Music broadcaster and critic best known for ‘My Music’

John Amis - born June 17th, 1922; died August 1st, 2013

The British broadcaster and music critic John Amis, who has died aged 91, became a national figure thanks to the long- running BBC radio quiz My Music.

Having made his living in a variety of music-related jobs, he joined the programme largely by chance in 1973 when his friend David Franklin, a former operatic bass, who with bass- baritone Ian Wallace and comedy writers Frank Muir and Denis Norden, made up the original My Music quartet, had to leave the programme because of ill health.

Amis brought a sound tenor voice to the programme’s concluding round of songs, but it took him time to settle into the badinage needed for its mix of information and inventive fun.

Muir told told him he was no good at repartee and should stick to stories. This he did until the programme came to an end in 1994, with some series on BBC2 television along the way.


A cousin of the novelist Kingsley, Amis was born in Dulwich into a banking family with a love of amateur music-making. After leaving Dulwich College, he tried banking, but only for six weeks.

Packed off to study harmony and counterpoint, he also worked in the EMG specialist record shop in London, where his customers included Peter Ustinov and TS Eliot.

He was employed in an administrative capacity for the London Philharmonic Orchestra and also worked for Dame Myra Hess, organising her famous lunchtime concerts during the second World War, and for Sir Thomas Beecham.

Amis's friendship with William Glock, who later became head of BBC music, led to him deputising as London music critic of the Scotsman – he was the only one to proclaim Tippett's opera A Midsummer Marriage (1955) a masterpiece.

He was also administrator of the summer music courses directed by Glock at Bryanston school, Dorset, and later at Dartington Hall school, Devon, between 1948 and 1981, with a stellar lineup of tutors.

Amis had always toyed with the thought of becoming a professional singer. After an audition in the Austrian city of Graz, the opera house’s director told him: “Do I understand that you have done music criticism, ja? Then why don’t you stick to it?”

He wrote a column in the Tablet, obituaries for the Guardian and in recent years a blog.

For the BBC World Service he conducted unscripted interviews – then a novel departure – with distinguished musicians. His Music Now magazine programme on Radio 3 and, for a season, BBC2 television worked on the same principle.

By the time Radio 3 marked his 90th birthday last year, he had an archive of 500 interviews to draw on.

He is survived by his partner, Isla Baring.