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Radio Live Entertainment

By the end of the 1930's, Radio in Australia had evolved into more than just news, local announcements and musical items. Radio Production companies were rolling out entertainment, quiz and comedy shows which were loved by both the listeners and importantly advertisers.  

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the wireless became the immediate source of information, with news bulletins becoming an integral part of day to day life. Radio Stations broadcast rallies in support of war loans, promoted fund-raising concerts and appeals for recruits and formed War Savings Certificate groups. Radio personalities joined those entertaining troops in Australian military camps and also featured servicemen and women as guests on their radio shows. Through the war years entertainment shows were important in helping keep up moral.

From the early 1930's, the wireless had pride of place in living rooms across the country, where families gathered together to enjoy live entertainment and quiz shows which had become part of regular programming - these radio shows were usually recorded live in station auditoriums or town halls across the country, with the audience members often becoming the contestants for many of these shows. Pictured above, The Mobil Quest in the Armidale Town Hall.

Many announcers became Radio Stars through these programs - Jack Davey, Harry Dearth, Jack Lumsdaine, Bob Dyer, Eric Coleman, Dick Fair, John Dease, Terry Dear, Jack Burgess, Dick Bentley, John Dunne and Keith Smith were just a few.

 

Jack Davey

Jack Davey came to Australia from New Zealand in 1931. By the mid-30's this young Sydney breakfast announcer had started to make a name for himself with his catch cry 'Hi-Ho Everybody'. His first quiz show was 'That's What

You Think'. By 1950 he was the highest paid entertainer in the business. It is said that at one time Jack Davey's work load totalled something like 680 commitments annually, from a weekly schedule of five major half-hour night-time radio shows, five breakfast sessions on 2GB Sydney, a number of charity performances and voicing the newsreel for the cinema each week.

Some of his radio shows - Leave Pass ('40s), The Yes No Jackpot ('40s), The Dulux Show, Give It A Go, The Brylcreem Show, The Pressure Pak Show ('56), The Jack Davey Club Show ('50s), Can You Top This, Give It A Go ('50s), The Pope Show ('50s), The Vincent Show (late 50's) and The Ampol Show ('52). Jack Davey Montage

In August 1958, Jack Davey came to Armidale with his Ampol 'Give It A Go' Show in the Armidale Town Hall, one of the contestants was Armidale man Ken Aldridge. This Armidale show was broadcast over 2AD on Friday night 22nd of August.

It was said that Jack had sixty suits, one hundred and twenty pairs of shoes, seven wrist watches and xxxbought whatever high-powered and fancy-priced car or motor boat that took his eye, and once said that the secret to his success was to 'bite off more than you can chew – and then chew like buggery'

He did not make a successful move to television unlike his main rival Bob Dyer, but before he died in 1959 at the age of forty-nine, Jack Davey had shed a bright enduring light over the Australian radio scene.

 


Bob Dyer
Bob Dyer came to Australia as the 'last of the hillbillies' in 1937 with a vaudeville troupe and decided to stay in Australia. Bob would become Jack Davey's biggest ratings opponent.

Over the years, he had a number of successful radio programs including -  The Bob Dyer Show ('40s), The Persil Show ('43), The Atlantic Show ('46), Can You Take It ('46), Bob Dyers Dude Ranch ('47), Cop The Lot ('51),  It Pays To Be Funny ('50s), Winner Takes All ('50s). But by far his most popular radio show of them all was 'Pick A Box' with his wife 'Dolly', which started in 1948 and ran on radio till 1960. Bob Dyer Montage

Bob and Dolly Dyer would go on to great success with their Pick A Box show on television.

 

Colgate-Palmolive Radio Unit

In 1941 the George Patterson advertising agency established a Radio Unit as a vehicle for their national advertiser Colgate-Palmolive with Jack Davey as producer/director, the Unit was an array of actors, comedians and instrumentalists. Featuring programs such as - The Youth Show, Star Parade, Rise and Shine and

Ask the Army - then came The Cashmere Bouquet Show with those lovable darlings Ada & Elsie (Dorothy Foster) and (Rita Pauncefort), The Quiz Kids, The Colgate Cavalcade and Calling the Stars. Ada & Elsie

Each week Calling the Stars was recorded at the Trocadero ballroom in Sydney before an audience of some two thousand people, and starred Jack Davey, Roy Rene "Mo", Harry Griffiths, Queenie Ashton, Nola Lester, Jack Burgess, Rex "Wacka" Dawe and Willie Fennell, and many would say that this was radio at its very best.

 


Roy Rene 'Mo'

When Roy Rene came to radio in the 1940's he had already enjoyed a long successful career as a vaudevillian comedian for almost 30 years and even starred in the movie 'Strike Me Lucky'. Over that time he developed his unique style and perfected the black and white make-up which became his trademark.

In 1946 Roy Rene joined the Colgate-Palmolive Radio Unit and performed sketches in two Colgate presentations Calling The Stars (on Tuesday nights) and the Colgate Cavalcade (on Fridays). By 1947, his segment had become a regular 12 minute spot called 'McCackie Mansion'. Reg James, manager of Grace Gibson Radio Production recalls Roy Rene in Calling the Stars. Reg James

As the broadcasts were live before a studio audience, Mo continued to wear his white-faced make-up and vaudeville-style costume of baggy trousers, an undershirt buttoned at the neck with sleeves ending at the elbow and top hat with a lopsided brim. The formality of the top hat is undermined by its worn exterior. The Barmaid & the Butcher

Listeners around the country were treated to the antics of Mo McCackie, with his son “Young Harry” (played by Harry Griffiths), “Mr Lasho” (Hal Lashwood), “Horrible Herbie” (Jack Burgess) and “Spencer The Garbageman” (Harry Avondale).

He stayed with the Unit until the middle of 1951 when Colgate moved their sponsorship to Quiz Shows. In March 1952, Roy headlined the new programme The Atlantic Show on Saturday nights. He was as popular as ever, but in May of 1953 he suffered a heart attack and retired from Radio.

Roy Rene died on November 22 1954, but to show business veterans and those who saw him perform, he is still regarded as the best there ever was, a performer whose timing was unequalled and whose catchphrases and style have become part of the Australian character.

 


George Wallace

George Wallace came to radio in 1940 from vaudeville. As early as the 1920s George Wallace was considered to be one of Australia’s top comedians. In the '30s he'd turned his talents to film, starring in five films, all comedies.

The radio audience took a strong liking to the "Boy from Bullamakanka". George wrote all of his own scripts and in 1945 penned a song that was to become a World War II standard "A Brown Slouch Hat". He appeared in a weekly series “George Wallace’s Barn Dance” and at the end of the 1940s The George Wallace Road Show. In the early 1950's George Wallace took off to find success in England. George Wallace Show

 


Australia's Amateur Hour

Australia’s Amateur Hour began in 1940 and ran for almost 20 years. It was the launching pad for many of Australia's entertainers of the time. During its lifetime, the show had three comperes: Harry Dearth, Dick Fair and then Terry Dear, picture right.

Sponsored by Lever Brothers and promoted a succession of artists such as Bobby Limb, Donald Smith, Chad Morgan and Rolf Harris. The show was broadcast to over fifty commercial radio stations around Australia as well as to Radio Australia. Listeners were asked to vote by phone or letter for the acts presented. Aust Amateur Hour segment

Australia’s Amateur Hour travelled all over Australia to broadcast its selected artists. Through the Amateur Hour, successful artists who were serious about their future in the entertainment industry had access to theatrical agents whose job it was to provide the professional help needed in the industry.

The Amateur Hour like so many other radio shows was unable to compete with television and finished in 1960.

 

The Quiz Kids

This very successful radio show that ran from 1942 to 1959 on Australian Radio with quizmaster John Deese, the program was modelled on the American show of the same name.


The Quiz Kids involved a panel of five Sydney schoolboys and girls aged 11 to 15, who were challenged by questions sent in by listeners from all around Australia. The listener was rewarded with cash and sponsors' products in the event of no 'Quiz Kid' supplying a satisfactory answer. A separate panel in Melbourne was used for six weeks each year. Quiz Kids segment

The show was a Macquarie Network program broadcast from 2GB Sydney and heard over 2AD each week.

For the 1959 2AD Radio Appeal, the station arranged for John Dease and the Quiz Kids Radio Show to be presented in the Armidale Town Hall (pictured above). The night marked the 907th performance of the Quiz Kids, with two local students as guest Quiz Kids they were 15 year old Bundarra girl, Vicki Stuart, a student at St. Ursula’s College Armidale and 12 year old Bill Newell from Werris Creek, a student at Armidale’s De La Salle College. The radio program was recorded in front of an audience of 500 for re-broadcast at a later date across Australia through the Macquarie Network.

With the arrival of television in 1956, the Quiz Kids program went the way of so many other radio shows, as sponsors and audience moved towards the new medium, bringing an end to the golden days of Australian Radio.

 

Some of the other big names of Australian Radio and their shows –

Harry Dearth - Lux Radio Theatre ('39), Australia's Amateur Hour ('40 -'42), Crime Fighters, Dear Mr Dearth, General Motors Hour, Harry Dearth's Playhouse, Leave It To The Girls.

Dick Fair - Australia's Amateur Hour ('42 -'50), Australia's Hour of Song ('52 -'55).

Terry Dear - Australia's Amateur Hour('50 -'60), Leave It To The Girls. Who's Who.

John Dunne - The March of Time, Australia's Amateur Hour, Fifty And Over, Strike It Rich ('52), Children's Hour.

John Dease - World Famous Tenors, Spelling Jackpots, Quiz Kids ('42 -'59).

Keith Smith - The Pied Piper 1950's-60's.