Aussie Radio Dreaming: Dave Charles

As international radio consultant Dave Charles takes it easy recovering while from Covid at his home in Canada, he fondly recalls his time working in Australia.



I was lucky to have met Paul Thompson and Greg Smith creators of the Austereo radio network at a NAB radio conference in Dallas in the mid 80’s. After a meeting, we realized that a great radio exchange was about to happen.  What I didn’t know was that it would lead to over 23 years of some of the most fun and learning I’ve ever experienced in my radio career.

I found Australian commercial radio to be some of the best and most creative in the world.

I consulted in Australia with Austereo for 9 years before a new role developed in Austereo that was too good to pass up.  Austereo Entertainment was a new division of Austereo Radio which basically developed Countdown and music specials. This gave me a chance to talk to over 75 radio stations in our network on a weekly baies. Keith Fowler had put the original Austereo Entertainment together and had a great ear for creating radio specials.

The first thing that happened to me when I arrived in Adelaide in 1987 was my new Aussie name.  ‘Chucker’.  This was given to me by Bill Page at SA FM.

In Canada ‘a chucker’ is someone who can’t hold their drink.  In Australia it’s a term of endearment. They hated ‘tall poppies’ in Australia.  I also hated to be called a Yank. Not many on hearing me speak could distinguish a Canadian accent from an American one.  When they found out I was Canadian, that was ok.  I later became a dual Aussie and Canadian citizen in 2000 the year of the amazing Australian Olympics!

There were many great Aussie radio experiences that I enjoyed and learned from.  What I found was that Australian radio was far more vibrant and creative than U.S. and Canadian radio which I grew up on.  When I revealed this fact at my many station sessions, the immediate reaction was ‘you must be dreaming.’  This is one of the classic lines from my favourite Aussie movie ‘The Castle’ starring Michael Caton.  The personalities were real, the contesting was off the wall and the street presence was a great reminder that you’ve got to get out in the market you serve and create that experience with your listeners. Aussie radio did that in spades.

Some great Australian iconic talents that were/are always worth the time to listen to….

John Laws ‘the man with the Golden Mic’. His classic rivalry with Alan Jones was worth a listen.  Lawsy had the attention of the political elite and never missed a chance to hold them accountable.

Doug Mulray at 2 Triple M.  One of the funniest characters on radio.  Ruled the ratings in the Breakfast show for many years.

Jamie Dunn, AGRO and Wendy Harmer 2Day FM Sydney.  Only this trio of talents could defeat Doug Mulray at 2 MMM.  Brad March PD at 2DAY at the time had his hands full trying to manage these characters.

Andrew Denton, Triple M Sydney.  When 9-11 Twin Towers news hit, Andrew decided to turn the music off at Triple M Sydney and let the audience express their feelings. I’ll never forget the many heartfelt comments about what had occurred in New York at the Twin Towers. Listeners were crying and feeling very confused. Andrew just allowed them to express their feelings. The world changed dramatically from that event.  Andrew Denton knew instinctively how to handle such a global tragedy.  Kudos to Greg Smith group PD of Austereo who directed this event across the entire Austereo network.

Mick Martin/ Tony Malloy.  D-Generation on radio and tv gave Melbourne listeners some of the best original Aussie comedy ever!  ‘Taking the piss’ was a rollercoaster ride on 54 radio stations coast to coast. Can you imagine working in the office next to them every day. How lucky was I.

Kyle Sandilands with Jackie O at KIIS FM Sydney. Greg Smith discovered Kyle at Hot 100 fm in Darwin and brought him to Triple M Brisbane. It didn’t take long for Kyle to grab the listeners by the brain and shake.  Shock Jock…maybe but very clever at spinning listener and celebrity real life stories into ratings gold.  Jackie O is the perfect foil for King Kyle.  For some Kyle is an irritating twat, while others can’t get enough of his buzz saw mind.  It is what it is!  Credit to Jeff Allis for giving Kyle his early direction and success at Triple M.

Hamish & Andy.  ‘lads on the lash’ with checky fun in every bit.  If you wanted to escape reality for a few hours these guys knew how to capture the zany and crazies of life.  Radio Tom Sawyers for real.  Stunts R US.

David Day at SA fm.  We lost ‘Daisy’ far too soon.  Wrote a great book on Southern Australia’s music icons which is a must read.  He along with Bill Page, Grant and Vinny were responsible for SA FM getting a 32 share in the late 80’s. That’s how good this station was. Kudos to Phil Dowse who created some amazing marketing with the stations Black Thunders street team and great promotions like ‘the Fugitive’ that blew the phones up.  Greg Smith was the ring master who put SA FM together as a blueprint for the other Austereo radio stations that later rolled out in Cap cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth.

Mike Perso…easy on the ears and always captured the essence of the day.  Mike did most of his show prep while riding his bike.

There’s so many more talents and moments encountered over my years working with many radio talents across Australia.  I just wanted Aussie broadcasters reading this article to know how much I respect and appreciate the amazing work you did with your talents, marketing and bigger than life promotions.  You set the bar very high.  This is my homage to you.



About the Author

Dave Charles is a regular columnist for radioinfo.