In many ways it was my association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, especially radio, that spurred me onto pursuing music and folklore as a profession. I was extremely fortunate to be ‘adopted’ at a very young age (I was in my early twenties when I first experienced the thrill of recording my first segment), by two of the ABC’s ‘rebels’ – Harold Hort, who was Deputy Manager of the Music Department (under John Hopkins), and Alan Ashbolt, Director of what was then known as the Public Affairs & Talks Department. Alan had some influential broadcasters, dare I say it ‘of a leftish political bent’ such as Stan Corrie, Stephen Rapley, Robyn Ravlich and Marius Webb, and they really worked as a unit. I was green as a cucumber but they saw me as a regular book reviewer of odd things.
I recall doing reviews of A.L.Lloyd’s ‘Folksong In England’ and Pete Seeger’s autobiography, amongst others. Next came a meeting with Harold Hort who encouraged me to develop a radio series based on Australian history. Harold and I got on like a house on fire, much to the distress of the somewhat uppity music department types who viewed anything non classical as a waste of space. Harold was a Buddhist, returned soldier and a lover of wine and song, mostly bawdy song! We had many raucous lunches in an establishment called the Woolloomooloo Woolshed. My first series was on the Railway industry in Australia called Navvy on the Line. I wanted to break the perception that Australian folk song was all shearing, droving, bushranger and convict songs – industrial history was the obvious direction.
Next came the Great Australian Legend, an ambitious 12 program series which I wrote and produced using the wonderful Declan Affley as the singer and my old mate, Peter O’Shaughnessy, as the character actor. Harry Robertson, the songwriter and singer, appeared in the program on the whale industry. The series was a great success and repeated several times.
I was then invited to contribute regular programs with the budgets, which, frankly, were always lean, being split between the Music and Talks Departments. When Harold Hort retired he passed me onto John Sullivan, Malcolm Long and Chris Sullivan, who were all equally supportive. Then the ABC launched their FM band and somehow or other I went with it. What followed was a long association with ABCFM and especially collaborations with Jack King and, later, my longtime associate, David Mullhallen. Eventually my original ‘home’, Radio National, became a primary talk format and ABCFM became almost exclusively classical. I have retained my association with the ABC as an occasional ‘talking/sing head’ and also as a recording artist and author. It’s a grand organisation fueled by passionate people.
There are some wonderful songs, poems, yarns and snippets of folklore and history in the various radio series and specials that are featured on this site. Hopefully they will bring our fascinating stories to life – play them for the family and re-live yesterday’s Australia.
Through a unique arrangement with ABC Enterprises I am making these radio programs available worldwide FREE. If you like the material, hopefully, you will visit the site’s General Store and order some of my books or CDs.