Danny Baker chuckles in the knowledge that he's just been voted 15th in a poll of Britain's greatest radio hosts - ahead of Chris Evans, Tony Blackburn and Paul Gambaccini.

These days he only does a two-hour Saturday show on BBC Radio 5 live, and says he's as happy sorting out his 12,000-strong album collection as he is being on air.

It's a far cry from 2012, when his BBC Radio London show was axed and he proceeded to have a prolonged rant about it on his last show, describing his superiors as 'pinhead weasels' (and, off-air, gave the executives who made the decision a piece of his mind).

Loading article content

The whole debacle is featured in his third autobiography, Going On The Turn, following on from his previous witty memoirs Going To Sea In A Sieve and Going Off Alarming. And while his trademark humour abounds in this section of the book, it seems he's laughing about some of it through gritted teeth.

"The same week I was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, I was let go by local radio," he recalls. "But the people who run all the media in this country want to have issues to talk about. They don't put any weight by entertainment. My radio show was nothing but absolute froth, brilliantly delivered, but they didn't understand it."

By his own admission, Baker, 60, prefers to do things spontaneously, to turn up 10 minutes before a show and let it run its course, rather than be bound by planning meetings run by producers.

"The erroneous reputation I've got is someone who is a little bit edgy and dangerous, and that's absolutely not true at all. Anyone who listens to my show knows the sausage sandwich game and the calls about who your mother secretly fancied.

"If I don't do that two-hour show on a Saturday morning, I'm not in radio at all. Radio won't touch me with a bargepole. They would rather use me as a poster boy for how it should be done.

"All they want is something they can control and say, 'Shouldn't we go out there and talk about gangs and drugs and Brexit?' It's like John Peel. They shunted him off into the middle of the night, he dies, and then they name a building after him. It's absolutely absurd."

While there's endless humour in Going On The Turn, as Baker recounts stories about his escapades on TFI Friday with Chris Evans, stalking John Cleese and entertaining David Bowie, the dark cloud of cancer descends half way through.

He pulls no punches when describing what he endured after being diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2010, yet it's clear he's not one for misery memoirs. "It's not my style to look down, not up. I don't find other people's troubles, worries and illnesses fascinating."

So he's matter-of-fact about the treatment he needed, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy (he had to be fitted with a mask which was bolted down to the theatre table during the radiotherapy sessions).

Parts of his throat and tonsils were removed and, during the treatment, the inside of his mouth became one enormous painful blister, while the skin on his neck peeled off.

For months, he was unable to eat or drink, and had to be fitted with a tube via a hole into his stomach for feeding and administering morphine.

The doctors warned him about the discomfort (understatement of the century!) he would likely endure, but he never asked questions, taking the attitude that the less he knew, the better.

"I never Googled it, I never asked any questions, because that's the only thing you can do. You've got no control over it. There's nothing you can do. It was a straight fight and I was the battleground. Cancer versus science - you just have to let it happen.

"It's so much more awful than you can possibly imagine. You don't have time to be scared. It's a useless response. It's horrendous, but here we are now. Treat it like a roundabout, drive straight on."

Despite the grim situation, there's always humour in the book, from his ignorance about how chemotherapy is administered - "If they had stuck me under a heat lamp or asked me to drink from a glowing flask, I would have gone along with it" - to his wonderment at receiving a massive bouquet of flowers from his idols, Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

He makes light of the fact Chris Evans and Jonathan Ross, who he says don't get on, visited him in hospital at the same time, sitting opposite each other on each side of the bed, making happy conversation.

"It was fine," he says, chuckling. "I'm the sort of person who would have said, 'Well this ain't awkward, is it?' They both teased each other at the time but I don't think they've seen each other since."

The treatment lasted eight months, although he says it took him four years to recover.

Was looking back to write the book difficult?

"It wasn't difficult to write. I wanted to let people know what it's like," he says. "That gruesome, awful process tells you what it's like and what to expect from it."

When asked how his wife Wendy and their three children - Bonnie, Sonny and Mancie - coped, Baker exclaims: "I have no idea!

"The first time my wife knew how I felt was when she read the book. She said, 'Oh blimey, it's strong in parts, isn't it?' We don't find all the sharing and the modern empathy useful. Just keep moving. We're not ones for sitting at the end of the bed looking at our shoes...

"If I'd have sat down and said, 'Darling, I think I'm going to die', that's bad dialogue," he says with a laugh. "We find any big displays of emotion embarrassing."

Until a year ago, Baker still couldn't eat properly, and his sense of taste is still diminished. He also suffers from tinnitus and pins and needles in his toes and feet. "But you tell them [the doctors] on your last visit and they shrug. 'Oh, you've got tinnitus, but so what? You're alive!'"

Cancer hasn't changed him, he says.

"I've learned no lessons and I'm not a better person. It hasn't changed the way I live my life. It hasn't changed my personality."

At 60, he feels he's entered his third act. How does he see that evolving?

"I want to be living terrifically well. I want people to say, 'Oh, whatever happened to him?' 'Oh, he's got a place on the ocean and writes kids' books. We were going to move to the States, but I think we'll get a place in Portugal instead.

"We go to lunch every day, or do nothing. I'm never bored. I'm sitting here refiling loads of records - that will do me for now."

  • Going On The Turn by Danny Baker is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £20. Available now.