‘ TV just can’t afford me’
Radio’s original good guy was a handful as a schoolboy, writes David Meddows
Radio sta star Brendan Jones o on why he wo wouldn’t do breakfast television
Brendan “Jonesy” Jones might be one of the most likeable blokes on radio, but the WSFM breakfast presenter has been living with a dark secret — a hidden crime — for nearly 40 years.
Behind that distinctive voice and trademark leather jacket is a man who lives every day with the memory that he contributed to one of the darker days of The Shire’s history.
“You hear about people who commit crimes in their lives and they live it every day,” he says, staring off into the distance. “That’s me.”
As a young Year 6 student at De La Salle College in Caringbah, Jones and his posse of Catholic school misfits thought it would be a smashing idea to drag a massive metal roller from Woolooware Oval and see how it road tested.
For the uninitiated, Jones explains that the piece of equipment, which is used to flatten cricket pitches, was about the size of a Holden Barina and weighed almost as much.
“We pushed it up to the road and it hit the concrete gutter where we thought it would stop, but instead it bounced over the gutter, down a driveway and takes out this guy’s carport,” he recalls.
“It missed his car but it took out the pole and the carport fell down.”
In a moment reminiscent of Stand By Me, the boys stood frozen and mute, paralysed by the carnage they had just unwittingly caused.
One of the youngsters eventually regained some level of composure and delivered some sage advice to the rest of the group: “RUN!”
The boys regrouped and quickly got their stories straight: “We were sitting on it and it just took off.” Simple.
It may have seemed like an excuse only slightly more plausible than the classic “dog ate my homework”, but it actually worked and the little carport destroyers got off scot-free.
School was a tumultuous period for Jones, whose book Fifty Shades Of 50 is released today. His disillusion with the education system was shaped early, when he started school in England where his pilot dad was posted.
Sent to what sounds like a posher, scarier version of Hogwarts, the young boy from Down Under didn’t take well to his new surrounds.
“I remember Mum saying I’d enjoy it. If by ‘enjoy’ she meant hate every minute of it, then yes, I certainly enjoyed it,” he writes in the book.
A few years after returning to Australia, Jones was enrolled at De La Salle in Year 5, where he began a rocky six-year relationship at a time when sporting prowess was your ticket to an easy ride and creativity was seen as a weakness.
“My history at De La Salle is not very good. In the book I’m quite scathing of the school — and quite rightly so, because in those days if you were in any way creative, or you read, you were considered some sort of ‘poof’,” he says.
Heading back to the school with Insider for the first time since leaving in the early ’80s, Jones was nervous about the reception he might get.
Maths and PE teacher Kevin Nielsen, who retired earlier this year, was at the entrance to meet his former pupil and was soon spilling on what the younger Jones was like back in the day.
“He was a man of mixed fortunes — sometimes everyone thought he was wonderful and then other times they thought he was terrible. It was definitely a fifty-fifty split,” Nielsen says.
“Forgetting stuff was one of his biggest things. Everyone was torn between ‘Is he really that forgetful or is he just not doing things on purpose.”
School officials basically told Jones’ parents his only real option was to leave school and take on a trade but he never gave up on his dream of one day working in radio.
After leaving school behind and trying his hand at art school — where he had a brief infatuation with the daughter of renowned Sydney underworld figure Abe Saffron — he got his first break in radio at Bankstown community radio station 2BCR before his first paid gig in the “backwoods of northwest Western Australia”.
He then slowly made his way up the radio ladder towards the station of his youthful dreams: Triple M.
He met Amanda Keller — “the hot science chick from Beyond 2000” — on his first day at the station, unaware at the time the pair would later form one of the most successful radio duos in the most competitive market.
They’ve clocked up 12 years together now and have just signed on for another three.
Asked what makes him so relatable to his listeners, Keller (inset with Jones) points to a fact that is made evident in the book — Jones is one of the good guys.
“He’s the real deal in terms of being a real human being in that he has a very normal suburban life. He rides his motorbike but his family’s his big thing,” she says. “He goes to the pub with his mates; if he has too many drinks he’ll take the train home. He lives a very regular life and that’s the making of him.”
Jonesy hams it up outside the principal’s office at his old school, De La Salle College in Caringbah. Pictures: Sam
Boyhood images of Brendan Jones and (right) a reunion with Kevin Nielsen, one of his teachers at De La Salle in Caringbah.
FIFTY SHADES OF 50, NEW HOLLAND PUBLISHERS, $ 32.99