DAVEY, JACK (1907–59)
Known as ‘Mr Radio’ during the ‘golden age’ of Australian commercial radio in the 1940s and 1950s, Jack Davey was an enduringly popular announcer and entertainer. Born in New Zealand, he arrived in Sydney in 1931, originally finding employment as a crooner on Sydney’s 2BL. Hired by 2GB in 1932, he quickly established himself as a radio voice within the staple programming formats of the time: breakfast show, daytime quiz show, evening variety program. His strengths as a host and announcer were his warm, engaging voice, his lively personality, his quick wit and his ability to improvise. He established the welcoming phrase ‘Hi, Ho! Everybody!’ as his distinctive call sign during his time at 2GB.
The height of Davey’s fame coincided with the high-profile radio productions produced by the Colgate–Palmolive Radio Production Unit in the 1940s. From 1941, Davey was director of productions and host of a number of Colgate–Palmolive shows, including The Youth Show and Calling the Stars. The variety and quiz shows produced during this period were often recorded before live audiences of up to 2000 people each week at venues such as Sydney’s Trocadero Ballroom. As the host and central figure of these grand productions, Davey was associated with the glamour of commercial radio. He was known as the highest-paid radio personality in Australia: in 1950, his contract with the Macquarie Network was worth £13,000 per year at a time when the prime minister’s salary was just £3000. Davey’s extravagant lifestyle—nightclubs, gambling, parties, expensive cars and a cruiser—was heavily publicised.
After serving as a field entertainer during the latter stages of World War II, Davey moved with the Colgate–Palmolive Unit to 2UE in 1946, returning to 2GB in 1950 as director of radio productions. He also worked in other media, including as commentator for Fox Movietone News (1933–57). He wrote a regular newspaper column, and in 1945 published a book, Hi, Ho! Everybody!
During the 1950s, Davey conducted a public rivalry with radio quiz-master Bob Dyer. The advent of television proved more favourable for Dyer’s scripted delivery than Davey’s more spontaneous approach: three television programs Davey made for ATN7 were not successful. They coincided with poor health and the exertions of his lifestyle: in this last stage of his career, he epitomised the classic radio star unable to make the transition to television.
REF: L. Wright, The Jack Davey Story (1961).