Janice Long: BBC DJ dies from ‘short illness’ after losing brother Keith Chegwin - tributes led by husband

The girl from Liverpool was the first woman to have her own show on BBC Radio 1, her husband Paul Berry described her as ‘inspirational’

Janice Long passed away on Christmas Day 2021

On Boxing Day 2021, it was announced that long serving BBC radio DJ Janice Long had passed away after a short illness.

The 66-year-old’s agent made the announcement, confirming she died on Christmas Day, before tributes flooded in from her husband, children and those who had worked with her.

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The girl from Liverpool hit the airwaves in December 1982, the beginning of a ‘trailblazing’ career which spanned four decades and saw her achieve new heights from women in the industry.

So, who was she and how has she been remembered? This is what you need to know.

Who was Janice Long?

Long was born Janice Chegwin on 5 April 1955, the older sister of fellow presenter Keith Chegwin and his twin brother, Jeff.

The family lived in Liverpool with their mother and father,Collin.

In her late teens and early 20s, she had various jobs as cabin crew, telesales assistant and as an insurance clerk, before joining BBC Radio Merseyside as a station assistant in 1979.

It was at BBC Radio Merseyside that she got her break, when she began hosting her own Sunday evening show, Streetlife. The show focused on up and coming talent in the Liverpool music scene, which was thriving in the early 80s.

Liverpool pop band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which formed in 1980, gave their first interview on her show.

It was an interview with American-British presenter Paul Gambaccini which would land her a primetime slot, as he recommended her for Radio 1.

BBC radio presenters and disc jockeys Peter Powell, Janice Long, Steve Wright, and Bruno Brookes in 1984 (Picture: Getty Images)

In 1982, she debuted on BBC Radio 1 with her own Saturday evening show from 7:30pm. She was the first woman to lead on a primetime slot for the station.

Aside from her prosperous career, Janice married her first husband Trevor Long in 1977, but divorced in 1982.

She went on to meet her future husband, Paul Berry, in 1987, the couple remained together until her passing and married in September 2017 after 40 years together.

They had two children together, Fred was born in 1988 and Blue in 1996.

What are her career highlights?

Following her debut in 1982, she went on to host the Monday-Thursday evening slot from 1984 to 1987.

In 1983, she also began a five year stint as a regular presenter on hit BBC charts show Top of the Pops, replacing her friend David Jensen.

She returned to the show 18 years after leaving in 1988, to host the last episode in 2006.

In 1989, she took up a new role as a DJ on BBC radio London for the breakfast show. She went on to work the weekends on the station, as well as filling in on BBC radio 5 from time to time.

After more than two decades of working on radio, she moved back to Liverpool from London in 1995 and launched her own radio station, Crash FM.  The station was a huge success, with support from Bob Geldof, Boy George and Primal Scream among other famous musicians.

In 1999, she returned to the BBC as a Radio 2 presenter and in 2000 she landed another prime weekday slot.

Long was the first presenter to give Amy Winehouse airtime, during her live music section on the station. She also promoted artists such as Adele, Kasabian, Amy Macdonald, The Manic Street Preachers, Paul Weller and Morrissey as they launched their careers.

After a short stint at BBC Radio 6, during its launch period, Janice went on to secure presenting roles on BBC Wales.

She left she show in 2010 but returned in May 2017, where she continued to work until her sudden death in 2021.

Her final show on BBC radio Wales was on 9 December 2021. She passed away two weeks later, following a short illness which led to pneumonia.

Who was Janice Long’s brother?

In December 2017, Janice took a short break from presenting on BBC Wales when her brother Keith passed away.

Keith had also been involved in the media and entertainment industry, as a TV presenter and regular pantomime star later in his career.

Younger than Janice by two years, his career began when he landed a gig hosting children’s game show Cheggers Plays Pop in the 1970s.

Janice’s brother Keith died aged 60, in 2017

He went on to host Swap Shop alongside Noel Edmonds, and Superstore.

However, in the 1990s he suffered from battles with alcoholism and heavy smoking, which he revealed in his memoir, Shaken But Not Stirred.

In the early 2000, he relaunched his career and made appearances on Ricky Gervais sitcom Extras and Celebrity Big Brother in 2015. He was also a regular support host on GMTV, where he hosted the viewers competition segment.

He also starred in several pantomimes including Aladdin, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Snow White.

In 2017, he was diagnosed with a rare lung condition called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which rapidly affected his health and he passed away on 11 December 2017. He was 60 years old.

Janice and his twin Jeff had been by his side, as well as his wife and daughter.

His elder sister took a break from work as a result of his passing, the pair were incredibly close.

How have her family and friends paid tribute to her?

On Boxing Day, Janice’s agent Nigel released a statement which read: “Her agent Nigel said of her death in a statement: "Janice was a wonderful, warm human being and exceptional broadcaster.

"She told a brilliant story and always made you roar with laughter with her sharp wit. She will leave behind her husband Paul and two children.

"Janice loved the BBC and started her career as a station assistant at BBC Radio Merseyside in 1979, to complete it with the magnificent people at BBC Radio Wales.

"Janice wanted it known she was so thankful to the NHS and all who looked after her there."

Her husband, Paul Berry, then told how he had “lost the love of my life”, adding: “I’m going to spend the rest of it half a person. She had my back from the day we met, you couldn’t possibly ask for more love and loyalty from a wife.”

Janice’s two children also told of their love for their mother, her daughter Blue said: “Mum I love you. You paved the way for me to have an incredible life. You were a trailblazer for so many women to go conquer and succeed.

“The first woman to host Top of the Pops and the first woman to have her own daily show on Radio 1. You have shown me that anything is possible and to never stop fighting for what you want and deserve.”

Her son Fred said: “She wasn’t only a mum to me but a whole bunch of my friends that she took in and cared for and I’ll never forget everything she has done for me. She inspired me to be what I want and told me never to settle for anything less.”

Fellow radio presenter Jeremy Vine joined the outpouring of love and grief on Twitter, writing: “Going to miss you, #janicelong.

Alongside a photo of Janice and Keith, Vine wrote: “Brother and sister, both left us far too young, at 60 and 66.”

BBC Radio 2 presenter Jo Whiley hailed Long a “trailblazer and role model for all women broadcasters”.

She added: “Her passion for music was unrivalled. I loved her Radio 1 show with a passion. Condolences to her family.”

Comedian and TV presenter Paul O’Grady took to Instagram to share his love and admiration, writing: “She was the first woman to present Top of the Pops and a legendary presenter on Radio, a medium that she was passionate about.

“I used to love listening to her on late night Radio 2 particularly when I was writing books as she was such good company and kept me going.”