BOOKCASE : ZB: The Voice of an Iconic Radio Station

• Bill Francis • HarperCollins • $36.99

Only once since the first radio ratings appeared in 1967 has 1ZB’s breakfast show slipped from No 1 in Auckland (the exception being Hauraki’s Kevin Black, who took the honours in one survey in the mid-1970s).
For 40 years before ‘Blackie’ and the 30 years since, 1ZB has ruled the airwaves, producing millions of dollars in dividends for its state owners (and, since 1996, APN and Clear Channel). It is one of New Zealand’s most venerable and profitable businesses, and one of its best-known brands.
But this is book about people – not business. In ZB, Bill Francis, who currently is manager of NewstalkZB and Radio Sport, has produced an affectionate but unblinkered history of the ZB stations and the people who worked there.
People like 1ZB’s first major breakfast star, Phil Shone. In the 1950s when state broadcasting ‘announcers’ wore suits and ties (a rule relaxed at the weekend when they were permitted to wear cravats) and were trained to speak with the proverbial plum-in-mouth, he was one of the very few who spoke genuine ‘Kiwi’.
And (to mention just few of the household names) Merv Smith, Paul Holmes, Jenny Goodwin, Judy Lessing, Sonia King and Les Andrews, Haddo and Angela D’Audney, Bill Leathwick, Murray Forgie, Selwyn Toogood, Keith Bracey, Cherry Raymond, the Sunday requests (natural home to Mother as Lovely As You and The Nuns Chorus), Elvis-hating programmer Dudley Wrathall who used to hide The King’s discs under his carpet, Barry Knight, messages from the Queen (pop music was not allowed to be played for 30-minutes either side of royal broadcast), and the Maybury dynasty (Jack, son John and grandson John).
Jack Maybury was actually employed by the giant global ad agency Lintas ad agency, founded in 1899 by soapmakers Levers. In New Zealand, its clients were almost exclusively directed at radio. Lintas (Levers International Advertising Services) was ‘privatised’ in the mid-70s, and today is known as Lowe Worldwide.
And perhaps the most famous of them all – the Dynamo from Downunder, Aunt Daisy, who ruled the airwaves in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
Her format was unchanged for 30 years. She’d start with Thought for the Day, then move through 30-minute rapid-fire potpourri of recipes and cleaning hints – all linked to advertising products and services (most carrying her personal endorsement). To teenagers, it was absolutely unlistenable.
Francis, clearly haunted by that voice, reprints three-page transcript of one of her shows. Then comments, “Unrelentingly, Daisy chattered on for another five years…”

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