Radio daze 14. – the not so “Golden Days of Radio

“Bruce McKay “the swinging guy”

The mid sixties in Melbourne radio saw Top 40 stations dominating the ratings. Even staid old 3AW felt the need to “get with it” and along it’s “doyens of the airwaves” like Norman Banks, Geoff Manion and Martha Gardener employed a young “rocky jockey” from the bush called Bruce McKay.

Bruce’s role was to win over the younger audience “spinning tracks with lots of wax appeal” (never quite sure of that one) But the move was hardly a ratings winner failing to attract younger listeners and totally alienating the traditional 3AW wrinkly  audience who couldn’t quite come to terms with “ a hit that was big when you were small.”

Bruce McKay’s catch phrases didn’t quite hit the mark and couldn’t compete with “ a teenage rage from another age” or “ a “silver souvenir sound,” heard on the competition.

Bruce was relegated to the graveyard shifts and Saturday nights.

Now one of Bruce’s claims to fame was that he could always “hit the pips.” That meant being able to time out a record to finish just a breath before the time signal on the hour.

One night however, horror of horrors he crashed the pips (through no fault of his own).

The studio clock could be over- ridden from the control room. It could be stopped or sped up to allow it to be set to the exact time.

On this Saturday night with 9 o’clock news time approaching Bruce began the mental gymnastics of timing out his record to finish spot on time .

One of my partners in crime struck up a conversation with Bruce in the studio so he would be distracted from checking the clock, at which time I advanced it by 30 seconds.

The news reader who arrived in the shortly after later looked up at the clock and said “Hey Brucie is this track going to finish on time? Bruce looked at the clock which showed 15 seconds to the pips and the song had at least 30 seconds to go.  Bruce broke into a cold sweat, he was going to bomb the pips!!!  He deftly faded the record out to coincide with the first pip, which of course didn’t happen.

Bruce then turned on his microphone ”This is Radio Melbourne 3AW – key station in Victoria for the Macquarie Broadcasting Network – it’s 9 o’clock – newstime” then played the news theme. 

Tony Charlton and Bruce McKay in 2008

Well Bruce sat back ashen faced from stuffing up the timeout only to reel back in horror when half way through the first news item lo and behold he heard in his headphones those pips that had been missing 30 seconds earlier.

I’m sure his whole life flashed before him and in fact his career.

Poor Bruce never recovered and left the station soon after.

Bruce McKay “the Swingin’ Guy” stood with his legs apart so he could swing it (so the story goes).

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