Galway Advertiser 1995/1995_01_26/GA_26011995_E1_023.pdf 

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Galway Advertiser 1995/1995_01_26/GA_26011995_E1_023.pdf

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t's possible that some readers might not know Jon Richards to see, but if you live in the Galway area, and more particularly the areas reached by our local radio station Galway Bay F M , it's almost certain you know him to hear. Furthermore, if you're one of the thousands who drive into work each morning, it's a reasonable guess that you know him by sight too. For Jon Richards is not only the Programme Controller of Galway Bay F M , he also presents his own show every afternoon, does most of the voice-overs for commercials, promotions and competitions, and takes to the road on his truly awesome motorcycle twice a day - mornings and evenings, reporting on traffic in and out of the city. This week Jeff O'Connell talks to the ubiquitous man of Galway Bay F M about his first love - local radio - and his plans for its future.
characteristic that still aUaches to him. "I walked into WLS Pirate radio, which was

There was a time, only a few years ago, when Galway's local radio station was widely if unofficially known as the worst in Ireland. Back then it was known as Radio West, and the programming could be said to have echoed the dull sound of that early name. Not only did the future not look bright, it was getting pretty diffi cult to see any sort of future at all for the station.

week-old bag of laundry. I had just come off delivering Norton offered Jon the position of Music controller. bread and all I wanted was to make an appointment." Jon turned it down because he felt he needed to learn To his surprise the person who was doing the inter more. Concentrating on his specific area of expertise, his based in Prospect Hill, and asked for a job. I knocked on the door thirteen times in the one day and finally the views told him to come in and do the interview then and rock programme, he ended up winning a Hot Press manger gave in and gave me one." Jon began on the there. "I thought, he's got to be joking!" But no, so I sat Award for it. He also made a point of pushing Irish rock 'graveyard shift', but soon was moved to daytime broad down on a chair across from him and after we talked for music and this won more listeners, especially among the casting. Then the station moved to Prospect House, a minute he said, "I can see by looking at your eyes that dozens of new bands that were popping up all the time you're the man. The job is yours. So, after I recovered around Galway. m u u n u v Many people will recall the number of different pirate above the TSB Bank." hen one day Jon was invited to do the traffic However, he became increasingly unhappy with the from the shock, I said, what about money?" stations that jammed the airwaves in those days, broad reports. At first he thought it would not be up his way the station was operating so he left WLS and went There were enormous and, in retrospect, unrealistically casting from Galway, Tuam and Connemara. Maybe high expectations once the station started broadcasting, street, but once he got into it he found he really they were a little rough and ready and lacking in the pol down to Tuam as a 'consultant/advisor' to County Sound, but Jon uneasily realised that they were not likely to be enjoyed it, and now the roving Jon Richards, patrolling ish and professionalism of the national stations, but the a station that was doing extremely well but was going his Ijeat' on board his motorbike, is one of the most ser absence of these qualities was balanced by an infectious vice-oriented segments of Galway Bay FM. sense of excitement and 'cheekiness'. So when the Increasingly Jon made himself useful, even indispens Government introduced legislation to make it possible able, around the station, doing voice-overs for commer for local groups to obtain broadcasting licences, there cial, which he also scripted, and competitions that were was a stampede for them. running, and presenting his own programme. Norton had And the harsh discovery was soon made by a lot of left and, perhaps inevitably, a power struggle developed them that there was a world of difference between hoist and Jon found himself being pushed to the margins, with ing the Jolly Roger and scattering the big ships of RTE, the 8 to Midnight slot which had a zero listenership. and the specific qualities required to run a radio station. Characteristically, he took it as a challenge and before This grim realisation and how it was successfully coun long had made it one of the most popular shows on the tered is reflected in the development of Galway Bay FM. channel. Gradually and painfully lessons were learned. There With this success under his belt he was again offered was a time Clare FM and Mid West Radio had more lis the position of Controller of Music. He accepted this teners from the Galway area than the local station broad time, under the condition that he would have a free hand. casting from Sandy Road. Things were that bad. "I told them if it didn't work out, I would take full Today, it is fair to say, Galway Bay FM is one of the responsibility." Soon big changes were made: Galway leading local radio stations in the country. Its program Bay FM lost its reputation as an 'Oldies' station and grad ming is first-class, its presenters convey a relaxed pro ually he started introducing much more current music. It fessionalism, and it has won a large and loyal following worked. in and around Galway, making it certain that the future While he now had the authority to make changes in of our local station is very secure. the music side of things, he was still unable to have any One person who's been associated with the saga of impact on sloppy presentation and the overall program Galway's local station right from the beginning is Jon ming, which he found frustrating. So. once again, he Richards. It is difficult to find anyone who knows Jon took his courage in his hands and asked to be made who'll say a bad word against him. Even those who are Programme Controller. "But if you do", he said. "I only aware of his drive and ambition will first telfyou what a want the say in mainstream programming because I decent guy he is, willing to work long hours, to do the realised that Fergus Kennedy and Ita Kelly had their own unpopular shifts (while the rest of us were scoffing ways of doing things that I couldn't improve on." And so turkey and downing drink by the new time over it happened, and Galway Bay FM is currently regarded Christmas, Jon was manning the station. as one of the lop local radio stations around the country. Without for one minute disputing this explanation, the Out of the ashes arose the phoenix. other side of the coin is that, quite simply, Jon Richards Jon is happiest when he's behind a microphone, talking loves his job.In fact, he enjoys it so much he arranges his to his audience, whom he regards as a large group of whole life around it. Recently he took a week off. What friends. "If I have a gift, it's that I can speak in a relaxed did he do? "I rode my bike around, went to a few films, way without a script. It's because I really feel that I'm read a lot." But last Saturday when I spoke to him he was talking to people out there. I love phone-ins. I love doing still officially on holiday. So what was he doing at the outside broadcasts, talking to people on the street or met by the fledging station. Some of the major problems station? "I wanted to make sure the new playlists were under because Tuam couldn't support it. So the station wherever." ready for Monday, when I start back." He's also training migrated to Galway, on top of the Western Hotel, again had to do with confusion over who the listening audience W I 1 C I C * o far as the station is concerned. "1 regard them as a new presenter and he'd agreed to come in on Sunday to on Prospect Hill. Meanwhile Jon was busily gaining all was. After Jon - who was the first voice heard when the my family. I love coming in and pottering around, station opened for business - played Level 42's 'Running sorts of valuable experience in all aspects of radio. pick this up again as well. f".*. i n even when I don't have to I'm proud of the station, Then, in 1989, the Pirates were shut down and Jon was in the Family' and Bill Haley's 'Rock Around the Clock' o who is this workaholic, who looks absurdly and then Chief Executive roared in and told him if he and I'm determined to see it go on improving. If my job young to occupy such a senior and responsible suddenly out of work. He took various jobs to keep body ever played songs like that again he'd be out on his ear. is important to me, it's because it gives me the authority and soul together. "I'm especially grateful to Mike post? Actually he's 30 years old this year. Born and In its earliest incarnation. Radio West saw itself as a to make it the very best it can be. And I'm particularly Curran - otherwise known as 'Sammy' - of Lydons reared a Galwegian, he has the unique distinction of Country music station, despite the fact that, as Jon fortunate in being able to work with such a great bunch being the first baby boy to be baptised in the newly-com- Bakery, who got me into the routine of getting up at 5.00 of people." a.m. delivering bread. I was also pumping petrol at the realised from his previous experience, this sort of music pleted Cathedral by no less an ecclesiastic than Cardinal was minority interest. People who had known him from That's Jon Richards Whether he's sitting in the stu Esso Station up where the round-about is now." Cushing of Boston.X dio, introducing the latest record or talking to some Finally the Government passed the legislation to make his work with Pirate radio were confused, but Jon felt his He grew up in William Street west and went to St. one about whatever's on their minds, or riding radio licences available in August of 1990. Taking his hands were tied." Patrick's Primary School and then on to the 'Bish', where The station started to go downhill fast. There was a around on the back of his Honda Goldwing he did not do his Leaving Cert. "I got as close as three courage in his hands, he applied for the job of chief exec change of management, a new chief executive, and Aspencade (one of only three black models in the months to the exam and then I just decided that I didn't utive and was turned down flat. "I still have the letter of world - the other two are in California), advising refusal framed in my office!" Realising he had to set his things started to pick up a bit, but morale was poor, there need it." Naturally enough his family was somewhat less was no teamwork, and, most crucially, nobody was lis harassed motorists to avoid the traffic snarl on the than delighted by this move, but Jon held fast to it. After sights somewhat more modestly, he wrote in and said he tening out there in radioland. Then along came Peter Headford Road, he's doing what he loves doing. Jon really wanted a job as a presenter. working at a few jobs he set off to see the world. Norton, who has a refreshingly open approach. "He was Richards - the amiable and determinedly profession "I went in to see about arranging a time for an inter When he finally returned to Galway he was 19 years prepared to let the people who knew how to do the job al voice of Galway Bay FM old, with no real experience of anything to speak of, but view. I was wearing a string-vest tee-shirt, with hair doit." down to my shoulders, unshaven and smelling like a endowed with a remarkable degree of self-confidence, a





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