Recollections of Arch McKirdy | radioinfo

Recollections of Arch McKirdy

Thursday 29 August, 2013

In the late 60’s as the new boy on staff in ABC Light Entertainment (Radio) and with the title of 'Associate Producer' I was given the task to produce 'Relax with Me' with Arch McKirdy, recalls Peter Wall.

“Produce” was a grand word for what I actually did. It was the first job any new producer was given. It was so easy. Arch knew everything. He would record a couple of shows each week to give him some time off. He was live on the other nights. All you had to do was time four twelve inch tapes allowing space for the news and ensure the operator brought the Kenny Burrell background music up to the appropriate level, send the tapes to the studio and - job done. We needed three of us for this complex production!  

Those were the days when the status symbol was a Heuer stopwatch on a cord around your neck.

One of the problems was that as a 20 year old I was burning the candle a bit and - as you could imagine - on occasion when Arch said “relax with me” sometimes either I or the operator, or both of us, nodded off.

Arch had an evil laugh, often demonstrated at the head of the program when he would say “This is Arch McKirdy inviting you to ……..relax with me. Sometimes the gap between “to” and “relax” went for several seconds and he used to look me fair in the eyes through the glass with the “watch how long I am going to stretch it tonight” expression. He would go for so long that I would begin to squirm. He would then turn on his mic and with that velvet voice finish the delivery. He would then turn the mic off, hit the talkback button and squeal with laughter up two octaves.

Arch probably had the best one to one style I have ever heard on radio. He had wonderful production values…simple and effective. He was always 3 inches from your ear. He knew and loved his stuff.

It’s thanks to Arch that people like me have had the dancing stomach listening to Oscar Peterson and the relaxation listening to Milt Jackson. He taught this country how to listen and enjoy jazz like no other.

Many years later when he and I were both broadcast managers we had countless discussions on what worked and what didn’t in presentation. We especially loved to argue the points on which we disagreed. We never tired of it.  I doubt if anybody has done more for more presenters in radio in Australia. From the ABC to SBS to the Film and Television School – there would be hundreds. He was always creative, patient and supportive.

Margaret Throsby said yesterday :  “One of my heroes.  A really great broadcaster. Many was the evening when, on night shift, I spent hours talking about the biz with Arch in the Forbes St studios – his program Relax With Me was iconic (I don’t use that lightly) – he used to say more babies had been conceived to his program than any other. He taught me more than just about anyone and I hung on his every word.   He was a gentle man and a gentleman, and a generous man, who really deeply understood what broadcasting is all about. I loved him and am immensely saddened to hear this news.”

Arch McKirdy was truly one of a handful of special broadcasters this country has ever seen. He is now a treasured memory.

See our earlier story about Arch, with audio samples, here.


peterwall_th_150 Peter Wall is a former manager of ABC 702 Sydney and held a range of executive roles at ABC and SBS Radio.

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Peter Finch
30 August 2013 - 4:30am
Thanks Arch, you're a good man.
Steve Ford
30 August 2013 - 4:30am
Such memories, Peter! Arch was my jazz teacher. Ian Neal carried on the great work, but Arch really was in a league of his own as a broadcaster. You've brought to mind a night in 1972 when 'The Stars of Newport' - an all-star band led by Jimmy Smith - played in Sydney. Arch was in the audience and Kenny Burrell played Arch's theme ('I'm a Fool to Want You') in place of his usual solo. There was sustained applause, as much, I thought, for Arch as for the great guitarist. Rest in peace, old friend.
Kit Scally
5 April 2019 - 5:30pm
Just come across this article by Peter. I was one of the "3" - the panel operator- recording Relax with Me in the late 60's. Being a tad younger than Peter, I was brought up with mostly classical & pop music plus Goon humor.
Over many recording and live sessions with Arch, I gained an appreciation of Jazz that's remained with me to this day. He was a Gentleman and meticulous performer with the microphone. Vale, Arch.
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