“Our voice over guy was this bloke called Ray McGregor,” writes Chris Rieger – AUDIO
Recently I was unpacking some old boxes full of tapes and radio memorabilia that I’ve collected throughout my near 25 years as a broadcaster.
Some of them have been unheard and not played in over a decade or more (cassettes, so old school right?).
I’m scared to go through them because I know there’ll be old airchecks from my early days… at 4VL, 2WEB, 4AM, 4CC, 4LM & HOT FM, 4MB …. even 4KQ & 97.3FM.
I’ve also got tapes here with 3XY’s final 3 hours, a Hot Hit Survey with POC and Stubbsy, air-checks of Magic693, the launch of 3EE & SEA-FM Harvey Bay… TT-FM – who knows what’s on the others.
One tape, in particular, stood out. It’s marked “4CC Promo Tape #1” and features a bunch of promos I’d put together during my time as Production Manager at 4CC Gladstone.
In those days 4CC was the “hub” for a bunch of Rural Press stations – 4HI Emerald, 4ZR Roma and 4AM Mareeba.
Thinking back, it was probably ahead of its time, as the year was 1996 and everything was on a computer. Before that I’d been playing records, commercials off cart and segments off the reel to reel (Nick Erby‘s Country Music Jamboree anyone?).
At the heart of the hub was a brilliant computer system called Audisk (I say that with sarcasm). We had a computer that played out the music – and three local machines for commercials.
There was a Rocky machine (1584am), A Bilo machine (666am) and a Gladstone machine (927am).
When you fired off the ad break, you’d hope to hell traffic had filled the spot blocks to an exact same length – if they hadn’t, it’d stop short, and there wasn’t much you could but sit and cringe or hope the filler Coke commercial would play.
I reckon they received more free advertising out of us than anyone else! Sometimes I’d be in my production studio, and I’d hear a thud – on an investigation, it was usually night jock John Piva throwing something at the wall in frustration (Hey Piv!).
The only PC that would crossfade was the music computer. For commercials – one audio file would have to finish before the next one started so there were gaps everywhere – even with the tightest production, 29.9 seconds. It sounded like a train wreck.
Back to the Promo Tape!
Our voice over guy was this bloke called Ray McGregor. I knew he was. I’d heard his big booming voice on FOX FM, and many other stations over the years. He was a genius behind the microphone. One of those voices you’d recognise in a heartbeat. Not these lightweight 20ish sounding guys everyone seems to gravitate to in 2017.
When I say genius – the man could take the worst script ever written and turn it into something magical.
He didn’t need my direction – hell, I was 21 – he had been around for years, and more than knew how to read a script.
In those days, you’d fax off your promo scripts and then wait a couple of days for the reel to reel tape to return with the session. That was the highlight – putting those reels on and pumping up the volume to hear his amazing voice. The out-takes were just pure gold, often a tad filthy.
He had a wicked sense of humour, and he knew how to communicate – it was like he was there in the booth, but I was still learning the art of production.
A guy I worked with called Kyle Sandilands (you may know the name) was the promotions manager and would co-host a couple of hours on breakfast.
I remember he’d bring in air-checks of B105 and say “just copy this” – so I’d listen and then try to emulate the production style. Back then Austereo set the bar. Some of the stuff I did worked, some of it didn’t.
The main issue was the production gear. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as Ray’s voice. We had this 8-track recorder we nicknamed R2DT – you’d get to the end of a master reel and hit rewind and it would stop mid-way – you’d then have to spend the next 5 minutes manually rewinding the reels.
Kids of today will never understand this! The desk would’ve been brilliant in 1980. It had certainly seen better days. Trying to get the right sound out of it was almost an all day job of fiddling with hundreds of dials. Every time a different jock would come in, you’d have to spend 10 minutes playing with the settings. I gave up in the end – and due to the sheer volume of production – it was a “that’ll do” kind of attitude.
Little did I know, but Ray’s life was spiralling out of control during this time. I didn’t become aware of the circumstances surrounding his death until much later on.
I do remember us having to change voice-over guys because he had to spend time “away”. And I still remember picking up the phone a few months later and hearing a very different sounding Ray asking for voice-over work and his gig back; I had to tell him we’d changed voices and wouldn’t be going back. It was the toughest conversation I’ve had, saying ‘no’ to Ray MacGregor.
Thanks for the laughs, the memories, and that amazing voice.