For 40+ years, Brisbane radio station 4ZZZ has hosted the 'Rock 'N' Roll Show' late on Tuesdays, revelling in the glory of all things rockabilly.
For close on 30 years years, 'Rock 'N' Roll'
has been hosted by J'son who guides listeners through a curated selection of rockabilly, swing, psychobilly, garage, swamp, surf and more.
On Tuesday (27 November), he'll hang up the headphones for the final time; and while the future of the show is clouded, we have a chat with J'son to reminisce about three decades of good times presenting Brisbane the finest rockabilly tuneage. When did you start hosting the 'Rock 'N' Roll' show?
I discovered Triple Zed in the late '80s when some Rudeboy mates told us that Zed was being kicked off the Qld Uni campus and there was a sit-in protest at the campus trying to stop the eviction.
So we headed to the campus to join in and I became an avid listener and supporter from then on. I later took over the Rock 'N' Roll Show around 1990 with a group of friends: Nick Jones, Michael Hall, Adam Hall, Tim Gall and Ben Gall.
While listening to the R’N’R Show one evening, the then announcer Phil did a shout out on-air that he was no longer going to be able to host the show and that if anyone was interested to call in to the station. The six of us immediately called the station and the following week, with Phil at helm, we started hosting the show.
As I was a sound engineer at the time I took over behind the desk when Phil left the show in our hands. My friends, due to other commitments, left after the first year and I have been hosting the show ever since by myself. Who hosted it before you?
The show has been hosted by many people over the years before myself; sadly I cannot name them all: Phil from the New Zealand show before me, Tony Maw, Chris Halliday, Theresa Lewis have all spent time hosting the show during the '80s, and to all the ones I have named and forgotten, a huge thanks for keeping the show going for all those years. Did your predecessor leave a legacy for you to carry on?
I believe each host over the years has left their own legacy with the listeners of their generation, as the show has been running ever since the station started.
What has been your favourite part of hosting the show?
There have been so many things I could say are my favourite things about doing the show after all these years.
The show and Zed have given me so much, but the chance over the years to interview, speak with and at times meet nearly all my living rock & roll heroes definitely is near the top. Watching Brisbane bands be created, have their first gigs and watching the band and the musicians evolve; sometimes for a fleeting moment and others are still playing the rock scene today.
During the '90s the show was listed in a Memphis journal: 'The who’s who of rockabilly and twang' – knowing people in Memphis knew about the show was such a shock and great moment.
Later, as the internet got better, I learned that the show had a good following in New York as a breakfast show, which again was a memorable moment especially when we started receiving emails from overseas listeners learning how far the show and Zed was reaching.Who will be taking on hosting duties for the show after you?
I am not sure what the future holds for the R'N'R show or if it will continue. I leave that in the very capable hands of the great people looking after the programming at Zed. Do you have any advice for your successor?
If I was to give any advice to the new host is that rock & roll requires no excuses or apologies and encompasses a huge range of music. Support the local music scene and musicians, and play music that would not have airplay anywhere else.
A little studio advice would be: if you can’t hear any music in the studio and you just hit play, your mic is on – beware what you say out loud.
What have you got planned for your final show?
The final show will very much be like all the others, though I will be playing some of my all-time favourite bands and songs from the past few decades.
What comes next for you?
Hopefully after a short break, a friend and I will be creating a new show for Zed’s digital station and with luck that will be well received by the listeners.
Some highlights from your time in the host chair?
I think if I had to name just one great moment while hosting the show it would be having the great musician Link Wray in the studio in person doing a show with me. That was definitely a good day and a very memorable show.
I would lastly like to say a huge thank you to Mark 'The Colonel' Doherty, the host of 'Nothin’ But The Blues', the blues show on Triple Zed who is also retiring after 40+ years hosting that show.
The Blues and Rock 'N' Roll shows have been on air back-to-back for over 20 years and without the help of The Colonel, who covered the show whenever I could not make it. doing the show would have been much more difficult without that trusted back-up. Many thanks Mark and all the best for the future.
My final word I leave to the new, young Brisbane music scene supporters and Zed subscribers, firstly keep subscribing and supporting Triple Zed and remember supporting your local music scene isn’t just listening to the music or going to see the bands.
Supporting the scene is paying at the door to support the promoters who book the gigs you want to see, buying drinks over the bar to support the venue hosting the bands you like so the venue will want more gigs. Buying your favourite bands merchandise at the gigs to help support the band itself.
Support your local street press that help advertise the gigs you want to see. Remember a subscription to Triple Zed helps with all of this and keeps independent music alive.
As Dewey Cox sang: “It’s been a beautiful ride.”