Tribute to Ward "Pally" Austin - The White Knight
by Wayne Mac
On the 19th August, 1998, we heard that Ward "Pally" Austin had passed on. He joins a host of others who spun the "platters that matter from the Top 40 bicky bin" - circa the Sixties and Seventies. Broadcasters who turned being a disc jockey into a specific skill and who made listening to radio a real treat for those of us in "out there land."
The list of "departures" also includes Aussie dee-jays -- Laurie Bennett; George "Groover" Wayne; Grahame Cherry; Ray McGregor, Tony McLaren; Jon Royce; Paul Turner along with U.S. legends -- Wolfman Jack, The Real Don Steele; Robert W. Morgan, plus from the U.K.-- Kenny Everett.
On the day following his death, a number of items appeared in the media with comments by those who knew him well.
My name is Wayne Mac. I don't claim to have been a close friend of Ward's, but I got to know him briefly over the past 18 months in the course of my research into the history of Australian Top 40 radio. My tribute to Ward Austin is from the position of a listener and a fan.
In suburban Sydney during the 1960s I was one of thousands of kids who arrived home from school to be greeted by the sound of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra belting out a few bars of "This Could Be The Start of Something Big." How true!
The music was tagged with a Sammy Davis Jr. impersonation of Dean Martin saying - "Anytime you're ready, Pally."
The response was, "Yeah, ready and rearing to go with yet another day here on the Ward Austin show."
Younger readers may not understand that this was a time when themes and a regular opening rap were essential formatics of the Sixties contemporary DJ.
These opening raves had their origins all around Australia when blokes like Rogers, Laws, Rofe, Gates, etc., rode the first wave of Top 40 radio in the late 1950s.
Meanwhile, a slightly younger and more brash Ward Austin Gargan was evolving his shtick.
First up at the old 2KA in Katoomba where his standard line was "Swing and Sway with Ward A."
Then on to 2UE where they dropped his surname. Hands up those who have done the name change stuff since!
Ward was also heard on 2GB. Like most jocks of the time, Ward's patter was tinged with a hyped American accent and he managed to be more convincing than most.
Of course, his most famous chuck of verbal gobbledeegook was the sign-off he began using at 2UW: "A RICKAPOODIE AND FANDOOGALIE." The exact origins of this are unclear as is the correct spelling. This expression is welded to Ward Pally as firmly as "DOH" is to Homer Simpson.
So as we played cricket out in the street or just mucked around in the back yard. we were never far away from the pop gospel which pulsated from the Pally pulpit each weekday afternoon on 11-10 radio, the NEWUW.
Indeed, after church we could even cop a second dose from this frenetic freak out when the White Knight took to the air on Sunday morning. Newcastle listeners also experienced this Sunday show which was landlined to 2HD.
To understand the Pally phenomenon it must be remembered that the Sixties was a time where Australian pop stars and disc jockeys alike were quite visible in the community. From bedroom walls to newspaper front pages, magazines to quickie TV shows which exposed pop music and all its associated hype to a captive audience.
Kommotion, the TV program which featured 3UZ night jock Ken Sparkes, was typical of the time.
There was an abundance of outdoor promotions. Jocks hosting concerts by local and overseas acts of just doing shopping center OB's were the order of the day. It was in this era of pop star adoration that Pally and his contemporaries were operating.
Even while on-air, Ward would broadcast in the back studio of the old 2UW building while the corridors would fill to capacity with fans eager for a glimpse of their idol. Because Ward had a panel operator, the oft mentioned Warwick Manning a.k.a. Smiley, this gave him the freedom to come out of the box and press the flesh with the assembled punters.
The appearances of Pally and other members of the 11-10 Fun Crowd always drew big on site audiences at Sydney's Royal Easter Show when they broadcast from the remote studio in the Commemorative Pavilion.
And if this wasn't enough, he even cut a record on the Parlophone label called "Emergency Ward." Not so much a song, more like an early day rap. It was a wild time people, outacontrol Warwick!
Perhaps only in the Sixties could a character like Pally have emerged. Sure, there were others like 2SM's Mad Mel, a sort of Ugly Phil of yesteryear, but the craziness of Mel was very brief.
The remarkable thing about Pally was his ability and connections to get press and television coverage.
A shameless self-promoter, he scored a huge coup when Channel 9 Sydney screened a one-hour documentary about his radio show on Australia Day 1966. More conservative broadcasters of the day were mortified that a TV station would devote a whole program to such trivial nonsense. Yeah! Well. tell that to those of us who were out here consuming it. Hell, we didn't care 'cos Pally was our main man.
Each day after school he had the power to expose our impressionable young ears to rock and rock rabble like The Who and those dirty bloody vRolling Stones. Our parents hated it.
In fact it was Ward Austin in 1965 who called the Stones arrival at Mascot, just as others had done the previous year with The Beatles. Even though he didn't get to introduce The Fab Four to Australia, it was around the time of their arrival here that the legend of Ward Pally established itself.
Ever since TV forced radio to find new directions in the late '50s, 2UW held on longer than most to the entrenched patter on broadcasting drama and daily serials.
The week of the Beatles' arrival in Sydney during the winter of 1964, a 2-page ad in the Sunday Mirror proudly boasted that Ward Austin and other newcomers known as the 11-10 Men would transform the old place into an all music and all fun station to be referred to as The NooUW (there's that accent again).
And just so everyone knew they meant business, on would come cute pre-recorded reminders of who was listening out there: "Even Granny tunes her little tranny to the NEWUW." Positioning and branding before such terms even existed!
And the jingles used to go, "As you listen every hour, even in the shower to the happiest personalities in town - on wonderful UW in Sydney."
Around the mid-sixties Ward's individual style of jock speak was sandwiched between the more conventional tones of Tony McLaren in the early afternoon and Rod Christopher at night. His energetic, slightly irreverent, fun approach to radio was a whole new world for us kids.
A typical back-announce would have been, "Rocking out of today's Top 40 here on the NooUW, triple one noughtable on your transistor portable wherever you are in Sydney town."
Hey, these were less complicated times, and to hear Ward giving his total approval of some hot new piece of plastic which was "just too much for the human unit." Well, you really had to be there.
And so for the remainder of the decade, Ward Pally Austin became essential listening for the musically aware youngsters of Sydney. But I guess as Bob Rogers put it delicately when reacting to Ward's passing: "He really stayed too long at the fair."
By early 1970 the 11-10 Fun Crowd caper was up and Ward left UW after some problem about a live read involving a throbbing motorcycle. He and his child bride, Irene, traveled to the United States scoring a gig along the way at a station in Arizona owned by TV star Dick Van Dyke.
While over there, he and Irene met and were photographed with none other than Elvis Presley. Again to get the Austin legend into some perspective here, one wag was heard to say, "Who's that in the photo talking with Pally?"
In 1975 Ward returned home and to 2UW, which was no longer NEW but "Funtastic." Plus there was a fresh bunch of groovers in town who called the tune from further up the dial. They went on to own the Seventies in Sydney and of course no prizes for guessing who they were.
At first, Ward returned to the familiar drive slot on UW, but only on Fridays and for the Sunday morning show. When he acclimatized, the shifts became more regular into 1976. In his absence, many of us moved on in search of...More Music, I guess.
Even though Pally was a music jock, the spotlight needed to be on him. His whole act was a balance of hot new happening hits and rapid-fire but rather wordy pieces of DJ chat. In the brevity of the Seventies Ward sadly sounded dated.
In the Eighties he emerged for a special series of gigs on 2WS, where he did the Soundtrack of the Sixties. His final appearances were, surprisingly, on that grand old dame of the Easy Listening set, 2CH.
Like radio groupies of my generation, I was fortunate to meet the great man at the height of his fame. I was just a kid.
Our paths crossed again ever so briefly where our names appeared together on a few rosters circa 1980 at 2UW...which coincidentally was just weeks away from being re-launched as the NEW-2UW - only this time Ward Austin wasn't to be included.
In this article I've refrained from drawing too much attention to the less spectacular times and incidents which marred Ward's life. My point being that we've all had our 15 minutes of fame. For some, that fame period has lasted much longer and we've managed it in our own ways.
When I last spoke to Pally about two months ago he said, "When are you coming up to interview me for your research? You know you're welcome any time."
His hospitality to me, a virtual stranger, is worthy of comment. Those who knew him well will not be surprised at the extent of his generosity.
Yes, a missed opportunity for sure. But let's take a moment to remember Pally's contribution during a time when radio was reinventing itself without a carefully worded manual on how to do it.
Also for the joy and happiness that he put into the lives of so many people who never had the chance to say to him personally - "Thank You, Pally." I'm grateful to have had that chance.
Wayne Mac is a former Australian broadcaster who collects radio memorabilia from the '60s, '70s and '80s.
© 1998 by Wayne Mac