Bob Rogers Signs Off at 93

Australian radio history was made on Saturday night. Possibly world radio history.

By Allan Black .

On Saturday night October 3rd, from 6pm till midnight on 2CH Sydney, after 78 years, DJ Bob Rogers aged 93 hosted his last radio program.

Not a bad run at all, he made all the turntable speeds: 33/3rd, 45 and 78rpm.

A couple of friends commented “6hrs! that’s a long stint each Saturday night.” As we know, John Singleton was always a big fan of Bob and built him a voice studio at his home at Balmoral.

After Bob prepared his Saturday night program, from there on a Thursday he recorded all his voice intros and back announcements and ‘emailed’ them to his producer at 2CH, who put the program together with the records, ready for his regular Saturday night broadcast, ‘Reminiscing with Bob Rogers.’

But over time they had some glitches.

One was in Sept. 2003, when Bob did a program about Johnny Cash. On the Thursday he sent all his voice tracks to 2CH where his producer added Cash’s music. But on the Friday Johnny Cash died. Uh oh, Bob decided he wasn’t going to redo it, no time anyway. So on the Sat. night it went to air as planned.

Saturday night, I wasn’t going to listen to the whole 6 hours, but I thought what the h**l, I’ll never hear it again, so I heard most of it. I figured there’d be folk calling in, probably all pre-recorded and that’s what happened.

Some were funny, some were tragic. Broadcaster Derryn Hinch called in and said Bob had given him the best advice he ever got. Bob told him, “Never learn to operate the gear and you’ll never have to work weekends.” Says Derryn “I didn’t and I didn’t.”

We heard from retired TCN newsreader and Bandstand host Brian Henderson. I was shocked I didn’t recognise him, you might know he’s got cancer and has said, no more treatment. For him that’s worse than the disease.

Col Joye, Barry Gibb, Helen Reddy, and others called in, prerecorded very short tributes. When Bob introduced Doris Day, he said “From here at Radio Recorders in Hollywood …” Doris was recording ‘Pillow Talk’ with Frank DeVols orchestra, so it was a very old interview. I’ve been in that same famous studio, but that’s another story.

The last hour, from 11-12, Bob said he was going to play the music when he was courting his wife Gerry in 1949. And he did, one of the tracks was ‘House on the Hill’ by Peggy Lee. The lyrics are very suitable for Bob and Gerry’s married life, and he dedicated it to his home at Balmoral overlooking the harbour.

Then at 3 minutes to midnight he said thanks for all the phone calls and announced the very last song he’d ever play on radio, ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ – very appropriate for his audience of devoted elderly ladies. My dear late mum loved his 2CH program of oldies.

When it finished there was just silence, 20 seconds of it, then the 2CH news theme played. I thought uh oh, something’s happened. Then I realised that’s what Bob wanted. He’s actually a quiet guy, no fuss, just 20 seconds of silence will do it.

His home voice studio will just sit there, a big attraction to return and he just might, he’s already retired once before in 1982.

Rogers is reflective today, remembering a time in his career that saw him flying between Brisbane and Melbourne to record various shows, but he says his favourite job was “always 2UE”.

And that’s where I and others worked as panel operators with Bob in 1960 and ’61. An amazing Adrenalin pumping time, ‘Bob Rogers at 6’ to 8pm, 5 days a week, live.

Bob played all the hits and as well as the commercials, we played the ‘gimmick’ lines from the Goons, Stan Freburg, Bob Newhart records, etc., all instant live. I couldn’t wait to get to work.

There’s more about those wonderful times at the Australian Old Time Radio site.