Friday, October 17, 2008

Listen very carefully

The Wireless

The King of Sydney radio was undoubtably New Zealand born Jack Davey. He went on to become a living legend with his Quiz shows that more than matched Bob Dyer's and his hilarious comedy shows that guaranteed many a belly laugh. His schedule was a fairly hectic one, as his shows were on 5 nights a week and he used to narrate the Movietone News every weekend at the Theatrettes that were common then, back in the 40's and 50's. The photo above shows how keen he was when recovering from an operation. He thought it would be a great idea to broadcast from his hospital bed and he did just that. He was truly one in a million.

Superman ( 1940's style ) Kirk Alyn

Lois Lane & Clark Kent ( Noel Neill & Kirk Alyn )

When Davey and Dyer were the Kings

Television seemed to divide its viewers and still does, whereas radio or the wireless as it was mainly called, somehow managed to unite its listeners. Today, one would roll around the floor in fits of laughter if it were possible to listen to what was regarded years ago as top quality programs.
Not that long from now the same thing is certain to occur if the next generation is given the opportunity to watch the current tripe that is being presented and accepted as top quality entertainment and gets to listen to the talentless groups and individuals being passed off as singers and entertainers. Reality television along with just about all locally produced TV dramas will have heads shaking in disbelief when the absence of realistic plots and the atrocious acting is noted.
For some reason radio programs all sounded as though they were all made in the same studio, regardless of where they were produced, either in Oz or overseas.

Davy Crockett

Me Tarzan, you are Jane,my goodness Maureen dear,
The breeze blows strong, it won't be long, we'll see Tasmania clear
Who said the thirties films and pics, were extremely bland and duller
This ones clear that Tarzan here, was lucky Johnny Weismuller
Jane's ensemble makes it certain, the ape man would not leave her
With jungle lust, he couldn't just, leave it to the beaver
She's sitting down, on God knows what, as both his arms are free
Maybe Johnny's just excited and her he's glad to see
Now don't be dense, it all makes sense, that not just any chap
Nor any bloke, except Greystoke, that Jane lets near her flap
Her loin skin doesn't cover much, just like a modern cozzie
Like something you'd expect to see on Mambo's Cheyenne Tozzi
If Maureen was alive today, she'd set mens hearts on fire
A juicy peach on Wanda beach, sex symbol of the Shire

The Goons. Sellars, Secombe, Milligan.
Smoky Dawson
Bob and Dolly
Race Day

When people dined at Tables

Long before the appearance of Television, VCR’s, DVD’s and Ipods etc. the main source of entertainment was the good old radio. Daytime radio was mostly songs from the Hit Parades that every station would broadcast at least once a week. Rock’n’Roll was just beginning to take off and a whole new culture began to raise its head. Every Friday evening the top ten records would be played on several stations and would attract a large audience. Back then it was retail sales over the counter that determined what, or what was not popular, unlike today when a so called artist can be awarded gold and platinum records before their record is even released. The two main personalities on radio were Jack Davey on 2GB and Bob Dyer on 2UE. They controlled the airwaves. Monday to Friday the masses would be huddled around the wireless as it was called, listening to the madcap quiz programmes that Bob Dyer excelled at and the comedy shows that were Jack Davey’s speciality. These shows began around 7 pm. through until 9pm. and would be responsible for many a hearty belly laugh. 

Arriving home from school around 4pm. it was my job to light the stove and get the vegies under way, then at 5:30pm. I would settle down to listen to the radio serials that almost every station broadcast.
Davy Crockett, Tarzan of the apes, Rocky Jones Space Ranger, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, Superman, Gunsmoke, Tim Barr and Smoky Dawson with his sidekick Jingles were just some of the shows that come to mind. Uncle Dave would leave the Angel hotel in the city 30 minutes early on the night that Gunsmoke was on and would eat his dinner while kneeling on the floor with his ear pressed hard up against the speaker. Uncle Jack’s favourite was Leonard Teale as Superman whilst mine were Tarzan and Disney’s Davy Crockett. Each and every weekend all of NSW would tune into Frank Hydes call of the match of the day at the SCG. In the summer months it was Alan McGilvray calling the cricket. Listening to a Kangaroo’s match live from the north of England was a noisy, hissy affair as it was a short wave broadcast and relied on perfect weather conditions to be heard.

There was something special about spending a freezing cold winters evening gathered around the radio, listening to the Friday night Hit Parade, the room being warmed by the coke fired Kosi stove with either Paddy the Border Collie or Jock the Sealyham snoring on the floor in front of it.

Some of the local radio stars apart from Bob and Jack were Keith Walshe, Howard Craven, Willie Fennell, Terry Dear and the comedy team of Ada and Elsie. The most popular singer at the time was the inimitable Gladys Moncrieff, affectionately known as ‘Our Glad.’ Madcap overseas programs such as The Goons attracted huge audiences. A similar show to the Goons was produced in South Australia and was a big hit with both young and old, it was called, ‘Yes What.’ Ken Howard was the premier race caller and a popular racing programme every Saturday morning was Clarence the Clocker. 

There were many more, but it was so long ago that one’s memory lets one down. With the advent of television, some of the radio stars successfully made the changeover, but many did not. A prime example was the legendary Jack Davey who was at best mediocre. What was not widely known at the time was Jack had cancer and it was only a matter of time before he would no longer be with us. Jack Davey’s closest friend was his No.1 rival Bob Dyer and although they were all the time taking the mickey out of one another, it was a friendship that lasted up until Jack’s passing. For at least two hours every Saturday morning, the whole of Sydney would be watching the Nock and Kirby sponsored ‘Joe the Gadget Man.’ 

It was during the early 1960's that Television almost destroyed Radio, but suffice to say it did not eventuate. Not only were some of the radio stars swapping over to the new medium, there were many new and highly talented Television stars making a name for themselves. When the first coaxial cable was laid to link Sydney and Melbourne, it was responsible for Sydney based Don Lane and the Melbourne based King of television Graham Kennedy to achieve national fame.
Two late and greats.  Don and Graham.
Towards the end of the 1950’s the transistor radio exploded onto the scene and changed everything. Radio became almost the way it is today and all those serials along with the hilarious comedy shows simply faded away and were sadly consigned to the scrapheap of broadcasting history. Television at first did not do radio any favours and was eventually responsible for the closure of many suburban cinemas and Drive Ins. The old hilarious radio programs may be gone, but the immediacy of radio news reporting saw to a revival in its popularity that remains today.

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