Ten Questions with Barry Bissell
In those innocent and carefree days before iTunes, Spotify and downloads, millions of Aussies listened to Take 40 Australia as Barry Bissell counted down the biggest hits of the week.
He was Australia’s answer to Casey Kasem, hosting the show for 21 years. He remains one of the most recognisable and much-loved voices in Australian radio.
The career began in his hometown of Swan Hill as a mail boy at 3SH. After just two days, he was on air as the afternoon announcer. He says it was because of a lack of available voices and learnt by ‘trail and error and shameless imitation’.
After working in Launceston, Adelaide (with Paul Thompson) and Sydney (where they disastrously tried to turn 2GB into a contemporary music station), Biss arrived in Melbourne where he worked at 3DB, 3XY before settling in at FOXFM, where he spent 20 years.
Ever the gentleman, Barry was happy to face Radio Today’s 10 Questions.
– What have you been doing since your time with Take 40 came to an end?
Pretty much having the life I never had before radio. Helping to raise a child and being a homemaker.
Doing a bit of voice work here and there. I’ve recently commenced a series of monthly syndicated radio shows with Andy Wells and Jeff Jenkins, who I worked with on Take 40 for many years. Look out for a 30-year celebration of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Coming soon!
– 21 years was a good run, what was the secret of its success?
It was a great run and people constantly tell me that the show was such a large part of their childhood.
The simplicity of the format was no secret. Fox FM had been syndicating Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 for years. I used to listen to Barry Ferber doing a Sunday morning countdown on 3DB when I was a kid in Swan Hill in the 60s.
– Do you miss doing the radio ‘thing’?
Not really. Both music and the style of radio have changed considerably. I grew out of it and vice versa.
But, I’m very fortunate to be able to still do the part I most loved. Talk about the music.
– Radio has evolved and changed a lot, what do you think makes a good jock these days?
A great communicator with a passion for what they do. The ability to follow format but at the same time, let their personality shine through.
– And a follow-up: do you think the stars of old would make it these days or is a good jock and good jock regardless?
Yeah, the great Don Lunn & Stan (The Man) Rofe and most of their contemporaries on 3UZ in the 60s would be an asset to any music station… and hopefully a pain in the arse to their program (content) directors as well.
– You’ve had a long career behind the microphone, what inspired you to get into the biz?
Music. I was 14 when the revolution that The Beatles headlined rolled across the Western world. It was more than just music. It was a social phenomenon. I just wanted to be part of it and radio was my medium.
– Either here or overseas, is there anyone that you admire or enjoy listening to?
There’s a young bloke, who has just joined Nova from Capitol Radio in the UK. Greg Burns. He’s the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.
– Any moments in your radio career, where you thought it doesn’t get any better than this?
Having Elton John live in the studio for a two hour co-host at Fox FM in Nunawading in the 80s.
– OK, the best interview and the most difficult interview?
Best: Spike Milligan with Hans Christian (Torv) at 3XY.
Worst: Hugh Grant.
– Any advice to those wanting to get into radio?
Do it because you love it, not for the fame and fortune.