Janice Long was the BBC’s radio host who died suddenly on Christmas Day after a brief illness.

She was 66 years old and the first female to present Top of the Pops. Her broadcasting career spanned 40 years, including hosting radio shows, television, and radio programs.

Brought up in Liverpool, Miss Long – the older sister of late children’s television presenter Keith Chegwin – started out as a radio assistant on BBC Radio Merseyside in 1979.

She went on to work at the BBC’s flagship stations including Radio 1, where she was also the first woman to have her own regular daily show.

She supported future stars such as The Smiths, Frankie Goes Hollywood, Primal Skull, Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Primal Scream. In 1985, she was one of the major presenters at Live Aid. 

Trailblazer: Tributes were paid to BBC radio presenter Janice Long last night after she died on Christmas Day following a short illness. Pictured: Long presenting Top of the Pops

Trailblazer: Tributes were paid to BBC radio presenter Janice Long last night after she died on Christmas Day following a short illness. Pictured: Janice Long, presenting Top of the Pops

Musician Midge Ure said on Twitter: ‘Dreadful news. Janice was there with us at Wembley Stadium when we declared Live Aid. A broadcast legend and absolute music lover.’

Frankie Goes To Hollywood said she was the first broadcaster to interview them on the radio and to play the demo of their hit Relax, adding: ‘Always had our back. Condolences to her family and loved ones’.

Miss Long’s agent Nigel Forsyth said in a statement that the married mother of-two died at home on Christmas Day.

‘Janice was a wonderful, warm human being and exceptional broadcaster,’ he said.

‘She told a brilliant story and always made you roar with laughter with her sharp wit. Her husband Paul, and her two children will be gone. She loved them all.

‘Janice wanted it known she was so thankful to the NHS and all who looked after her there,’ he added. Miss Long was most recently employed at BBC Radio Wales where she hosted her evening program since 2017.

Broadcast family: Long pictured with her brother Keith Chegwin, who was also involved in radio as well as television presenting and acting

Long with Keith Chegwin (broadcast family)

BBC director-general Tim Davie said the ‘stellar presenter’ was ‘loved and respected across the industry’. He added: ‘Her passing is a huge loss to music, broadcasting and the BBC.’

Mr Davie, Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley and presenter Carol Vorderman described her as a ‘trailblazer’ for women in broadcasting.

During her career she was also a patron of Sir Paul McCartney’s ‘fame’ school in her home city, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and a judge of the Mercury Music Awards.

Pete Wylie from Liverpudlian, the Mighty Wah! said: ‘The best friend a boy could have – 40 years! We said our goodbyes on Thursday but she’ll never be far from here. A true pro who was dedicated to her music and supported it. She is smart, kind, funny, and generous. I love you mate. Friends forever.’

Long career: During a 40-year career, Long hosted shows across flagship BBC stations including Radio 1, as well as the breakfast show on Greater London Radio and XFM. Pictured in 1985

Long career. Long host for shows at flagship BBC stations such as Radio 1 as well as on Greater London Radio (XFM) and Radio 1. Photo taken in 1985

Ian McCulloch, of Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen, described her as a ‘Liverpool legend and dear friend’. He added: ‘I am so sad to hear the devastating news of her passing.’

Comedian Les Dennis said he would ‘miss our chats’, adding that Miss Long was a ‘shining and innovative talent’.

Tim Burgess, from band The Charlatans, praised her support of fledgling bands, describing her as a ‘mentor’. 

He added: ‘To hear our records on her show was always the biggest thrill – her enthusiasm and love shone through. Unique. Safe travels, we’ll miss ya.’ 

Merseyside band The Coral said: ‘She was great to us and like the best broadcasters, talking to her was always easy, like catching up with a friend. RIP Janice.’

Peter Hook, of Joy Division and New Order, also paid tribute, saying she was ‘always a great friend and a great supporter of our music… she was a lovely lady and a pleasure to be around’.