IN THE somewhat transient world of modern radio, Tamworth will mark the end of an on-air era when we lend Radio 2TM’s Mal McCall our ears for the last time on Friday.
After 29 consecutive years on air in Tamworth, he’s swapping the airwaves for ocean waves and is moving to Port Macquarie.
The breakfast show host has notched up 60 years and three months on earth and decided it was time to live life on the coast, spend more time with his wife, Helen, and bring up their three-year-old son, Tom, on the beach.
Mr McCall was born in Victoria and is a St Kilda tragic.
He started work as a bank teller and ended up in Melbourne, where he met disc jockey Grantley Dee, who said he had a voice for radio.
Mr McCall reckoned he had a good head for radio, too, so he completed a six-month Lee Murray radio course, where he learnt the radio game.
He applied for his first radio job at 2VM in Moree in 1975 and said he was still waiting to hear from them.
Mr McCall began his radio career in Hamilton, Victoria, where he stayed for 18 months before coming to Tamworth, where he worked at 2TM in 1978 for another 18 months.
He then moved on to Bendigo for 10 months before going to Toowoomba, where he stayed for two years before the call of Tamworth brought him back.
Mr McCall returned to 2TM on January 6, 1984, and decided he liked the place enough to stay for a while – 29 years, to be exact.
“I made a conscious decision to come back here, because I liked it here the first time around, because I had freedom to create on-air,” he said.
“I will miss that, but I’m going to try to sleep in and enjoy quality of life with my son, Tom, and my wife, Helen.”
Mr McCall said radio was a “good game to be in” and put his longevity down to “getting away with it”.
“I can feel my audience,” he said. “If you crack a gag and it doesn’t work, I know it. Relating to the audience is a cinch, because I’ve been doing it a long time. There have been emotional moments, though, including the report I did on the US school shooting, and it gives me no pleasure in talking about that. There have been plenty of happy times, too, like January and the town hall anniversary.
“We can go anywhere with radio and broadcast. The worst thing that can happen is mistiming the news – it’s still everyone’s nightmare.”
Mr McCall said he’d lived through plenty of technological changes in radio, but still loved it. He’d recommend radio as a career to anyone who was interested.
“The monetary rewards are not high in the country, but if you’re prepared to slug it out and prepared to try out a few things, then it’s good living in the bush,” he said.
“If you want to go to the city and you’re good enough to do it, then go for it. I can’t think of one day I’ve come to work and hated it. When I first started I was very nervous, but I’ve always been a joker and now I can do it on-air.”
He thanked his listeners for their “ears over the years” and said most listeners had been very nice to him. Mr McCall’s last breakfast shift on 2TM will be on Friday.