Life after magic run
He woke one day and quit. Now Magic moves on from McLaren
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.’’
Ann Gilding and new co-host, radio veteran Kevin John.