But the lure of motorsport would ultimately prove too strong and would eventually lead to him down the path towards becoming a household name around the English-speaking world.
In truth, it should have been little surprise considering his father, Graham, was a despatch rider during the First World War and went on to both race in, and ultimately commentate on, bike racing.
Although he initially tried to carve out his own racing career on two wheels, Murray Walker the commentator – or in this case the PA announcer – was first heard at a hill climb event in 1948. Asked to stand in for the public address announcer, Murray unsurprisingly shone and a year later was making his sports broadcasting debut for real at Silverstone for the British GP on BBC Radio – a year before the F1 World Championship was formed.
He continued to combine his dual identity – advertising executive by weekday and passionate motor racing enthusiast and commentator at the weekend – over the following few decades with commentaries across the spectrum of motorsport from F1 to TT racing before the role that would ultimately come to define him came about in the late 1970s as the BBC decided to vastly expand its TV coverage of the top level of motorsport.
Choosing Murray to front its new Grand Prix programme was a masterstroke and over the next quarter of a century his unique commentary style became part of the fabric of the sport.
As did, famously, what affectionately became known over the years as his collection of ‘Murrayisms’ – the affectionate mistakes or slips of the tongue that added, rather than detracted, to the viewing experience.
Indeed his commentaries always came from the heart, no more so than when friend Damon Hill took the chequered flag at Suzuka in 1996 to emulate his father in winning the world championship and Murray quietly informed millions that “I’ve got to stop because I’ve got a lump in my throat”.
His two most famous and long-running commentary partnerships would prove similarly good value for viewers. Although initially apprehensive about the appearance of the flamboyant James Hunt alongside him in the commentary box, the pair struck up a famous double act for over a decade prior to the 1976 world champion’s untimely death in 1993.
Murray’s relationship with Martin Brundle proved equally popular after the UK’s F1 TV rights, and the ‘Voice’ himself, transferred to ITV at the start of the 1997 season to begin an unexpected new era in his incredible broadcasting career.
More than 50 years after his commentary debut at Silverstone, Murray was still captivating F1 audiences as the new century dawned. But aware that he wanted to retire while still at the top of his game, at the end of the 2001 season and just two years shy of his 80th birthday, he hung up his microphone for the last time after commentating on that year’s US Grand Prix.
He later even became a Honda F1 ambassador and was a popular attendee of F1 events even after passing the age of 90, with his famous enthusiasm for the sport undimmed.
As his successors ever since have remarked, it’s a pointless task trying to emulate Murray Walker.
He was a true one-off.
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