John Henry: Radio’s ultimate juggling act
The day man first walked on the moon provided one of radio’s most memorable (and unexpected) funny moments.
It was July 16, 1969, and Melbourne radio station 3UZ was crossing back and forth between the moon landing and the races.
Legendary racing coordinator John Vertigan was famously heard to say: “We’ll leave the moon there, they’ve just jumped at Kilmore.”
The job of a racing coordinator is the radio equivalent of a hamburger with the lot. Just ask another legend in RSN 927’s Race Day host John Henry.
“It’s very busy and fast work,” John tells Radio Today. You’re dealing with numerous events that often don’t run on time, so you’re constantly juggling the run down with last minute rescheduling.”
Racing coordinators constantly deliver information on the fly – and John says that’s where it really gets challenging:
“The role requires you to read live updated information ‘on sight’ – no pre-reading at all. You have to deliver the information accurately, articulately and at speed.”
Heavily invested in the race day broadcast, punters can be harsh critics.
“The punters are unforgiving of someone in the role if they make mistakes on a regular basis.”
Not surprisingly then, John is a stickler for preparation.
“You need to be across all major racing and feature events on any given day and forward promote for the benefit of not just the punting public, but also the industry stakeholders.”
John – who’s broadcasting career spans more than four decades – started out as a music host.
“My dizzy heights came during the nineties when I hosted the NightBeat Australia program out of 2UW Sydney that was networked to 33 radio stations around the country and was the second largest radio audience in Australia at the time behind the John Laws Show.”
“To this day people still ask me, ‘Are you the same John Henry from NightBeat Australia?’ Amazing after such a long time. Truly amazes me.”
“I went to SKY Racing in 2010 for six years and to RSN seven years ago.”
John says while he’s always enjoyed a beer and a bet, he doesn’t really consider himself a ‘racing industry’ person:
“I am first and foremost a radio industry person who now works for a station that broadcasts racing.”
Still, there were early signs that John might be destined for a career that involved racing.
As a child, John was nearly expelled from St Joseph’s School in Rockhampton for running a book on the Melbourne Cup.
Hauled into the office of headmaster Brother Frederick, the exchange (as noted in RSN’s 20 Questions feature) went something like this:
Brother Frederick: ‘John … am I led to believe that you are running some betting on that race today?’
Young John: ‘Yes Sir! What do you like and how much?’
Brother Frederick: ‘You will use this first hour after lunch to go around every classroom in this school and return all the money you have taken. Understood?’
Young John: ‘Yes Sir, but I will first have to go across the road to the Bishop’s house.’
Brother Frederick: ‘What? Why?’
Young John: ‘Because Sir, he is my best customer today. $2 on the favourite!’