I absolutely hate writing this sort of stuff

Frank Avis by | June 20, 2024 | 2020s

I absolutely hate writing this sort of stuff. I hate recording that one of the Last Of The Giants, Bob Rogers, has left us aged 97. He was a radio superstar as long as I can remember. Bob started off at 3XY in 1942, so I get to share a little bit of history with him there, and then he went on to 7HO in Hobart. Again, a little more shared history. He moved on to join 2SM's Good Guys and he was very good, trust me. Then there were other famous gigs including mornings at 2UE. If you wanted to tell students how to organise your shift – balancing music, talk and all the other stuff – you just basically told them to tune into Bob. It was a live, on-air lecture every day. Of course, he finally settled with 2CH and Beautiful Music. Top 40, Talk Back, Beautiful Music... Didn't matter. Bob pretty well perfected it for 78 years. There was no mistaking that identifiable voice and, boy, did this bloke have style. I remember he once revealed that he wanted to continue on air 'til he got to 100. Never quite managed that feat but if anyone was going to get there, Bob's your man. There is just the one giant now remaining – Long John. The line of greatness ends with him. Treasure these people. You won't get to see them again.

And word just in with more sad news, the passing of much-loved industry figure John Blackman, who lost his long battle with cancer in recent days, aged 76. He was a famous radio fixture, starting at 2GN in Goulburn and 2CA Canberra before moving into a major city market at 3AW. But Blackers grabbed national attention as the prince of one-liners alongside Daryl Somers in the iconic TV series, Hey Hey It's Saturday. Sitting up there in the booth as the infamous Dickie Knee, Blackman gave us some of the most celebrated comedy lines of the era. I remember one day I rang Coalition MP Andrew Peacock for a comment on some major political issue and he replied, "Sorry Frank... Can I get back to you a little later... I'm watching Hey Hey?" That'll give you a rough idea of how big this show was.

The latest survey in for Sydney has settled one thing: Smooth FM is fair dinkum long-term. GB is still commanding number one overall, and Ben Fordham has hit back to grab top spot in Brekkie. But SMOOTH holds its spot as number one in the FM band, 10.7, slightly ahead of KIIS. Kyle and Jackie O are still the top dogs in Breakfast FM.

Ah, more 1940s nostalgia with radio in its heyday. I remember growing up loving the BBC comedy, Take It From Here, starring Professor Jimmy Edwards, Australia's Dick Bentley and June Whitfield. TIFH ran from 1948 'til 1960 and the highlight was always the scene featuring The Glums. Edwards was head of the house, Bentley his lifeless son Ron and Whitfield Ron's girlfriend, Eth. The scenes always started with Eth saying, "Oh Ron," and then meandered along like this.

Eth: "Oh Ron... Isn't there anything on your mind beloved?"
Ron: "No Eth."
Eth: "Oh really Ron... Do you expect me to just sit here like a lemon?"
Ron: "No thanks Eth... I've just had a banana."

Everybody loved The Glums in those post-war days.

I now have to address something magical that's happened: one of the most astonishing events in my life. On May 21 we journeyed to Government House, Sydney where Governor, Her Excellency Margaret Beazley, presented me with the Order of Australia Medal as part of the 2024 Australia Day Honours. I knew it was important when we drove through the gates of Government House but, really, I had no idea just how significant it was. When the Governor walked in we all stood and joined in singing the Australian National Anthem. Everybody... No lectures, no shame, no guilt. Just a large group of Australians from all walks of life joining in Advance Australia Fair. I think I was close to tears. Then the Governor started to translate our Anthem into the original language of the Indigenous people from the area. It was incredible as she explained the words and what they meant to our First Nation people. I was spellbound. It was... find me a word, find me a word... JOYOUS (full of happiness and joy). I emerged from the ceremony feeling much more optimistic about my country, feeling that in the end we would all eventually come together because of one thing: our love for the Great South Land – AUSTRALIA.

Order of Australia Medal

A long time ago, it must be 20 to 25 years back, I got myself into a bit of a tangle with soccer fans over the stature of the game Downunder. Something really promising had occurred, I think maybe the Socceroos launched a dramatic bid to make the World Cup finals perhaps. Anyway, supporters went into a frenzy and one wrote an article predicting, "In a matter of 5 to 10 years soccer would replace Aussie Rules and Rugby League as the number one football code in Australia." I responded with a piece saying this would never happen, never, "not just in 10 years but EVER". I got a bit of serve over that but feel the story of soccer here in the last quarter of a century pretty much supports my argument. Then, in 2023, came all the euphoria of the Womens World Cup when the Matildas made a magnificent charge at Finals glory (I was there, don't worry, screaming along with the rest of Australia). And It all started up again... Soccer was "reborn", it was "unstoppable", "the A League's attendance and TV ratings would go right through the roof" and would soon be the top footy code in the country and so on and so on. I thought, "I don't think so... Sorry team... Not going to happen... We all love our Matildas and Socceroos but this is not going to transfer to the next level, to the A League which will continue to meander along in the middle of the pack." I was about to launch a public response when a bloke I really admire, former Socceroo and Premier League player, Robbie Slater, sounded a grim warning with his opinion piece My fears for A League survival. Now Robbie loves his Aussie soccer but he's a total straight-shooter, telling it like it is. The week he expressed his concern that average attendance was hovering around 4,500 and the Newcastle Jets were close to financial collapse. TV ratings were dreadful. The ratings and crowd figures for the women's A League were even worse. Robbie summarised his worries thus, "The domestic game in Australia is in the worst state I've ever seen it." All this remember just half a year after the Matildas captivated the nation to become our most popular sporting team. This is classically Australian: we love them at the top but that doesn't necessarily trickle down to the next level.

Sometimes in this business, you know, you see the story but fail to follow the dots to the bottom line. I've been following for years the decline of cash. Truth is we're about to become a cashless society. It'll all be done with plastic: no notes no coins... All gone. As one financial commentator observed, "The only people now using cash are pensioners, tax dodgers and drug dealers." Recently I got a reminder to always follow the dots to their logical conclusion. Armaguard, the company that keeps the cash flowing between banks and businesses, is close to collapse. If there's no cash, you don't need to hire armed guards to transport it. The word is that the banks have agreed to keep the company afloat for the time being, but the end result seems obvious... Cash has gone.

"We're riding to the Never Never, on a long wide road, a road that has no end...
Nobody knows when we will get there, what does it matter if time goes by,
We'll spend every night beside the campfire counting the stars in the sky.
We're riding to the Never Never, on a long wide road, a road that has no end."

We're riding to the Never Never, by Letty Katts, 1945

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This is the history of radio newsman Frank Avis who worked in the Australian electronic media from 1954 to 1996.


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