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Tony Blackburn victorious in Cliff Richard row

June 23, 2004
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Bosses at radio station Classic Gold have learned that it doesn't pay to underestimate Cliff Richard's army of fans. Chiefs at the station, who suspended veteran DJ Tony Blackburn for playing too many of Sir Cliff's records, have been forced to reinstate the broadcaster after receiving a flood of complaints.

"We've been overwhelmed by the support for Cliff," admitted managing director John Baish. "We should be playing him as much as The Beatles, and we play The Beatles quite often."

The trouble began on Monday when channel boss Paul Baker told Tony the clean-cut crooner was not to be included on his playlist. The inimitable Mr Blackburn, who was obviously not impressed with the instructions, showed his displeasure by playing Summer Holiday the very next day.

This resulted in an angry email from Mr Baker, saying: "Cliff Richard doesn't match our brand values, he's not on the playlist and you must stop playing him." But Tony is not a man to be swayed from his musical vision, so he read the e-mail out on his show, before tearing it up live on air and throwing it in the bin. The 61-year-old then demonstrated his pop convictions once again by playing two of Cliff's singles back-to-back.

No sooner had the records been aired than the presenter received another e-mail, this time from head honcho John Baish. "Tony, please call me straight after the show," he wrote. "This is really serious now." The 61-year-old was then suspended from his job.

But Classic Gold was immediately deluged with calls from angry listeners and Cliff Richard fans. Noel Edmonds, who owns 80 per cent of the station, also expressed his outrage and promised to sort things out. So it seems that "Cliff power" has won out, because Tony's suspension has already been called off.

"I'm delighted this business has been settled. I enjoy working with Classic Gold and doing my breakfast show immensely," he said. "I'm also pleased that we're going to be playing Cliff Richard records - it's the listeners who have come out on top."

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Photo: ©
The veteran DJ was determined to stand by his man. The final straw came when he defiantly played two Cliff singles back-to-backPhoto: © BBC
Photo: ©
Despite the wishes of some radio programmers, Cliff still has a fiercely loyal fanbase

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