From Rookie to Radio Happiness – Celebrating 50 years of achievements

A 50 year radio career is worth saluting. David Rogerson looks at Ian Wright‘s 5 decades in radio.

For one guy, it was fifty years ago this month when a chance painting of a bedroom in a Western Sydney Cabramatta home with his accountant Dad would lead to a lifetime passion for radio.

The then 9-year-old Ian Wright was heavily into 2SM and 2UW at the time. The Beatles music was blasting out from the family record gram and big names like Mike Walsh grabbing him by the ears.

The guy known to most of us as “Wrighty” reckons it was at this young age, while helping the family paint his bedroom, a young Ian Wright became fixated and committed to a future career in radio.

Having the chance to head into the 2SM studios to watch night-time Good Guy Mike Walsh and record some voice drops for him probably cemented it as well.

Not too many months later the Wright family packed up their western suburbs home, the vinyl records, paint brushes and radiogram heading north to Kempsey on the NSW mid North Coast.

It was the final year of high school when the opportunity to do some work experience at local AM Station 2KM led what Ian describes as a rookie and novice to take a chance at applying for work at the station.

Just one week after completing his Higher School Certificate 2KM had the rookie on air 6 days a week covering 6 till 12 midnight Mon – Fri and Sunday’s from 6am to midday. So much for checking on his pass marks first!

Sharing his radio life story on Leroy Brown’s Air Heads podcast Ian recalls money wasn’t the driving factor enticing him to be on air.  It was his passion, drive and wanting to be a perfectionist that pushed the young Ian along.

Receiving a $35.90 a week paycheck was nice, but not a driver.

That drive moved up an extra gear. From Kempsey it was off to 3LK Horsham; then a capital city breakthrough in sales at 5KA Adelaide; onto 5AA Good Music selling and back on air doing weekends.

Wanting to progress his career even further Wrighty set a goal of being a GM. Sure enough in the late 1980’s Wrighty moved his wife Di and their young family to 2BE Bega and a position in sales.

All the way along though, he was maintained a watch out for a GM opportunity. His goals were realised within 6 months being promoted to 2BE Sales Manager. Then 6 months later jumping into the 2BE GM / PD seat.

This was the first of many occasions Wrighty and I would work alongside each other. Mike Wass delegated 2BE to me in my role as a consultant for Wesgo owned Westat. Ian and I hit it off from the word go. We remain friends to this day.

Under a succession of owners Glenn Wheatley took over ownership over 2BE and in September 1987 while marking its 50th Anniversary the 2BE call sign was flipped and 2EC East Coast Radio 50th was born.

Describing it as some of the most enjoyable and successful 11 years of his radio life a “Don’t Come Monday” decision hit his desk soon after a change of owners.  Westat was also off the payroll.

The Wright family spent Christmas Eve at home contemplating where the next radio opportunity would appear for them. Powered by the enthusiasm that drove him from those early days in Kempsey, along with Di and the family,  it was off to a successful sales/on air role at 5MU / POWER FM Murray Bridge.

In August 2020 and some 49 years later, Wrighty made another big move. But this time it was his decision to make.

Community radio was beckoning and the GM of Happy FM covering Victor Harbour, Goolwa and the Fleurier Peninsula was the next stop down for Ian.

“I’ve inherited a gem ” Wrighty reckons.

Happy FM is well established, with a strong volunteer base being keenly aware of not becoming complacent.  Being relevant and tightly focused for local people is Happy FM’s main goal.

It’s a new style of radio leadership for Ian Wright.  But it is wrapped up in the experience and enthusiasm that only 50 happy years of achievements in radio can bring.

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