John Brennan, Australia’s ‘best radio programmer’, passes away

Staff Writer

The man responsible for many modern-day radio careers, John Brennan, has passed away aged 89.

Brennan started his career at 2WG Wagga Wagga, and went on to discover and mentor vast swathes of radio talent, and also took stations including 2SM, 2UE and 2GB to #1.

He was involved in the careers of Alan Jones, Ben Fordham, Ray Hadley, John Stanley, Mike Walsh, Ron Casey, Mike Gibson, Stan Zemanek, Peter Frilingos, Jason Morrison, Prue MacSween, Peter Overton and Amanda Keller, among others.

In 2002, he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

Nine Radio’s current managing director, Tom Malone, said Brennan, or ‘Brenno’, was Australia’s best radio programmer.

“In the 1960s he took a struggling 2SM to the top of the ratings with the Good Guys’, in the 1980s he installed the talent at 2UE who took it to its zenith, and then in the 2000s he would make the move over to 2GB as it too became number one under his guidance,” he said in a note to staff.

His understanding of talk radio in particular was unparalleled, Malone said.

“Brenno had a simple philosophy when it came to what made great talk radio and he was known to say there two basics: to inform and entertain but that hosts should ‘entertain informingly, inform entertainingly’ and he was right. He loved the interaction with callers, and was passionate about news and current affairs keeping copious notes on issues important to every day Australians. Better than anyone he understood the companionship talk radio provided – on weekends, overnights, during holiday periods, and big news stories,” he said.

And on the personal, rather than professional, side, Malone said Brennan was also one of the greats.

“He was a kind and generous man, with time for everyone, just as comfortable speaking with Prime Ministers as he was with ordinary Australians. He was compassionate, and particularly interested in helping people – from the aged, to the infirmed, and the under privileged,” he said.

Various radio personalities have also paid tribute to Brennan over the weekend and this morning, with Amanda Keller recalling on WSFM that the radio stalwart saw something in her before she did.

Ray Hadley said he owes Brennan “just about everything in my career”.

“This is the only man that ever triumphed as a program director in both the music and talk formats,” he added.

His son, Peter, also went on 2GB this morning to say the family has been humbled by the outpouring of support.

Brennan is survived by his wife, Jenny, and sons Peter and Richard.

Listen to the various tributes below:

Ray Hadley 

Ben Fordham

Peter Brennan

Amanda Keller

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