On this day in history : 23rd June 1940 – To help relieve the tedium of workers in the munitions factories and to increase their productivity, the BBC’s ‘Music While You Work’ programme is introduced….
The first show was announced in the Radio Times as a ‘half hour’s music meant specially for factory workers to listen to as they work’…. The programmes were scheduled for 10.30am, mid-afternoon and for a period a night shift slot at 10.30pm…. The first day featured Dudley Beavan at the theatre organ in the morning and The Organolists – an organ trio – in the afternoon….
The programme was piped to the workers through a tannoy and there were strict rules as to what could and could not be performed…. By playing non-stop popular music with an even tempo morale lifted and work output increased…. Mainly it was familiar music that workers could sing or whistle to…. Brass bands, military bands and dance bands were all featured – along with performers such as Joe Loss, Victor Silvester and Mantovani…. From October 1940 the programme always began and ended with ‘Calling All Workers’ by Eric Coates….
The music had to be cheerful; there had to be no over-loud drumming – as this could sound like gunfire! Nothing lethargic was allowed and nothing that would make people want to clap or bang tools in time…. Certain songs, such as ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ were banned for this reason….
In 1941 orchestra leader Winford Reynolds was appointed ‘Music While You Work Organiser’…. His task was to tour the factories of the country to get feedback on the programmes from the workers….
The night shift slot was reintroduced between 1947 and 1950…. Apparently during the time the programme aired production increased by around 13%…. Up until 1963 the music was performed live – but to free up BBC studios during the day they began to pre-record the shows – usually on a Sunday evening…. The programme ran until the 29th of September 1967….