How did it all start? Four radio icons share how they ended up behind the mic
The Australian Radio Industry employs thousands of people across the country and each person’s reasons for choosing it as a career are as unique as they are.
Ray Hadley started out got his radio break while driving taxis. Lee Simon started as a panel op during the Vietnam War, while Neil Mitchell came to radio after a career in print.
3AW breakfast news reader and 2017 ACRA winner David Armstrong admits to talking his way into his first radio gig. As an 18 year old with no experience, he convinced the 3UZ news director to give him a go.
“1981 was my winter of discontent. I was in my first year of studying Law/Arts at Melbourne University and I was bored out of my brain,” he told Radio Today.
“I cheekily responded to an ad in the newspaper seeking two senior journalists to work in the 3UZ newsroom. Thankfully, the news director Paul Syme didn’t ball up application and throw it in the bin, but had the good grace to call me to deliver the bad news that I had zero experience, zero capability and zero chance.”
“A five-minute ‘thanks for your interest, but not at this time’ phone conversation became a 10, then 15, then a 20-minute chat. I had a pleasant voice, I read a few books, I liked newspapers. I talked my way into a job. Phone interview on the Friday morning, started work the next Monday.”
“I think he may have also calculated I was young, cheap, healthy and lived nearby. So began 12-hour days and six day weeks for the next few weeks.”
For 97.3 Breakfast newsreader Monique Dews, it was a little more ‘traditional’. And she credits a news mentor for guiding her into a career she loves.
“I went the fairly traditional route. I did a Bachelor of Business Communication majoring in journalism at QUT, and that opened a lot of doors, even before I’d finished by degree.”
“I worked for the in-house radio news, community station 4EB and landed some work experience at 4BK, (later to morph into B105).”
“That opened the door for a full time role as a news reader/reporter at B105. My first big job was covering Expo 88, back when newsrooms were big, and you had a stable of on the road reporters.”
“It was one hell of an introduction to ‘on the road’ and some of the best fun I ever had on-air. But, I owe my ‘break’ to the great radio news man John Knox, and we are still friends to this today.”
WSFM’s drive announcer and Music Director Jason Stavely has been running around in radio since 1986 with stints at Triple M, DMG, Germany and the UK (working on the launch of Jack FM 2).
But radio wasn’t his first career choice.
“I originally wanted to be a TV cameraman and did everything I could to make that dream come true. I befriended the crew of ABC TV’s Gardening Australia. I spent a whole day being a ‘runner’ and being allowed to play with the cameras in between takes from Peter Cundall.”
“I wangled a week of work experience at the ABC. During my day rostered in the News Room, I went out with a camera crew on a story in the morning and in the afternoon sat in the booth as the news was being read out on ABC Radio across Tassie. After the bulletin, the news reader asked if I’d like to sit at the console and ‘have a play with the studio?'”
“From the second I played the cart with the ABC News Theme label (the old “da dah da-da-dah da dah” theme) I was hooked. Radio was for me.”
“I pestered my way into a once a week shift on the local community station THE-FM. Thankfully, Adrian ‘AJ’ Johnston (7HT PD) agreed to listen to a tape. He took a risk and put a 16-year-old school boy on weekend mid-dawns and the rest is history.”
Triple M Hobart’s Brett Marley also walked a less traditional path. The daytime announcer and Music Director recently racked up 40 years in the industry.
“I got my start in 1977. It was pretty much through a phone call to the station. At the time, it wasn’t announcing although it was something I was keen to look at.”
“I started in the engineering department and learned a lot about what radio ‘buzz’. Literally.”
“From there I moved to production, then on to mid-dawns after practicing for ages and then on to drive.”
“I spent a bit of time at what was called 2NX and now I’m doing Drive at Triple M Hobart.”
There are thousands of stories to those in radio. How we got there, what we’ve done to get there and how the career has progressed. Next week, we’ll hear from more of those who’ve carved out successful careers, including Triple M’s Jane Gazzo.