Pilot of the Airwaves or Pilot of the Airlines? Tony McAdam retires

After 49 years in the radio business, most of it in sales at WAVE FM Wollongong, long time radio guy and sales executive Tony McAdam has decided to write his last ATB and take to the road.

Whether it was leaving the tap on in the station bathroom over the weekend and flooding everyone out, or commenting on regional NSW Group 8 footballer Chris Wellman’s lunch pack, Tony has stories to tell of survival, fun and future travel.

On the anniversary of his retirement after close to 50 years in radio, WAVE FM’s Tony sat down with David Rogerson to chat about his life and times in radio.

I caught up with Tony as he was getting things together for his new life getting set to pack his bags and head out on the road travelling Australia.


David: Times are  a lot different today from your first day with AWA radio at 47 York Street in Sydney.

Tony:  I joined AWA Broadcasting in the January of 1975. They had a licence to operate 2CH on behalf of the NSW Council of Churches, hence NO Grog or betting ads .

AWA had radio stations in Cairns, Townsville, Grafton, Goulburn, Albury and Bendigo. You could only own 8 stations in total then, and only 3 in one state.  You were never allowed to have an AM and an FM in the one market.


David: What was that first job?

Tony:  My first job was as an office boy, a gofer, a “cart boy.“ It was all for the princely sum of $49.90 a week before tax and the AWA paymaster came around with your pay in cash in an envelope.


David: Had you always wanted to be in radio? 

Tony: This is a true story. In the last 2 years before I left school I had a radio stuck to my ear. I was hooked on radio and 1270 2SM, which was then the behemoth Rock station. I listened to 2SM 24/7 as well as 2UE and 2UW.


David: Sounds like you were fairly passionate! What’s that diary you have there with you? 

Tony: I knew the name of every announcer on each of the stations. I listed them all out here and I kept a list at the back of this small  diary.  I was also hooked on planes.  I would spend a day on the weekend out at the airport just watching the planes take off.


David: So it was Planes and Radio? Your Dad had a bit to say in the career direction you should consider too.

Tony: On the day after my final HSC Exam I had a conversation with my Dad that went like this: “……son , now you’ve finished your exams, have you any thoughts on what you’d like to do.’  I said I’d love to go and work for a radio station, or work for an airline , even a job out at the airport would be great. Dad paused and went, ok then.”


David: Did you start searching for a job yourself?

Tony: Well, next day my Dad is sitting on the train next to a guy he went to school with.  Dad mentioned that I was looking for an airline or radio job.  As fate would have it, his school friend says ‘I work for a radio company – I’m the Chief Accountant for AWA Broadcasting, and I’m based at 2CH in York St ….let me talk to the Operations Manager and see if I can line up an interview.’


David: You never looked back since then it seems Tony. Then from Sydney how did you career pan out?

Tony: Between 1975 to 1980  I was at 2GN Goulburn and did EVERYTHING! Goulburn was AWA’s ‘training station’ where they sent guys like me. Plus, they’d send their up and coming Managers there to get better skilled before going to bigger markets like Townsville or Bendigo. Over those 5 years I worked with 3 hot shot bosses that shaped my career and I learnt so much from.


David:  And then you headed where?  

Tony: National Sales based in Sydney. I looked after 3BO Bendigo, then National Sales Melbourne, to 2AY Albury, back to 2GN as Station Manager. Oh boy I was terrible!,Then I headed to Tropical North Queensland, 4TO Townsville, back to Wollongong with 2Double O (now i98FM ), then Wave FM until now.


David:  Most of us in radio have some great memories of our time where we messed up but also did some great things too.  What comes to mind for you?

Tony: David that’s easy. I can almost count them off one by one, and most I’d like to forget… so there was being drunk on air one Saturday night at 2GN – and being sprung.

Then there’s sharing a unit with one of Goulburn’s biggest drug dealers and not having a clue as I was so naïve.

I can remember driving back from Albury to Goulburn. I fell asleep at the wheel just for a nanosecond  and waking up on the other side of the Hume Highway doing 80k’s !”


David: For most of us that would be enough

Tony. Ah no , there’s more. Peter Joseph the 3BO GM said he’d pick me up at 5.18pm at the front of the station. Instructions were don’t be late otherwise he’d leave without me.  I arrived at 5.19pm only to see his Ford Fairlane 100 yards down the road.”


David:  They’re great stories. Often we hear about trying to fit into a new market and gain a new circle of friends. How did that work for you?

Tony: That’s the one last one I’d like to tell that not a lot of people know about.

I developed a very, very, very, very serious gambling addiction within 6 months of arriving in Townsville. The Townsville Casino had just opened. I had never ever gambled in my life. But I eventually picked myself up and eventually resolved it.


David: And to think you could have been working for an airline! 

Tony:  I call it my sliding door moment. Dad could have been sitting next to the Qantas Supervisor for Baggage handlers at the Airport. If he did, no guessing where I could have been for the last 49 years.

David: You’ve had a very successful career working with clients in Wollongong. What’s next?

Tony: Travel. I guess you could have worked that out. Yes some time on the road here, and then overseas.  Still a bit to work out and plan, but travel for sure.


David:  We wish you all the best for you future years from out behind the sales prop and hope you enjoy a happy and healthy time ahead.

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