Today, we'll talk about some iconic radio presenters. This is important for various reasons:

  • Having positive models is key;
  • There is a lot to learn from other presenters, including presentation techniques and general career advice;
  • You may be inspired.

So, this is not a list of the top in the game and doesn't feature lengthy bios.

The presenters are drawn from varied backgrounds, and there is something to learn from each one.

With that, let's get started:

Sir Terry Wogan

Image Credits BBC

Terry Wogan began his radio career after a short stint at the Royal Bank of Ireland. He applied for a position at Raidió Teilifís Éireann - the national broadcaster in Ireland - after seeing their advertisement in the paper.

Demonstrating the importance of acquiring different skills as a presenter: his first two years at RTE were spent conducting interviews and presenting documentaries before becoming a DJ and pop quiz host.

Despite a rebuff from David Attenborough about having two Irish Presenters at the BBC, Terry joined BBC Radio initially working from Durban in 1967.

Through hard work and sacrifice - having to commute weekly from Durban to London for two years straight to host the Late Night Extra - he eventually became the host of the BBC Radio 2 morning show in 1972.

After 10 years as a BBC radio presenter, it was time for a change, and Terry left radio in 1984 for a full-time TV career. He was everywhere on radio and TV, which enamored his image as a leading media personality.

Wake up to Wogan was his debut show after returning to BBC Radio 2 in 1993. The show attracted up to 8 million listeners weekly. So remarkable were his feats and his status as a national treasure that he was knighted in 2005.

Lessons from Wogan's Career

What made Terry Wogan great?

1) Adaptability to change - Terry would transition from Radio to TV and back.

2) Light banter and improvs - It certainly made things interesting to the audience, and he would often go off on rants.

3) Audience incorporation - Terry made listeners central to his show, and he would often read their letters and emails on air.

4) General niceness - He was a man of the people and about the people. It was reflected in his down-to-earth manner.

5) Wry wit - The presenter had a mischievous wit that often drew controversy but enamored him to his audience.

6) Relaxed nature - Behind the mic, Terry was your friendly neighbor. He connected with the listeners in a way that many presenters can enumerate.

Sir Terry Wagon Selected Quotes

"Nobody really knows what they look like. The mirror shows you only what you want to see.

What used to be called 'good manners' is now regarded as a mere affectation. Open a door for a young woman, and she's likely to call security."

Rickey Smiley

Rickey Smiley defied impossible odds to become the host of the US top hip-hop morning show, syndicated across hundreds of radios. He's a compelling voice on the radio thanks to his raw natural talent, humor, and authenticity.

The comedian was born in 1968, and his childhood was stifled with difficulties from growing up poor and without a father.

His radio career began in April 2004 after joining KBFB in Texas. The hip-hop show soon became popular by featuring interesting conversations and Rickey's noteworthy prank calls.

The Rickey Smiley Show was born in 2008 after signing a syndication deal, which took the show to nationwide audiences.

What other presenters can learn from Rickey Smiley

1) The art of making prank calls: Rickey Smiley elevates prank calls to a new art form. He adapts his character and voice when making phone calls, and some of the notable calls include formats like Buried Alive. In the prank call, he talks about being buried alive after mistakenly falling asleep in a casket.

2) High energy shows: Radio hosts that are searching for ingredients that make up high energy and addictive shows can also study some of Rickey’s morning shows.

3) Staying engaged on social media: With up to 5 million fans on social media, Rickey Smiley can offer insights about ways to keep them engaged.

4) Working with co-hosts: The Rickey Smiley Show is not a one-person hit wonder. He works with six co-hosts in the studio, and each presenter contributes awesome content.

Zoe Ball

Zoe Ball broke through a previously male-dominated industry by becoming the first female radio presenter on both BBC Radio 1 and later Radio 2.

She left BBC in 2000 for her TV career only to return in 2002 after joining Radio X to host their weekday drivetime show.

She would return to BBC as a co-host to Sara Cox. In the following years, she became a familiar voice on BBC Radio.

As of January 2020, ZoeBall took over the BBC Radio 2 morning breakfast show with the Zoe Ball Show that averages up to 9 million listeners weekly. That makes her the most listened to radio host in Britain.

What other presenters can learn from Zoe Ball

1) Life beyond the studio: Off the studio, Zoe Ball leads an active life. She loves contributing and inspiring. In 2018, she cycled from Blackpool to Brighton for more than 300 miles in 5 days.

2) Personable character: People find it easy to connect to her because of the major challenges she has overcome in her career, from alcohol addiction to her boyfriend’s passing away.

Tony Blackburn

Tony Blackburn was Britain's favorite DJ for much of his six decades career. From an early age, he pursued his love for music, playing the guitar and singing.

After spotting a DJ advertisement from Radio Caroline South, he applied and got the job broadcasting for the pirate station in 1964.

Later he joined Radio London before transitioning to BBC Radio 1. He was the first voice of the new Radio One.

Fans would soon know his name, and he was instrumental in changing the face of British music. Aside from Radio, he worked as a TV host on Top of The Pops.

After headlining popular music shows including weekday afternoon Soul Programme and Soul Nights, Blackburn took a break for several years.

He returned to BBC Radio 2 in 2010 at 67 years, and now hosts two radio shows, Golden Hour and Sounds of the Sixties.

Lessons from Tony Blackburn's Career

1) A relentless love for music - Tony loved music, whether it was taking singing lessons to improve his singing ability or playing in a band. His passion propelled him as one of the top radio music hosts.

2) Enjoying what you do - In an interview for The Sunday Post, Blackburn stated that he loves going to the studio, and he finds the greatest joy when speaking to listeners and selecting great music.

Tony Blackburn Interesting Quotes

"Since I was four, I can't remember wanting to do anything except entertain. And I got some lucky breaks. My daughter Victoria is the same"

Howard Stern

A giant in the US radio industry, Howard Stern shot into prominence as a shock jock, achieved through raunchy jokes, sexual content, and shocking interviews.

The Howard Stern show that began in 1985 at New York City’s WXRK-FM attracted over 20 million listeners at its height.

He has won numerous awards and gained notoriety as the most fined radio presenter. Well, this is equalized by his salary of $90 million yearly also making him the highest-paid radio host.

What other presenters can learn from Howard Stern

1) Breaking with the tradition - Howard Stern is a testament to the power of being the real you. He doesn't mind offending anyone in the pursuit of truth and entertainment.

2) Growing a personal brand - Tirelessly cultivating a personal brand is a lesson radio hosts can learn from Howard Stern. He's also transitioned into TV as one of the judges on America's Got Talent, starred in movies, and published books.

3) Power of self-belief - Stern is an example of the power of self-believe and affirmations. He called himself the "King of All Media," and reality bent itself backward to make this true.

John Peel

As one of the longest-serving broadcasters on BBC Radio 1, there is a lot to learn from John Peel.

He worked for the Pirate station, Radio London in 1967, playing everything from underground music, including blues, rock, and folk music.

Radio London soon closed and Peel joined BBC Radio 1, hosting the Top Gear show, where he took the lead from 1968. His career is distinguished by his love for experimenting with different music genres.

Listeners were central to his success, and he loved taking requests. At one time, he shared that Frank Sinatra had called-in with a request, but he ended up hanging up thinking it was a prank.

Well, it was Frank Sinatra alright. Peel also impacted the lives of many upcoming musicians before his demise in 2004.

What other presenters can learn from John Peel

1) Love for experimenting - Peel experimented with diverse music genres and celebrated underground musicians. He's honored as the first presenter to delve into progressive and psychedelic rock.

2) Personal antidotes - Behind the desk, Peel shared personal stories from his experiences with the underground music scene. And shows felt like conversations between friends.

3) Supporting upcoming musicians - The John Peel Sessions produced from 1992 featured upcoming artists, and some acts to fame thanks to the features.

John Peel Interesting Quotes

"I just want to hear something I haven't heard before."

All I ever wanted to do was hear music that I like and play it to other people."

Keep reading more about top radio presenters

Here is a format to follow:

Get a list of radio media personalities you love. Then find out about their background. Read their personal autobiographies, and listen to their past shows.

You may find excellent archives on MixCloud or SoundCloud, as YouTube seems lacking in this regard.