Mal Davies once helped police hunt down white-collar criminals, played in a band alongside Joe Cocker and worked for digital radio station Double J in the 1970s.
Now he wants to turn Goulburn Community Radio Association’s Ram FM on its head, replacing old country music with classic rock ‘n’ roll.
“You cannot have that amount of country music in one genre all the time,” he said.
The first person he wants to replace at the radio station is himself. He reckons his time has come and gone but concedes it will take a while before Goulburn comes around to tuning back into community radio.
Since Mal joined the association four years ago, the board has surveyed people on what they want to hear. They discovered classic rock ‘n’ roll was on top of the wish-list, with original country music much further down.
Now president of the board, Mal says they have changed the station’s programming to follow a pie chart based on the survey’s findings.
“We really haven’t looked back in the last couple of years. It has been great,” he said.
Word-of-mouth and a new website have stirred interest among teenagers who Mal is teaching about computers, voice dubbing and presenting. His 22-year-old son, Damien, is presenting on the radio and learning about managing a station.
Mal says if young people are choosing and presenting the content, their peers are more likely to tune in, especially after school.
“We are going to make a big effort getting the younger people more involved,” he said. “We are going to put on a drive-time show Monday to Friday when the school buses get out, because all the kids in the country areas here are on the buses for about an hour sometimes to get home.
“We haven’t got a lot of young people. I would like to see more because, look, I’m nearly 80 now. And that’s ridiculous, you know.”
In his day, rock ‘n’ roll was all the rage in Melbourne. He left Melbourne University with degrees in computer science and engineering, worked as a contractor to help uncover crime networks in Australia and abroad, and was playing the keyboard and bass guitar.
He played in the Thumpin’ Tum and other nightclubs about the time Johnny O’Keefe made rock ‘n’ roll the only game in town.
“And when he passed away, Billy Thorpe took it over and I never thought I’d say that about Billy Thorpe,” Mal said.
“My main bag with music was a base and keyboards sessions player with EMI and Festival, backing up lots of bands.
“I’ve worked with the best, I’ve worked with the worst and worked with the middle. I’ve worked with Brian Cadd, Joe Cocker. Anyone who could out-drink him (Cocker) on bottles of Scotch should get a medallion.”
Like most musicians, he worked weekends with bands in the club and pub circuits, later moving to Sydney and finding his way into Double J.
More recently he has tried his hand with cattle on a farm in the Snowy Mountains, before moving to Goulburn and heading down to the Country Music Association, where he joined a three-piece band, Mick Rivas Trio, and followed musos into the radio station. He has been repairing computers, presenting and passing on his skills, and remembering his earlier times.
“Radio stations took people on their ability, there was no accreditation,” he said. “If you couldn’t do the job you didn’t come in.”
Now the door is wide open in Goulburn for any young person with an interest in the airwaves.