Bernie Andrews (17/08/1933 – 11/06/2010) was a BBC radio producer. Joining the BBC as a trainee in 1957, he rose through the ranks to become a staff producer for the Light Programme, the predecessor to Radio One, working on pop music shows such as the respected Saturday Club. He is the man credited with enabling John Peel to become sole presenter of Top Gear, a programme Andrews had originated on the Light Programme in 1964.
Introduced by Brian Matthew and featuring many of the leading artists and records of the time, Top Gear ran for six months between 10 p.m. and midnight on Thursday evenings, before being taken off by the BBC management. The assumption at the time was that this fast-moving, youthful and modern programme was too radical for the Light Programme, which, despite the beat group explosion of the 1960s, still concentrated on pre-rock'n'roll forms of pop music.
Unlike most BBC producers of the era, Andrews was enthusiastic about pop music and won additional studio time for guest artists to record sessions for his programmes. (This was a necessity owing to the Musicians' Union's "needletime" restrictions on playing records.) In so doing he gained the respect of artists such as the Beatles - and invented what would later be known as the "Peel session".
Top Gear was revived as a key programme of the new Radio One in September 1967, with a three-hour slot on Sunday afternoons. Its role was to be at the cutting edge of new developments in pop music and Andrews, having heard John Peel's Radio London programmes, was sure that he was the right DJ to present the show. However, his admiration for Peel was not shared by his BBC superiors (only Robin Scott, Controller of Radio One, agreed with him), so for the first few months of Radio One Top Gear had a variety of co-presenters, among them Pete Drummond and Tommy Vance. Andrews went along with this, while secretly planning to make Peel the show's sole presenter, which eventually happened in February 1968 - although Top Gear was reduced to a two-hour programme as a result.
The Peel-Andrews collaboration proved very successful; both men were keen music listeners and record collectors, and recognition soon followed with awards for both Top Gear and Peel, who was voted Best DJ in several polls in 1968. This came as a shock to the BBC hierarchy and reflected the division between the so-called "underground" audience who listened to Peel's programmes and voted for him in music press popularity polls, and the larger but less committed audience for Radio One's weekday pop shows.
In spring 1969 Andrews, always suspicious of BBC orthodoxy, was removed from Top Gear on the pretext that he was spending too much time working on the programme and making himself unavailable for other assignments, which as a BBC staff producer he was obliged to accept. Protests followed from Peel and his supporters in the pop music press, but Andrews was not reinstated.
He stayed on at Radio One, notably as producer of Annie Nightingale's popular request programme, and indeed worked with Peel again for 14 months from October 1972 on the DJ's Thursday night Sound Of The Seventies show (Garner, p.80), but remained bitter about his treatment by the BBC and took early retirement in the 1980s.
Ken Garner's The Peel Sessions contains detailed accounts of Bernie Andrews' pre-Radio One career at the BBC (pp.26-37) and of his period on Top Gear (pp.41-60).