I stuck it up my jumper, kept playing it on the station and it was beginning of a whole new life for me. I found that in no time at all I got the station 60 sponsors! From there we went to Brisbane and I walked into the station 4BH and said to the manager, “I’m a disc jockey,” and he thought I rode horses! The term wasn’t well-known then. In some ways I was Australia’s first disc jockey, and the rest is history.
Fitz: And one of the most interesting parts of that history is by the mid-1960s when you’re at Sydney’s own 2SM, they send you to London for three months to tour with The Beatles as they make their way to Australia!
BR: Yes, the deal was I would tour with them, and I would have exclusive rights to interview them every two days.
Fitz: How extraordinary.
BR: We got to Darwin at two o’clock in the morning, in June 1964, and 200 people came to greet them. But truly, The first sign of just how big Beatlemania was came in South Australia, when more than half of Adelaide turned out.
Fitz: And there’s Bob Rogers, in the middle of it. When you were with John Lennon, did you feel like, “I’m in the presence of genius?”
BR: No, I didn’t feel that. But he didn’t act like that.
Fitz: And the moment with Lennon that always comes to you first, when you think of him?
BRIn Melbourne, I got a phone call from John and he said “I’m in room 711. Come around and have a drink.” It was seven o’clock in the morning. John was sitting in bed with a bottle of red wine and we drank it a bottle of red winetogether.
Fitz: And what did you talk about?
BR: I forget. But there are a lot of stories of the Beatles I can’t tell.
Fitz. Yes you can! It’s sixty years ago!
BR: In those early days in Melbourne I kept getting sick of all the women trying to get to them. They’d ring me up and say, “Would you tell the boys we’re in room 612?” or whatever. And I rang the management of the hotel, and said “Would you please stop sending girls up to my suite! I can’t get them to the Beatles!” And I can remember 40 years ago playing tennis down at White City, taking a call at four o’clock in the afternoon saying that John Lennon had been shot dead. It was just disastrous.
Fitz: Speaking of tragic deaths, this week we lost Olivia Newton-John. You had a key part in her discovery…
BR: In 1965, Channel Seven had a new show on television called Sing-Sing-Sing, hosted by Johnny O’Keefe. He’d had a few failures along the way – went to America wanted to be Elvis Presley and failed – but came back and started this show. He had a number of girls competing for prizes. And this night I was a judge and I noticed this one girl, Olivia Newton-John, and I picked her to win. I was always very proud of the fact that she became such a success. I am saddened by her death, just as I was saddened by the death of . . . what’s the name of the girl in Melbourne who died this week..?”
Fitz: Judith Durham..?
BR: Judith Durham. Yeah, see, I’m nearly ninety-f—ing-six and I am forgetting a few things.
Fitz: How’s your health these days?
BR: Not good. But, if you don’t mind me saying, at least I’ve got all my hair . . .
Fitz: But you’re still here, still going strong! Is it amazing to you that so many of the people you knew and loved are no longer here and you still are..?
BR: Yes. Somebody the other day called me, asking for a phone number. of the former rugby league boss, Ken Arthurson. I went to my address book and going through, I would say that eighty percent of the people in there have died. So I guess I’m looking forward to my 96th birthday. But I do get a bit bored at times because I don’t get around much any more.
Fitz: One of your contemporaries who is still going strong is John Laws, and he’s still on air.
BR: We met in the late ’50s at 2UE. Fairfax had just sold it because they thought radio was about to be taken over by this new thing, television. But the head of the Lamb family had been to America, and realised that not only was radio surviving, it was thriving, playing popular music for young people, and so they had bought 2UE. The other fellow there had a beautiful voice, and that was John Laws. Now, since the days of Ghost Riders in the Sky, I had realised the value of having records no one else had., and I had organised for mine to be sent to me from America. So I could play songs like the Purple People Eater six months before anyone else could play it. I came in one Monday morning and was told that John had been playing all my important records on Saturday night.
Fitz: Did you have a falling out with him? Did you say, “How dare you?”
BR: Oh yeah. Fifty years later, Derryn Hinch was interviewing me at a restaurant at the Finger Wharf, while we had lunch, and John Laws came up, leaned over and said, “You two are the most despicable ^#&!” He repeated it three times, before leaving. I said to Derryn, “Isn’t it good you got that on tape!” He said, “No, I turned it off.”
But 2UE has been my favourite station. Forty years ago, I used to follow Gary O’Callaghan doing breakfast. And I’d come on at nine o’clock and inherit his wonderful audience. That went well over several stints until one day many years later, I was doing afternoons and I said to my panel operator, ‘You’re a f—ing idiot’ and that was the end of my career at 2UE.
Fitz: Your most famous employer though, was probably John Singleton, at 2CH?
BR: Yes, I was at 2GB, doing mornings, and they wanted me to do afternoons and I didn’t want to. So I arranged with John Singleton to go to 2CH, and I stayed there for 20 years until he sold it.
Fitz: Your final day must have been tough?
BR: Yes. I was astounded by the reaction I got after I retired in October 2020, with letters from all over the world. Even in North America I had several listeners begging me to stay. They ask me to come back on occasionally, but I am too old.
Fitz: Bob, you sound so strong, I reckon you’ll cruise through 100 and knock over 105. but when the time comes, what do you want us to say of the life and times of Bob Rogers?
BR: Life was very good. Particularly after I got that record in 1949, called (Ghost) Riders in the Sky; then 73 years marriage, and the love of my life is still with me. I don’t think I’m the love of her life any more … (A cheery protesting cry is heard in the room.) 73 years is pretty good in this business.
Matter of fact, One of the first songs I used to love in Hobart was called, The Folks Who Live on the Hill.
“Someday we’ll build a home on a hilltop high,
You and I,
Shiny and new a cottage that two can fill,
And we’ll be pleased to be called
‘The folks who live on the hill’.”
And now we live on the best hill in town, one of the best in the world, looking down on Balmoral Beach. It’s been a great life.
Joke of the week
I had a dream the other night. I was in the old West riding in a stagecoach. Suddenly, a man riding a horse pulls up to the left side of the stagecoach, and a riderless horse pulls up on the right. The man leans down, pulls open the door, and jumps off his horse into the stagecoach. Then he opens the door on the other side and jumps onto the other horse. Just before he rode off, I yelled out, “What was all that about?” He replied, “Nothing. It’s just a stage I’m going through.”
Quote of the week
“There is suddenly a very real risk of violent political instability in this country for the first time in more than 150 years.” – Joel B. Pollak, a senior editor of the right-wing outlet Breitbart News, after Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago was raided by the FBI, and Trump supporters rose in outrage.
What they said
“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. They even broke into my safe!” – Donald Trump complaining about being treated like a criminal.
“Treaty will provide that mechanism for us to negotiate equal terms on how we can live together in the same country and celebrate us as well. We’ve made it clear that the Greens want to see progress on all elements of the Statement [from the Heart]. We support legislation that improves the lives of First Nations people, and I look forward to talking with Minister Burney about how we achieve that together in this Parliament.” Senate deputy Greens leader Lidia Thorpe saying the Greens will pursue a treaty with Indigenous Australians and a truth-telling commission in exchange for backing the Voice to parliament in negotiations with the Albanese government as it seeks to build cross-party support for the constitutional change.
“It’s bittersweet. I wanted the win but starting with a medal that’s what we wanted. There was a lot of pressure, a lot of anticipation. I think we lived up to it and that’s the first medal down . . . if we had maybe another 20 metres I could have won, but we’re only running 800 metres, not 820.” – Peter Bol after taking silver in the 800m at the Commonwealth Games.
“Whatever the words, whatever the melody, whatever the tune, there is that sense of hope and joy and love that really blasts through. And that’s very much who she was.” – Xanadu director Robert Greenwald remembering Olivia Newton-John.
“If I had my time again, I would have asked him not to. If everyone knew what they knew now about the process, I mean, the whole situation has been incredibly disappointing for everybody who has been involved.” – Dominic Perrottet about John Barilaro and the whole damn mess.
“What you’re suggesting here is that I knew I was going to retire, therefore I was creating this job [trade commissioner in New York] for myself. I know where you’re going with this and it is absolute rubbish which I refute.” – John Barilaro before the parliamentary inquiry.
“Classrooms have effectively become phone-free and this has allowed staff to focus on educating students. Finally, in eight weeks of the policy, there has been a 90 per cent reduction in behavioural issues related to phones in the school.” – Davidson High School principal David Rule, saying there had been significant changes since students in years 7 to 10 were banned from using mobile phones at school. The high school in Frenchs Forest requires students to put phones in a pouch that, once closed, cannot be reopened without breaking a lock.