b. 6 July 1927, Melbourne, Australia, d. 27 November 2006, Twickenham, London, England. One of the most familiar personalities of UK radio, the Australian disc jockey Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman arrived on British shores in 1957 for a holiday. Previously he had been employed as an announcer on Melbourne’s 3KZ station. His earlier ambitions had been to follow his operatic idols into singing, but when he discovered his baritone was not of sufficient quality to make that a realistic career choice, he opted for a job with which he could combine radio and music. Indeed, his early 50s radio shows in Australia combined the roles of presenter, reader of commercials and impassioned crooner of various ad hoc selections. Unimpressed at first by existing British radio, he opted instead for a position at Radio Luxembourg, where he was posted as a summer relief disc jockey. By 1961 he had transferred to the BBC Light Programme with his Records Around Five show, introducing his signature tune, ‘At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymbal’. During September of the same year he introduced Pick Of The Pops, initially as part of a Saturday evening show entitled Trad Tavern, before the slot became a permanent show the following year. Freeman presented this well-loved programme until 1972.
An inveterate champion of hard rock and heavy metal, he quickly attracted a following who liked their presenters unpretentious. He eventually resigned from BBC Radio 1 (as it had become during his time with the corporation) in 1978, to the horror of many of those listeners. Within 12 months, however, he had transferred to London’s Capital Radio frequency, enjoying further popularity through his Saturday morning Pick Of The Pops Take Two slot. In the meantime, Freeman had become a fixture of British television screens via appearances on Top Of The Pops and his own show, All Systems Freeman, although an attempt to start an acting career in the mid-60s fell flat. He later made a cameo appearance in the 80s UK comedy The Young Ones, and in 1986 he had a small role in Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners. In January 1989 Freeman returned to Radio 1, broadcasting on Sunday afternoons until the end of 1992. When Pick Of The Pops finally ended with 30 years service behind it, the BBC commemorated the occasion with a special ‘Fluff day’. Moving to Virgin Radio in 1996 he was honoured by his colleagues with the Music Industry Trusts award. In 1998, he was awarded the CBE for his services to music.
Following a brief return to the BBC in the late 90s and early 00s on the Radio 2 light opera show Their Greatest Bits, Freeman’s health (he suffered from severe arthritis) began to let him down, and he voluntarily handed over the Pick Of The Pops mantle when he was forced to enter a nursing home in Twickenham, London. He died in November 2006. Freeman is fondly remembered as one of the legends of UK radio, with a rich and unforgettable voice.