Humble broadcaster created waves in commercial radio

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 12:40 23/02/2013
Kevin Black
ON THE BALL: Kevin Black, with his wife Kristin. He instigated the use of "candid calls" on his Radio Hauraki show in the 80s.

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Kevin Joseph Black, broadcaster: b Wellington, January 16, 1944; 1s, 1d; m Kristin Wilshier, 1d; d Auckland, February 18, 2013.

An iconic radio personality of the 1980s, Kevin Black was pivotal in changing the way commercial radio was presented in New Zealand.

"If you were in music radio in the 80s, you sure as hell wanted to be working with Kevin Black than be on an opposing station, because you would be toast," said Black's former Radio Hauraki co-host, John Hawkesby. It is view shared within the broadcasting industry.

Black died suddenly from a suspected heart attack in his Remuera, Auckland, home on Monday. He had no underlying health conditions.

Before retiring in 2009, Black was a mainstay of music radio, having worked for ZM, ZB, Classic Hits, Solid Gold and The Sound.

He had a stint as a quiz master on the TV show Porkies and was an investor behind former music channel Max TV. He also owned Blackies Bar and Brasserie in Onehunga.

But he was known best for the Radio Hauraki breakfast show he hosted in the 1980s. It was here that he proved his influence over radio broadcasting in New Zealand.

"He was a natural ad libber, he was analytical over what the listener wanted," Hawkesby said. "He had an intimacy and an energy that made people want to turn the radio up, in case they missed something."

Black's earlier life was spent travelling the world with the British Merchant Navy, after joining the sea cadets at St Patrick's College in Wellington.

It was during those travels that he became involved with the world's first pirate radio station, Radio Caroline, which broadcast into Britain from just outside its territorial waters to circumvent the various industry and state controls on radio.

On returning to New Zealand, he worked for the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation before joining the Auckland-based Radio Hauraki - which itself had origins as a pirate station - and breaking new ground as a commercial radio presenter.

Former Hauraki breakfast co- announcer Phil Gifford called him the "Cheech and Chong of New Zealand breakfast radio".

"Blackie", as he was widely known, pioneered "candid calls", with listeners flocking to hear his pranks, such as calling the state mining authority to advise that he had dug a 40-metre hole in his backyard in search of minerals, or convincing a woman the remote control for her garage door opener was interfering with air traffic.

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Such gags were revolutionary in an era dominated by state- controlled broadcasting, earning him infamy and making him the highest paid DJ in the country.

Yet while he drove a Rolls- Royce, former colleagues say he remained humble and was not fazed by social status.

He was also looking forward to his 70th birthday, in January 2014, and was in the midst of organising a bash for which he had asked his old radio pal Hawkesby to be master of ceremonies.

"He was full of life and he just looked good," Hawkesby said. "He was taut, tight and terrific, with a full head of hair."

Black was visiting a friend when he became unwell, and was found later at home by his family. He is survived by his wife, Kristin, and children Kandace, Kyran and Xavier.

- The Dominion Post

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