Author: Tom Crozier
Hi! My name is Tom Crozier, long retired from commercial radio in Australia but still interested in the business.
A friend of mine forwarded your “long-lost radio stars” of January 10th this year to me. Maybe you have gone past that by now, but many of the names on the list were well-known to me, from my period at 2UE Sydney in 1949/51, and then a 20-year stint with the same station from 1961.
You ask for any stories about these people. I have fond memories of many of them – not-so-fond memories of others – a minority. Here are three from the 1949/51 years.
First comes ERIC WRIGHT, 2UE breakfast announcer who started his program at 6am each day with a recording of the song “Start the Day Right” (of course). Every one of his listeners was a “pal” or “gal”, and when it came to a special kids’ spot each day it was “Li’l Pals and Li’l Gals”.
Eric had a great deal of difficulty waking up each day, so much so that his wife organised an alarm clock in a tin can to ensure that he wouldn’t be late for work. The radio station also gave instructions to the taxi driver who picked him up each morning to ring the doorbell until there was evidence of life. He always made it by 6am, but who wouldn’t in those circumstances?
His was a really old-fashioned show. There was a brass band spot, a Louie Armstrong spot, a hit of the day spot – and so it went on. While he was doing his busy show, he found time to train would-be announcers, who would come into the studio – probably without the knowledge of the management – and got real experience on the panel by working it to air.
Most of these hopefuls made it into the business. One of them, Graham Bunyan, became the Macquarie principal news reader in the days when it was really big time, taking over from James Dibble when he left to become the ABC’s main evening newsreader on their new fangled television station. Another named Ron Camplin eventually gave away announcing in favour of owning radio stations.
Hold that Lift!! At 9 o’clock, Eric would race for the lift so he could get over to AWA or some other recording shop where he would spend the rest of the morning doing voice-overs. He also ran a suburban lunchtime variety show once a week at Eastwood, Sydney. It wasn’t part of his job – it was another Wright enterprise. If any of us made the horrible mistake of going to see what it was like, we’d get hauled onto the stage to make a contribution.
Later, Eric went to 2KY where he told me that it was “just great” – you get to free-lance on your own station”.
One of the other names that brought back memories was TONY McFAYDEN. Tony had come from Victorian country radio and was the “Chief Night Announcer”. While himself not always a terribly cheerful cherub, he came across as happy-go-lucky through the simple stratagem of smiling at the microphone just as the operator switched it on.
The first announcement he would have to do each evening after Rumpus Room with Howard Craven finished on the time pips. “This is Radio 2UE Sydneeeey. McWilliams Wines announce the time as —- 6 o’clock”. The last two words were spoken in an almost triumphant shout. It became quite a saying among the younger staff members.
I remember walking one of the panel operators around Central Station in Sydney after a Christmas Party in order to help him get fit enough to go home. He persisted in saying, in true Tony McFayden style “This is Radio 2UE Sydneyite. McWilliams Wines announce the time as —- 6 o’clock”. This, without ceasing for about an hour. Amusing for the travellers, but not for the good Samaritan.
HEATH BURDOCK was 2UE’s main newsreader from the time commercial stations were permitted to run their own news services after several years of carrying the official ABC news. The owners of 2UE were also the proprietors of the Sydney Sun afternoon newspaper, and they figured that if they were to run their own news, it’d better be good. So they got hold of Heath, who had been the ABC’s principal newsreader throughout those years.
Heath had a healthy sense of humour – and just as well. We had a control room operator named Bill Adams who was a great practical joker. He would spend hours planning a way to induce announcers to burst into laughter. Little gags like setting fire to the copy just at the start of an item didn’t work. Heath would hand the burning paper to Bill and end the item with “… furher news is expected”.
Bill’s “piece de resistance” required careful setting up, and the co-operation of an off-duty panel operator. When Heath arrived to read the 7pm “country news”- the main 2UE news went to air at 6:45 – he found that the usual set-up had been changed. The desk had been placed in the middle of the room, and the microphone was hanging by a cord from a hook in the ceiling. There was a step ladder apparently left here by accident. However, the set of chimes used to tell some of the relay stations to resume their own program were sitting on the desk as usual.
Heath soon found out that this was going to be a different evening. As he started the bulletin, he noticed that the microphone was slowly but surely moving in short bursts toward the ceiling. Heath lifted his face so he was still talking to the microphone, but in about a minute, he had to stand up to get near the microphone. It was then he realised what the step ladder was for. He put his foot on the bottom step, only to note that the microphone was still heading celingwards. So he followed it, never breaking the continuity.
There came the time when the news script required the chime on the table be hit. Heath headed downwards, and found that the microphone followed him to pick up the sound, then moved quickly back to the ceiling. He moved back onto the step ladder and completed the news, without even a smile in his voice. But when he read the last line – “That completes this news bulletin read by Heath Burdock”, a Chinese gong at the back of the studio miraculously struck itself with a mighty muffled “clunk”.
This was the last straw. Heath could take no more. He broke out into loud laughter – he couldn’t hold it back any more. He found out later that there was no likelihood of that bulletin going out to the relay stations – they got a recording of the 6:45 bulletin.
How did Bill do it all? A complicated series of pulleys, set up in the hallway outside and a couple of mirrors angled so he could see what was happening. The panel operator who worked in a separate room and made sure the country stations got the right bulletin was Don Neilly, who many years later was Manager of McNair Anderson, the major radio survey organisation in Australia. (This story has been told many times, and in differing ways. I was there as duty announcer).
Listen to Tom Crozier at ScreenSound Australia.
“Tom recalls his first broadcast when he was 16 at 2KA and his first job at 2GZ Sydney studios before moving to 2KM, where he helped promote Slim Dusty’s career.
Tom also worked at 2LT Lithgow, 2LM Lismore and 2UE Sydney. At 2LM he worked as assistant station manager.
In later years he became increasingly involved with sales and marketing at 2WL, 2KM and 2UE before becoming involved with the Radio Marketing Bureau and more recently with 2RPH.”