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All of Perkins' relatives are New Zealanders, although they refer to England as home. His mother, who played on the local radio station 2XA, gave him a taste "of the fantasy of radio".
He first started working in 1962 in Christchurch on radio stations of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (NZBS), and its successor, the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC). He worked on 3YA, 3YC and sometimes on 3ZB, and in those days all the work was continuity functions. When he came to Wellington at the end of 1962 he started reading the news both on television and on radio. The NZBC put him in at the deep end and introduced him to many forms of radio including compiling programmes, commentary and other functions.
A keen musician, he began by learning the cello and changed to a double bass. While in London he attended the Guildhall School of Music. In 1969 he went back to New Zealand to play the double bass with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Nine years later he returned to Britain to work exclusively for BBC Radio 4, although he also appeared on Noel Edmonds's Sunday morning show on BBC Radio 1 in the early 1980s, and again in a one-off revival of that show in 1992. He was retired from the BBC in 2003 on reaching the age of 60.
He believes in presenting the news in a clear and concise way. He was once voted the third most popular voice on British radio.
After his retirement, he continued to work as a newsreader on Radio 4, but in a freelance capacity, and also provided formal readings for the comedy programme The News Quiz. In March 2010 he also appeared as the voice of a Shockwave hair gel (Wella product) commercial on spotify. Since 1 July 2015, he has been a contributor to the online radio station www.positivelyroyal.com, founded by Noel Edmonds as part of the "Positively" family of online radio stations.
"The Godfather of Radio 4"
Since 2000, radio and television comedy impressions show Dead Ringers has a running joke depicting Brian Perkins as the "Godfather of Radio 4", played on the show by impressionist Jon Culshaw. His imitation often refers to himself as "Big Daddy Perkins" and frequently badmouths BBC colleagues, hinting that he's given out various punishment beatings to those who had earned his ire. In one sketch, the Dead Ringers Brian telephoned the real Brian, accusing him of not being hard enough. The real Brian riposted with a claim that he'd put Peter Donaldson's feet in concrete and thrown him into a canal. In the 2007 Ten Years of Blair special of Dead Ringers, Perkins was portrayed as the Godfather of not only the BBC but the entire nation, acting as the British head of state. Brian and Jon later appeared together on the BBC Radio 4 panel game Wireless Wise. Taking it one step further humourist Danny Wallace refers to Perkins as a God in his 2006 travelogue Yes Man.
- "Birthdays 11th-20th September". infoman16.tripod.com. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- "Good Faces for Radio". The Independent. 5 May 2006. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
- As he says, "Even Liz has to answer to King Perkins the first. Defender of the faith, monarch of the Glen and crusher of the nadgers of anyone who's got a problem with it... And if I don't like you, you get an OBE. The Order of Brian's Elbow, in the face... Now get down Tony Blair, and give me Government."
- Wallace, Danny. Yes Man. Ebury Press (Rand). ISBN 0-09-189674-6.
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