Jan van Veen, forever Mr Candlelight


Tomorrow marks two months since radio icon Jan van Veen (79) died as a result of ALS. He is best known as the presenter of the radio program Candlelight, in which he recited poems from listeners. But he did much more than that.

In Aether 135 (April 2020), Van Veen and his friend Willem van Kooten reminisced about the beginning of their radio time, when they were both in military service. Van Kooten was a medic in camp Crailoo near Bussum and was already working at Veronica, Van Veen, initially assigned to the Hussars of Boreel, ended up in a military hospital after an accident and played records there. In Argus (no. 168, February 14, 2024), Van Kooten told how things went further: “Van Veen called me at the Military Medical Service Crailo, where I was usually on telephone duty, and asked if I wanted to visit him in Amersfoort for an interview on military hospital radio. Okay, I said, if my commander agrees – it basically meant an afternoon off. Captain Doctor Menges thought it was fine. And so I went to Amersfoort, where I was interviewed by Van Veen. Those kind of men always want to be in radio. Later they all wanted to become DJs.” “We said goodbye at the end of May 1964. I immediately became program leader in June. Good timing: helping Ben Essing with his guarantee amount to manager Brian Epstein, so that the Beatles could perform twice in Blokker on June 13. There was also the boat trip from hotel De Doelen, thanks to Maup Caransa. And the Stones on August 8 at the Kurhaus. Van Veen kept calling me. I didn’t need announcers for the new Veronica, but DJs. I hired him in September. He could do whatever he wanted: Stones, Beatles, The Who, Earring, Dave Clark 5: All brakes loose! Into the pound! The Hit Force had begun. No candles in sight yet! They only came later.”

“The Hit Force had begun. No candles in sight yet! They only came later.”

Jan van Veen with Willem van Kooten

Another good friend from that time was Ad Bouman. “Jan was one of the first “real” disc jockeys at Veronica,” says Bouman. “He was very concerned with the then emerging pop music. The fact that The Hague then developed into Beat City number 1 in the Netherlands was a bonus for Jan, who came from Voorburg and knew many of those bands personally. Jan quickly became a well-known DJ, partly due to his legendary program All brakes loose at the end of the daily broadcasts. He could indulge himself in this, by playing the latest pop music, and then talking the intro until the singing started. A craze that came from the USA at the time. I was allowed to work with Jan from the end of 1965, when I started at Radio Veronica on the Zeedijk in Hilversum.”

“At the beginning of February 1967, during the recording of his program Alle Remmen Los, Jan had walked to the kitchen of the adjacent building to ask something of the Management, who were always sitting there chatting after a busy day. After I stopped the band because the record was ending… (all programs were being recorded!) and waited for Jan for more than fifteen minutes, I went to see him in the kitchen. When we got back from there two hours later, it was no longer sensible to continue the program, and Jan decided before we went home to record a tape for fun, which I could then use for my friends in Amsterdam East, with whom I sometimes made programs. He shouted lyrics like: “The Best Ten of records by our very own technician Adje Bouman”, and more of those shouts.” “The next day Jan said that he actually thought it would be a nice idea to do that in his program Muziek Bij De Lunch on Monday. This is how the ABTT (Adje Bouman Top Ten) program was born. About two weeks later it happened again that we returned to the studio from the kitchen much too late. Jan was shouting to record another tape for Amsterdam East. During that recording I asked Jan to read something in a sultry voice, as he sometimes did for fun in his programs. He then just grabbed a fan letter from a listener and started reading. I said, “Wait a minute,” and then grabbed a Mantovani LP, which happened to be in the studio. I chose the song Greensleeves because I liked it. This time too, we thought it would be a good idea to do something with it the next morning, and so the Candlelight program was born. In 1970, Jan left Radio Veronica, and a while later joined Radio Noordzee, together with Willem van Kooten.”

New projects
After his period at the offshore channels, Van Veen went to work for the AVRO. There he continued, among other things, Candlelight. With the poems of listeners that Van Veen recited in his characteristic, warm voice, Candlelight became a household name that became bigger than the broadcasts. Richard Otto, who lived next door to him at the time and is now publisher of Spreekbuis.nl, among others, had a lot of contact with Van Veen. “In the 80s and 90s, Jan van Veen was my neighbor and I hung out with his sons Bas and Mike, who were about the same age. Later, when I became active in the media, I had regular contact with Jan and we regularly met at restaurant De Lage Vuursche, where he could tell very entertaining stories about Hilversum’s illustrious broadcasting past. Including about Radio Veronica, about which I later published the book Mister Veronica by Bert van der Veer through my publisher, but of course also the many activities surrounding Candlelight, such as magazines, a TV program, a café, a dating site, music albums, etc. a radio station and many books with the well-known love poems. Until last year I was also in contact with him about new activities, such as the use of artificial intelligence, with which we were able to clone his voice as an experiment with XS2Content, but with which we could also automatically generate poems. It was nice to see how – despite his age – he was still enthusiastic about it.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Jan van Veen Candlelight


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