‘The audience loved us - and hated us': Gary Shannon on pushing the radio envelope.
Towards the end of 1972, a young Gary Shannon got a job as a cart boy for Perth radio station 6KY.
He was just 16. Or 15. He can’t quite remember.
“I was straight out of school, South Fremantle High School, it was a pretty rough school, we had our own coroner,” Shannon joked with Botica’s Bunch.
He said that it was one of his mates’ brothers who gave Shannon probably one of the most gruelling job interviews in history.
“He was a production engineer at 6KY and, at a Christmas party he said ‘who likes radio?’ and I said ‘I do!’ and he said ‘You want to be in radio?’ and I said ‘Sure!’ and he said ‘Well, you’re gonna be the cart boy!’ and I said ‘great! What’s one of them?’
“…and that’s how it all started.”
Shannon went on to be a broadcast legend of Perth, which included more than a decade at 96FM.
“During my 6PR leg of my journey here, I spoke to Cliff Richard and David Gates… but it was more hip at 96FM,” he admitted.
“I remember KISS came in and we spoke to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, a couple of times actually!”
“Alice Cooper was fantastic, he had some great stories about getting on the town with Harry Nilsson and John Lennon and what they got up to, just fantastic stuff.”
Shannon also spoke to a fledgling band that was, at the time, just starting out - Maroon 5.
“They came in with their first album just released and we thought ‘oh yeah, we’ll give these young blokes a bit of a chat,” he recalled.
“Within two months they were the biggest band in the world and five number 1’s of that first album, I mean, excuse me!”
He had similar before-they-hit-the-big-time interviews with Kings of Leon, The Script and Stereophonics.
If Gary Shannon could be chalked up to one thing – he’s a larrikin storyteller, a classic yarn spinner.
One that left our jaws on the floor was one about INXS.
“A mate of mine, Dave Hounslow, rented out a house in Shenton Park,” Shannon said. “His grandmother had died and left him five houses – three in Cottesloe and a couple in Shenton Park.”
“Dave had rented his house to the resident band at The Shents, and it was The Farriss Brothers.
“He was living at my place – why was he living at my place? – but he came home one day and said he had dropped in to see how the house was that The Farriss Brothers were renting.
“He said ‘I kicked them out’ and I asked why and he said ‘that lead singer, that Michael’ and I said ‘yeah, Michael Hutchence’ and he said ‘Yeah, he was fixing his Harley Davidson’.
“I said ‘Well, what’s wrong with that?’
“He said ‘… in the loungeroom.’”
Shannon took great delight in saying his mate Dave’s claim to fame was that he booted INXS out of his house.
But one gig was tougher than any other – being the compere for Perth’s Miss Summer Girl.
“Oh yeah, you try standing out in 42-degree heat and you’re talking to a bevy of beauties who all want to ride horses and save the world and entertain the crowd… it got a bit difficult,” Shannon said.
“You got hot, dehydrated and you go ‘my God, another one wants to save the world and ride horses’, it was a tough gig!”
Jokes aside, Shannon said one of the biggest changes he’s seen in broadcasting over the past 40 years has been the shift in political correctness.
“That’s been an enormous change, some for good, some for not-so-good… back in the days when I worked with Amanda Walsh and the late Paul Redman who we lost earlier this year, God bless him, we pushed the envelope a fair bit but in some strange way, the audience loved us for that… some hated it.”
Pushing the envelope came from the advice given to Shannon from Graham Cherry, the program manager at 6KY back in his early years of broadcasting.
“He said you have to be brave… be controversial be brave and to remember, if 80 per cent of the audience hates you, it’s OK, if 20 per cent love you, you’re still number one”
Check out the full chat up top!