I was born, bred, and an attempt was made to educate me in Johannesburg, although I did spend quite a bit of time in the U.K. when I was young - my roots aren't quite cockney, but very South London.
Unlike Chris [Prior]
, I did do National Service (what ballot??) - 18 months in the Navy, and enjoyed most of it thoroughly. In fact, at one point, I seriously considered making a career out of it!
While in Cape Town, I met a TV cameraman doing documentaries all over the country ... seemed like a cool job.
Up until then, all I had wanted to do was become a vet or a game ranger (I'm a bit animal mad!), but considering I'd just scraped through matric by the skin of my teeth, years of studying didn't hold much attraction for me. I left the Navy, goofed off for a couple of months and then phoned the SABC. I was told there were no training courses for TV for six months or so, but a radio sound engineer's course was starting the next month. I figured ... why not get a foot in the door and move over to TV when I can? Besides, I was flat broke!
After completing the training, I was put to work on Radio RSA, the SABC's external service, broadcasting all over the world ... in 12 different languages. I was hooked!! ... the TV idea was put on hold ... permanently, as it turned out. It was a great training ground - I worked on everything from actuality shows to top 20's. I also got to learn from some of the best 'old school' names in the business ... David Hall-Green, Michael de Morgan, Henry Vaughn and Colin Fluxman. I also got to know John Berks quite well - lovely guy, but behind a mic, totally insane! I remember John telling me once ... "On TV, you appeal to two senses, sight and hearing, but you only take your audience as far as the screen in front of them. On radio, even though you only use one sense, you can take your audience anywhere!!" Profound stuff!
Four years down the line and after lots of encouragement from colleagues, I auditioned for the job of Presenter/Producer. Ironically, the day I got the appointment, I resigned to join Capital Radio. I arrived in Port St Johns in late 1979 and proceeded to learn more about radio in 4 months than I'd learnt in 4 years! It was a bit like the defence force ... you remember the good times, but you wouldn't necessarily want to do it again! After 3 years 'on the beach,' I was quite relieved when Capital opened studios in Jo'burg and I moved back to the land of tarred roads, running water, constant electricity and a telephone system that worked!
At the end of the eighties, I got out of radio completely for about 9 months and worked for a special effects company ... great fun building things ... and then blowing them up, but I missed radio terribly, so when I heard that Radio 5 (in those days) was looking for presenters, I applied, and a week later, I was on air.
I did various shows over the years, playing a lot of hard rock and metal, which got me lots of flack from management, and also the nick name 'metalhead' ... thanks Barney! Finally, at the end of 2002, 5FM's management decided I was too old, and I wasn't playing enough techno and Britney, and I was dumped. In between the 5FM stuff, I also worked part-time at the Transvaal Snake Park - I've always been fascinated by reptiles and I got to play with things like alligators and really big anacondas ... bled a lot, but loved it!
I share my house with a boerbull called Clapton and 15 snakes. I build models (I'm into z-scale model trains at the moment) and I collect antique weapons - mainly British swords and bayonets ... strange I never married, hey?
-- Phil Wright, 7th February 2006