, the other is that I still love what I do.”

And he jokes with Brandreth that he loves being on the radio so much he’ll never leave. “I expect it will end with me being carried out of the studio, maybe mid-broadcast,” he laughs.


“I didn’t want to pretend I liked new music,” says Ken Bruce

Bruce revealed that the playlist at Radio 2 was a factor in his decision to move.

“There was a point of saying that I can’t enthuse over all the new music I’m having to play as much as I could over the old music, and I didn’t want to get to the stage where I was pretending to like it.”

He added: “I didn’t want to be still doing the same show, with everybody around me getting younger, and thinking: ‘Am I the old bloke in the corner here?’ I was the youngster on the station and then almost overnight I became the veteran. I didn’t want to become the old grump in the corner saying: ‘Things aren’t what they used to be.’”

Bruce’s lust for life

Bruce’s new home, Greatest Hits Radio, has a policy of ‘legends playing legends’ and it’s a place where every song is familiar to music fans. Drivetime host – and fellow ex-Radio 2 DJ – Simon Mayo said that a lack of new music doesn’t mean that listeners are stuck in their ways. Instead, it shows a confidence in their musical taste.

“You come to a point in life where you know who you are, you know what you like and it’s a great relief to admit that you want to turn on the radio and know the song that they’re playing,” Mayo said. “I think our audience are full of excitement about what the future holds and their approach to life is as full of thrills and excitement and passion as a Radio 1 audience.”

The first of the Rosebud podcasts, featuring Dame Judi Dench, is out now. Guests coming up include Miriam Margolyes, Nicola Sturgeon and Maureen Lipman – and you’ll be able to hear the full Ken Bruce interview next month.

How much new music does Radio 2 actually play?

Radio 2 has around 25 songs on its new music playlist this week and while 30-year-old Miley Cyrus singing Used To Be Young might not resonate with all listeners, there’s plenty of familiarity in there.

The freshest additions to the A list (songs that are played more regularly) are Tension by Kylie Minogue, 55, and Systematic Overload by Beverley Knight, 50 – both new releases from artists whose careers have spanned several decades. This week’s featured album is the latest release from Alice Cooper, whose first album was issued in 1969.

Meanwhile, 77-year-old Dolly Parton’s rock collaboration with Ann Wilson, Magic Man, makes the playlist, along with new hits from The Pretenders, Tears for Fears and Simple Minds.

Hannah Verdier

Written by Hannah Verdier


Hannah Verdier writes about fitness, health, relationships, podcasts, TV and the joy of reinventing yourself at 50 and beyond. She’s a graduate of teenage music bible Smash Hits and has a side hustle as a fitness trainer who shows people who hated PE at school how to love exercise.

  • twitter