Alan Owen was a distinguished music producer for BBC Radio and, under the name Alan Langford, a prolific composer of light music.
The pinnacle of his radio career was 11 series of programmes on Radio Three about America’s finest songwriters and jazz musicians, written and presented by Alistair Cooke. Besides his light music, which has recently enjoyed a resurgence of interest, he wrote much mood music for commercial recording libraries.
The son of garage owners, Owen attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and studied under Benjamin Frankel. He joined the BBC as a clerk in the music library and, while still a young man, he bought a villa in Majorca and installed a piano, hoping to earn a living as a composer. But the idea did not work out. He felt isolated and returned to his old job at the BBC.
Once he was promoted to music producer, he worked across the radio networks. On Radio Three, he produced Matinee Musicale, a programme of light music, while on the Light Programme, the precursor of Radio Two, he was responsible for As You Were, a show of twenties dance band music.
His work with Cooke began in 1974. Between then and 1987, they worked on 74 programmes that culminated in a six-part series, The Life and Times of George Gershwin. Besides Cooke, Owen regularly produced such Radio Two stalwarts as David Jacobs and Alan Keith and gave the King’s Singers their first broadcast.
When he retired at the age of 60, a radio suddenly appeared at his farewell party. When it was switched on, there was a recorded reminiscence of him by Cooke, who by then had become a close friend. He described how committed Owen was to his work and how difficult it was to divert him into anything relaxing.
Away from the music, Owen was an antiques dealer with a regular stall in London’s Portobello Road market, specialising in old clock and watch parts. He also indulged his passion for art house movies and, as a member of the Performing Right Society, he took his place on a committee that considered the plight of members in financial difficulties.
In retirement, he recorded books for the blind, enormously assisted by his perfect enunciation and his knack for mimicry.
Alan Owen, who was born in London on February 29, 1928, died in Cheltenham on February 9, aged 82.
Richard Anthony Baker
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