Kenneth Robertson Bruce is a Scottish broadcaster who is best known for hosting his long-running weekday mid-morning show on BBC Radio 2 from 1986 to 1990, and then again from 1992 to 2023. He will debut a new radio show on commercial station Greatest Hits Radio on 3 April 2023.
BBC Radio 2
Bruce's first broadcasts were from Scotland when he took over the presentation of Radio 2 Ballroom from Scotland after the death of Radio Scotland's announcer/presenter of Scottish Dance Music programmes, David Findlay. He presented Radio 2 Ballroom programmes regularly from November 1980 until 1982. He became a stand-in presenter on Radio 2, mainly covering for Ray Moore on the Early show. Bruce also presented shows for Radio Scotland from London. Bruce became a regular presenter for Radio 2 in January 1984 when he assumed hosting duties for the Saturday late night show in addition to his continuing show on Radio Scotland.
In January 1985, Bruce left Radio Scotland and took over from Terry Wogan on The Radio 2 Breakfast Show, being replaced himself by Derek Jameson in April 1986. He then began his first stint on the mid-morning show which lasted until the end of March 1990, when he took over the late show until the end of that year. He then hosted the early show throughout 1991, and on 6 January 1992 he returned to the mid-morning slot, where he remained until March 2023.
Bruce announced on 17 January 2023 that he would be leaving BBC Radio 2 in March of that year to pursue other opportunities outside the BBC, including hosting a new mid-morning show for Greatest Hits Radio, replacing Mark Goodier. Bruce presented his final Radio 2 show on 3 March. His final track played was "Golden Slumbers"/"Carry That Weight"/"The End" by the Beatles.
Programme format and features
Bruce's show emphasises music, including regular live performances. Competitions are usually music-based, with a love song and dedications feature at 10:15 am. Other regular features include the Record of the Week and the Album of the Week and the Tracks of My Years, where a celebrity picks two songs each day for their particular meaning. The Love Song is played at 10:15 am each day, preceded by dedications, although a number of songs in the rotation are not romantic love songs.
The show also includes a daily quiz, PopMaster. It previously included other competitions such as Spin It to Win It and Words Don't Come Easily, although these were dropped in 2007 following the phone-in scandal. PopMaster returned in early 2008, although the other competitions did not.
Stand-in presenters have included Richard Allinson, Simon Mayo, Aled Jones, Zoe Ball, Michael Ball, Claudia Winkleman, Fearne Cotton, Trevor Nelson, Gary Davies, DJ Spoony and Scott Mills.
The comedian and impressionist Rob Brydon, who is noted for his mimicry of Bruce, sat in for him on 25 August 2008 and again as an April fool prank in 2011 when Brydon impersonated Bruce throughout.
PopMaster has run as a feature of Bruce's show since 16 February 1998. With questions set by music expert Phil Swern, it offers a smart speaker for successfully completing the Three-in-Ten bonus round. If the listener fails, they are awarded a set of Bluetooth headphones (replacing the previous consolation prizes of a Bluetooth speaker, and before that an MP3 player). An earlier consolation prize, a "Space" radio, has been known to appear on eBay, to Bruce's amusement. The losing contestant is given a T-shirt with "One Year Out" printed across the front (a catchphrase Bruce uses in the quiz when a contestant trying to place the year a song was in the charts is out by one year). This consolation prize replaced a CD wallet as of 27 February 2012.
The public phone-in PopMaster quiz was suspended after airing on 18 July 2007. A celebrity version was introduced on 20 July and continued until 18 January 2008. "Three-in-Ten" was not held in the celebrity version and there was no tie breaker in the event of a draw. It was rumoured that members of the public would be able to play again before Christmas 2007 but this did not happen. Following an announcement by Bruce on 7 January 2008, the regular format returned on 21 January. The game returned with new dramatic, orchestral and guitar-based jingles.
Bruce himself was a PopMaster contestant during his show on 17 May 2013, when he took part in a special Eurovision edition of the quiz, live from Malmö, Sweden. Bruce competed against Paddy O'Connell, with John Kennedy O'Connor chairing the quiz.
While Bruce was on holiday in August 2007, Davina McCall sat in for him. This attracted more than 150 complaints from listeners.
During his show on 21 April 2008, theatre producer Bill Kenwright told Bruce that Elvis Presley once visited London in 1958, and was taken on a tour of the city by Tommy Steele. It was believed that Presley had never visited England and the claim caused considerable controversy.
In December 2008, a crew of fishermen listeners were inadvertently relaying the show to every ship and coastguard station for miles around. It was not possible to contact the vessel, so a request was made to Bruce, who duly said: "If you are on a ship near the Small rocks, please turn me off."
Soon afterwards, while duetting with Steve Wright's "Ask Elvis" (a.k.a. Mitch Benn), Bruce recorded a version of the Andy Stewart song "Donald Where's Your Troosers?" for the Bandaged CD to raise money for Children in Need. This was released as a download.
In December 2008, Bruce was officially inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame.
On April Fools' Day 2011, Bruce's radio show was presented by comedian Rob Brydon impersonating Bruce throughout. Brydon interviewed "Sir Terry Wogan" (impersonated by Peter Serafinowicz), and Bruce himself appeared at the end of the show as his "brother Kenn with two Ns".
As a result of restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, from 23 March 2020 to 31 May 2021, Bruce self-isolated and presented his show from his home. He has spoken about remote work to the BBC website, saying: "We get a lot more people just asking for a simple hello or a mention for relatives just because they are not seeing them as much as they could. Particularly working from home, I sympathise with that, because there are lots of people I'm not seeing. We are all kind of feeling we are in this together, so it has brought broadcaster and listener rather closer together. It has made us have to be a little bit more creative with what we include in the programme. We do a lot more saying thank you to people who are keeping our essentials services going, and we are also giving people ideas of things to do while they are in lockdown". Bruce returned to broadcasting from Wogan House in June 2021.