Sri Lanka Remembers the Legendary Vernon Corea

Vernon Corea’s 3rd Death Anniversary falls on 23rd September 2005. The world of broadcasting will remember the legendary Radio Ceylon and BBC Broadcaster who pioneered public service broadcasting spanning a career of 45 years, helping many Sri Lankan musicians during this time.The Hindu Newspaper in India placed him in the top 5 broadcasters of the
world. The BBC will also remember the broadcaster from South Asia who presented
the popular ‘London Sounds Eastern’ radio program on BBC Radio London in the
1970s and 1980s. He introduced Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit
, Usha Uthup and many other South Asian music stars to British
audiences through ‘London Sounds Eastern’ produced by Keith Yeomans.

Neville Jayaweera, former Chairman and Director-General of the Sri Lanka
Broadcasting Corporation paid a tribute to Vernon Corea: ‘I first heard of
Vernon Corea, as many others too did, before I had ever met him face to face. In
the early nineteen sixties Vernon was probably the most popular male voice heard
over Radio Ceylon’s English Commercial Service. It was Vernon who compiled and
presented that incredibly popular listener’s request program every Sunday
afternoon, called “To each his own” for over a decade. This was the program that
served as a channel through which popular American music, particularly “Country
and Western” songs poured into Sri Lanka and fashioned the musical tastes and
values of a whole youth generation.

I actually met Vernon for the first time when I assumed duties as the Director
General of the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation in 1966. Throughout my stay at
Radio Ceylon Vernon worked very closely with the management and his loyalty and
commitment to his responsibilities was never in doubt. Starting as an announcer
and presenter he rose rapidly to exercise higher managerial responsibilities
said Neville Jayaweera.

The Hindu Newspaper said Vernon Corea was the first to introduce Sinhala music
onto the English Services of Radio Ceylon. Corea has helped many Sri Lankan
musicians up the ladder of fame – these included Clarence Wijewardene, Annesley
Malewana and The Moonstones, Nimal Mendis, Bill Forbes, Des Kelly, Adrian
Ferdinands, Cliff Foenander, The Jetliners and a host of Sri Lankan artists.

Des Kelly, the Sri Lanka born star now living in Melbourne in Australia noted:
‘Vernon Corea will always be fondly remembered by his colleagues and friends
as a man who gave freely of his time to aspiring “artistes” and other radio
personalities alike
. ‘

Bill Forbes spiraled upwards to stardom when he appeared on Jack Good’s ‘Oh
Boy,’ a groundbreaking British pop music show from 1958-1959, in London with
Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde, Bill Fury and others. He released 12 hits for EMI
Columbia among them ‘Too Young/It’s Not the End of the World,’ Sri Lankans still
sing his ‘baila hit’ ‘Aacha England,’ recorded under the name of Kal Khan. ‘Oh
to be in England!’ was a favorite of Vernon’s.

Bill Forbes met Vernon Corea in the early 1960s at Radio Ceylon.Forbes traveled
to Ceylon after his outstanding success in ‘Oh Boy’ Vernon was one of the first
to interview him and play his hits on Radio Ceylon.Vernon also wrote about Bill
Forbes in his Entertainment columns published in the Ceylon Daily News. Bill
Forbes also appeared on Donovan Andree’s musical shows in Colombo in the early
1960s. He shares his memories: ‘ Friendly Vernon spun my discs together with
Livy Wijemanne, Jimmy Barucha, Chris Greet, Nimal Mendis & Co – and I sincerely
thank him and the others for their kindness.

It was lovely to read about Vernon’s achievements and his Golden Voice will
always be remembered when Radio Ceylon is mentioned. His legacy will live on.May
Vernon’s efforts in life musical and otherwise be remembered dearly
said Bill Forbes in the United Kingdom.