Vale Max Rowley

Max Rowley has passed away. He turned 87 in April. For many of us who have worked in radio and television, Max taught, mentored and found us our first jobs through his media academy. Alumni include Brendan Jonesy Jones, Guy Ashford, Trevor Sinclair, Rob Duckworth, Terry Daniel and myself. I still have my demo tapes.


Rowley was a television, theatre and radio entertainer debuting as a teenager in radio serials and on stage with the Independent Theatre where his breakthrough was the role of Paris in Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible. He trained and taught at the Rosalind Kennerdale School of Radio Acting taking it over when Kennerdale retired and renaming it the Max Rowley Media Academy.


During the then final years of the Golden Age of radio drama Rowley worked on serials including Portia Faces Life, Dr Paul, Kid Grayson Rides the Range, A Town Called Alice, A Man Named Peter, Edge of Darkness and many more with Grace Gibson, Artransa, 2UE, 2GB, 2UW, AWA and the ABC.


Television and film credits include Come in Spinner, The Dismissal, Harp in the South, Dad and Dave, Sons and Daughters, Willisee’s Australians and as a guest in episodes comedy shows of Mavis Bramston, Paul Hogan and The Tony Hancock Show. He would offer his students a similar opportunity to hone their comedy skills through annual Forum events. His ability for accents and dialects also saw Rowley appeared in theatre productions and reviews including the critically acclaimed You’ll Come to Love Your Sperm Test.


Max had the most beautiful, distinctive, resonant and iconic voice. He was the Voice of the Seven Revolution on Channel 7 before switching to Channel 9 from 1975-80 as their Promotions voice-over Announcer and then to Channel 10 in much the same role until 1982. He was the regular voice for commercials for the New South Wales State Treasury Bonds, Purnell Brothers Cars and Travel Land recording near 50K radio and TV program promotions and commercials in his lifetime.


You can hear Rowley in this 1987 episode of It’s a Knockout! held by the NFSA here:


Alongside the many other commitments above, Rowley hosted Breakfast, Drive, Afternoon, evening and Mid-Morning shows presenting Jazz, middle of the road, gold, talk and special features on 2CH for ten years through the sixties and seventies. Rowley then became John Laws‘ promotional voice in 1975, heard across Australia on the John Laws Show and later the voice of the Mix 106.5 FM (now KIIS) show hosted by former student Rob ‘Duck’ Duckworth. Rowley himself presented a talkback program on 2KY in the early 1990s.


I saw this response from Rowley to being asked what the most crushing words he ever received were:


“As a young ‘wannabee’ actor I attended a Radio Drama academy. The teacher told me later when I took over the school as the principal that when I first auditioned she had said to herself…”What can we ever do with this untalented boy”… I spent fifty years teaching and performing for which I thank her. On another occasion I was auditioning for a Television ‘Voice Over’ job when the creative individual in charge of the session as he walked me out of the building made the prophetic statement…”I wouldn’t pursue ‘Voice Over’ if I were you. I can’t see a future in it for you” I spent the next half century recording over 10,000 professional Voice over jobs. I also thank him for his encouragement.” 


The funeral service will be held at 2pm next Wednesday 8 May at St Thomas Church, North Sydney.

By Jen Syderhelm

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