Life af­ter magic run

He woke one day and quit. Now Magic moves on from McLaren

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - GREG THOM

MAGIC 1278 lis­ten­ers woke ev­ery morn­ing for 14 years to the on- air rap­port be­tween break­fast duo Andrew McLaren and Ann Gild­ing.

Then overnight, McLaren, 59, was gone.

The ra­dio vet­eran de­cided on re­tire­ment and travel over early morn­ing starts be­hind the mic. He also chose a quick, clean exit over a long on-air good­bye.

Sta­tion man­ager Gary Hoff­man says McLaren’s re­tire­ment was not un­ex­pected, but the last-minute tim­ing on June 30 took him by sur­prise.

‘‘He’d al­ways said that when he re­tired he would just go, no farewells,’’ Hoff­man says.

‘‘I did ask him to stay on air for a week or two to go through the farewell process, but he de­clined.

‘‘It left us in a sit­u­a­tion. At 9.15am on the Mon­day (af­ter McLaren’s last shift) we didn’t have a break­fast co-host.’’

Luck­ily, Hoff­man had a so­lu­tion — Kevin John.

The ex­pe­ri­enced ra­dio hand and for­mer TT FM (now MIX) break­fast an­nouncer had reg­u­larly filled in over the past few years and was champ­ing at the bit to get back be­hind the mi­cro­phone full time.

Six weeks down the track, all con­cerned have been heart­ened by the re­sponse of Magic’s au­di­ence.

‘‘Andrew’s de­par­ture was fairly quick. In fact, I got the call the day he left, with Gary (Hoff­man) ask­ing me to fill in the next day,’’ John says.

‘‘It was all a bit of a shock. Af­ter two weeks they asked me to join full time and I thought about it for a whole 60 sec­onds.’’

Gild­ing equates McLaren’s de­par­ture as akin to a death in the fam­ily for many of Magic’s loyal band of mainly older lis­ten­ers.

‘‘There’s been the in­quis­i­tive, ‘Where’s Andrew?’ fac­tor, be­cause it did hap­pen so sud­denly,’’ Gild­ing says. ‘‘A lot of them thought some­thing had hap­pened or he was sick. But as soon as they were told it was his de­ci­sion, he’s re­tired, he wants to travel, they were happy and they’ve ac­cepted Kevin very well.’’

De­spite pay­ing trib­ute to the chem­istry be­tween her­self and McLaren, Gild­ing stresses she and new part­ner John are de­liv­er­ing a dif­fer­ent, re­vi­talised show.

SHE cites a sim­i­lar sense of hu­mour, dress sense and pas­sion for the Colling­wood Foot­ball Club as ar­eas they have in com­mon.

Gild­ing and John are keen to in­volve lis­ten­ers in the new show, while main­tain­ing the mix of mu­sic and hu­mour they know ap­peals to their lis­ten­ers.

De­spite McLaren’s sud­den de­par­ture, the tran­si­tion has gone re­mark­ably smoothly, with lis­tener feed­back over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive.

‘‘It’s been re­ally good,’’ Gild­ing says. ‘‘We’ve had a long time in ra­dio be­tween the two of us, so it’s a lit­tle bit like a cou­ple of cap­tains tak­ing over a new (Air­bus) 380 from Sin­ga­pore.’’ John agrees. ‘‘I knew they were go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing shoes to fill with Andrew, be­cause they (lis­ten­ers) loved An- drew and they kept say­ing that,’’ he says.

‘‘My softly, gen­tly approach, which I hope I have suc­cess­fully done over the past few weeks, has been to re­ally just get in there, men­tion openly that Andrew has left and it’s the start of some­thing new.’’

For a sta­tion that tends to fly un­der the radar be­cause of the dom­i­nance of FM break­fast ra­dio shows, Hoff­man is pas­sion­ate about his sta­tion’s au­di­ence and what they can ex­pect.

He is at pains to point out Magic is not an ea­sylis­ten­ing mu­sic sta­tion, plays Elvis and The Bea­tles over Ella Fitzger­ald and Frank Si­na­tra, reg­u­larly out-rates FM ri­vals Vega and MIX and is proud of the fact the age of the av­er­age lis­tener is 57.

But what he is most ex­cited about is the in­tro­duc­tion of dig­i­tal ra­dio next year.

For an AM mu­sic sta­tion strug­gling to at­tract lis­ten­ers brought up on su­pe­rior FM trans­mis­sion qual­ity, the prom­ise of vastly im­proved au­dio de­liv­ered via cut­ting-edge dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy is like manna from heaven.

‘‘We can’t wait be­cause it gives us a level play­ing field and su­perb broad­cast qual­ity,’’ Hoff­man says.

‘‘We’ve spent 10 years up­grad­ing the qual­ity of the mu­sic we play. We’ve got stuff that peo­ple aren’t go­ing to be­lieve when they start hear­ing it in stereo through dig­i­tal broad­cast­ing.’’

Suc­ces­sor:

Ann Gild­ing and new co-host, ra­dio vet­eran Kevin John.

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