Former Sydney radio icon Gary O’Callaghan has passed away, aged 83.
The Commercial Radio Hall of Fame recipient dominated the Sydney radio scene at 2UE for three decades during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
He started his career at 2SM and joined 2UE in 1956 where he stayed until his retirement in 2003, apart from a short stint at 2KY during Kerry Packer’s brief ownership of 2UE.
O’Callaghan moved back to the mid north coast of NSW and continued to work at 2MC.
Paying Tribute to O’Callaghan, Ray Hadley told Macquarie Radio News:
“This man was a legend… he was entertaining, informative and he was a really good bloke… I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for Gary O’Calaghan.”
In 2003, O’Callaghan told radioinfo how he got started in his career:
“I was covering the Royal Easter Show for 2SM, but a friend who was working with the Intelligence Services said he thought I might get a better story at the airport. So I took my wind-up recorder and broke a date with Dorothy, (who later became my wife) and out I went.
I was the only radio reporter there to get the Petrov scoop, and the story ended up going international.
In 1956 he was asked by Des Foster to join 2UE, just at the beginning of the rock and roll era, and, after a short stint in the newsroom, presented Australia’s highest ever-rating breakfast program for 30 years. “I got £21.15 to move to 2UE, which was a big rise from the £18 I was getting at 2SM.” At the height of his career O’Callaghan was making $200,000. “I hear the top breakfast announcers get a few more zeroes on their paycheck these days.”
Gary and his helicopter riding side-kick Sammy Sparrow became legends and were heard by successive generations of Sydney radio listeners. “Russ Walkington had Gerald the Grasshopper in the breakfast show for the kids, but when Russ went to 2CH, the General Manager Alan Falkner called me in and said ‘tomorrow you have to be something for the kids at 8.15’ so I invented Sammy Sparrow. He was originally going to be a seagull… ”
Read our full interview with Gary here.