Chris Evans has taken over Sir Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 breakfast show, marking another stage in his remarkable career.
The 43-year-old – who had presented Radio 2’s early evening drivetime show since 2006 – stepped into Sir Terry’s shoes on Monday morning.
A greater contrast between Sir Terry’s genial avuncularity and Evans’s brash exuberance would be hard to imagine.
The latter built his reputation as a witty prankster on the BBC’s now-defunct London radio station GLR, where he started as a producer and ended up as a star DJ.
But it was in 1992, when he became host of Channel 4’s early morning programme The Big Breakfast, that he became a household name.
The anarchic, primary-coloured magazine show was a huge hit in the early days, even beating ITV’s new breakfast station, GMTV, when it launched in 1993.
The Warrington-born star’s hyperactive personality defined the show, and he was catapulted from London cult personality to national celebrity.Evans was Radio 1’s breakfast DJ from 1995 to 1997
He launched his own production outfit, Ginger Productions, and moved into prime-time with Channel 4 game show Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush.
The format was sold around the world, bringing in funds to help him build up his media empire.
Evans left The Big Breakfast in 1994, and the following year was recruited by BBC Radio 1 to revamp the station’s breakfast show.
However, he took the job only on the proviso that the show would be in the hands of Ginger Productions – and not the BBC.
The deal ruffled feathers at Broadcasting House but worked wonders for the station, which saw its ratings rocket along with its profile.
In 1996, he returned again to Channel 4 screens with TFI Friday – a classic Evans cocktail of leading bands, celebrity chat, bizarre stunts and in-jokes.
But as TFI took off, his tempestuous love affair with the BBC began to suffer.
His effortless, off-the-cuff banter slowly transformed into ego-centric rants, and the tone of the show became ever more dark.
On one occasion, he said he hated Anthea Turner’s new TV show so much he wanted to “kick her in the mouth”.
And an obsession with money began to over-ride his interviews. The following exchange with TV chef Delia Smith was fairly typical:
Evans: “How are you?”
Smith: “Very well.”
Evans: “That’s not the answer.”
Evans: “That’s not the answer.”
Smith: “What is the answer?”
Finally, after Radio 1 refused to meet his demands to work a four-day week, he quit.The exuberant host went on to join Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin station
Later that year he returned to breakfast radio on Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin station, competing against Radio 1’s new breakfast line-up of Zoe Ball and Kevin Greening.
Evans liked the job so much he bought Virgin Radio from Sir Richard at the end of 1997.
The City was stunned at his £85m purchase – snatching the station from under the nose of London-based Capital Radio, whose bid had been held up by a government inquiry.
With City backers behind him, his new Ginger Media Group made him a broadcasting mogul.
But the Evans magic started to fade soon afterwards.
He was photographed out on the town with Paul Gascoigne, damaging the footballer’s chances of getting into the England squad for the 1998 World Cup.
Ginger’s TV arm also showed signs of losing its flair. TFI Friday started to go off the boil, and two BBC projects – the National Lottery Red Alert and student quiz Carry on Campus – flopped.
In early 2000 Evans sold the Ginger Media Group to SMG, the owner of ITV1 stations Scottish and Grampian, for £225m.Many doubted the DJ’s relationship with former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell
But while Evans took a large chunk of that cash, his on-air performances faltered.
A much-hyped “romance” with singer Geri Halliwell failed to lift TFI’s ratings, and he stepped down as host before the show ended in 2000.
At Virgin, meanwhile, Evans failed to turn up for a week of breakfast shows.
The DJ claimed he had been ill. But when photographs and footage emerged of him out drinking with his new teenage girlfriend Billie Piper, Virgin said it had no option but to dismiss him.
After marrying Piper in Las Vegas in May 2001, Evans kept an uncharacteristically low profile at his marital home in Hascombe, Surrey.
The marriage did not last, though, and the couple eventually divorced in 2007.
In 2003, Evans made a faltering return to primetime Saturday night TV as producer of the poorly received Boys and Girls.
‘Hottest hot seat’
The Channel 4 game show, billed as the ultimate battle of the sexes, was mauled by the critics and did not repeat the success of his earlier TV hits.The broadcaster remains good friends with his ex-wife, actress Billie Piper
But the bespectacled star enjoyed better success as host of the Brit Awards in 2005 and 2006, a role he had previously filled in 1996.
When he took over Johnnie Walker’s Radio 2 drivetime show in 2006, it prompted a flurry of complaints. One listener wrote that Evans was “just a gob, a loud one at that, he can’t entertain and he can’t just deliver to the listener”.
The turbulent tabloid years had seemingly erased people’s memory of his abilities as a broadcaster – but once the show found its feet, Evans re-established himself as a warm, engaging presenter.
The comeback continued this year, when he scooped two Sony awards – the Music Radio Personality of the Year Award and the Entertainment Award.
In 2008, the DJ married again, to professional golfer and model Natasha Shishmanian.
Last year, the couple had a son, named Noah.
Writing on his blog following the news he was to take over from Sir Terry, Evans expressed his trepidation about taking over the “hottest Breakfast show hot seat”.
“I promise I will do my utmost not to let you and your listeners down,” he told the veteran broadcaster.
Opening the show on Monday, Evans played The Beatles’ songs All You Need Is Love and Got To Get You Into My Life as his first tracks.
And he acknowledged his chequered history, telling listeners, “This time I can guarantee there will be very little, if any, turbulence at all but of course that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have fun”.