History – The life and times of John Knox

By Neil Wilson - Sub Editor for the Bribie Islander

History. Bribie Island. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical people.

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From the time of the first experimental commercial radio broadcast in the very early 1900’s, we have relied on that faceless voice coming through the speaker to provide us with entertainment and more importantly, the news of the day and whilst some of those who sit behind the microphone only work in the industry for a short time, there are others who dedicate the majority of their working life to radio.

Featured Image(above): Knoxy’s career included time at some of the most popular stations.

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to tell you about a member of our local community who is recognised as having had one of the longest radio careers on record, the rather extraordinary Mr John Knox. Born in Sydney and educated in Brisbane at the Anglican Church Grammar School, John began his working life as a clerk at the Shell Company in Melbourne and, although his dream had always been to work as an aviator, he had not pursued the idea due to believing that his sight was not ideal.

He did, however, become a qualified Private Pilot, flying Tiger Moths at the Royal Victorian Aero Club. Following a discussion with his father (an Australian Army Major) about an ideal career, John applied for a placement at the Officer Cadet School in Portsea and was accepted. However, whilst waiting for an answer from the school, John’s career ambitions had taken another turn. ‘During my time at school in Brisbane, my friend Frank Adler (who went on to own Adler Electronics) was employed as a panel operator at radio station 4BC and I had visited the station to see what he actually did,’ said John. ‘I came away with the impression that this was quite a good atmosphere to work in and had made a decision to enter the industry.

I enrolled in the Vincent School of Broadcasting in 1957 and when I told my father, he was absolutely mortified that I was not going to follow in his footsteps,’ he explained. As a fledgling radio announcer, John spent three years at the Griffith station 2RG and after a while, began to send written requests for a job at Radio 4BH in Brisbane which finally resulted in him moving back to the Sunshine State in 1960 to become the host of “Ring-A-Request,” an afternoon program that played requests from listeners.

‘Back then we had a record library and when someone asked for a particular song, the staff in the library would have to find that record and bring it to the panel operator in the studio,’ said John. ‘These days, it’s all done by the push of a button,’ he added. During his time at 4BH, John was approached by Frank Moore, a director of the Central Broadcasting Network which operated stations at Longreach and Mt Isa.

He accepted a deal which would result in him becoming the Assistant Manager at 4LG in Longreach before returning to Brisbane and taking up the role of Chief Announcer/Breakfast at 4IP prior to a move into news. During the stint in Longreach, John discovered his love for station secretary Valma and the couple were married that year. Val and John had previously met in Brisbane when Val was the Sales Supervisor for Channel Nine. John pointed out that Val was actually the second member of staff at the television station and prior to that had worked at an advertising agency where she was the one who has come up with the well-known slogan, “Everybody Dotes On Uncle Toby’s Oats.”

Naturally, as a news reader, John has reported on both good and not so good events and he told me that, just as he was getting out of bed to start his morning shift at 4IP, he heard two loud thumps and this was the sound of the explosions which caused the 1972 Box Flat Mine disaster that resulted in the immediate loss of seventeen lives and another worker succumbing to his injuries at a later date. ‘I spent the whole day at the site sending reports back to the station and I was there when the trucks sealed the entrance,’ John recalled.

History. Bribie Island. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical people.

John showed me some of his many awards

‘I became a member of the disaster relief committee after that and, as an interesting turn of fate, I also flew to Kianga to report on the 1975 mine disaster there and became a member of the disaster committee there,’ he said. It was during his time at 4IP that John joined with Jim Illiffe and Ivor Hancock to run “Air- TV,” one of the country’s most influential radio schools and shaped the careers of many high profile personalities including Andrew Lofthouse, Jackie McDonald, Kerri- Anne Kennerley and Ian Skippen.

In 1979, John and quite a few other 4IP staff made the move to 4BK and remained reading through the station’s conversion to B105 in the 1990’s. He was the first newsreader for the new FM station and worked with the “Morning Crew” which included Ian Skippen and Jamie Dunn. Moving on from B105, “Knoxy” as he was affectionately known, spent a short period with Sea-FM before beginning what he describes as perhaps the most enjoyable fifteen years of his time in radio as news reader at 4KQ.

I asked John if there were any special times in his career (I knew there would be) and he recalled the time when he missed a particular interview. ‘It was getting close to that time of year when stations play all the old favourite Christmas songs and many of them are sung by Bing Crosby. I spent a week tracking him down so I could arrange an interview by phone,’ said John. ‘Due to my association with the RAAF base at Amberley, (Air Show Commentator and honorary member of the Officer’s Mess) a friend on the base had previously promised to arrange for me to go for a flight in an F111.

As luck would have it, on the morning of the arranged interview with Bing, my friend rang to tell me that there was a seat waiting for me in an F111 and to get to the base as soon as possible so I obviously chose that over the interview and before I had another opportunity, he died on a golf course in Spain,’ he told me. Val and John also told me that during a Lions Club charity day which the station attended, John did a broadcast from within a Bullen’s Circus lion cage with a lion as company.

The things that people do, wow! John made the decision to hang up the mike in 2006 and in the final week of his career, there were many calls from listeners and industry personalities including Jamie Dunn, Kay McGrath and former owner of 4IP, Sir Frank Moore who all wanted the chance to wish him well. On his final day, there was staff from other radio stations, television station presenters and other well known Brisbane personalities at 4KQ. ‘Among the many phone calls that I received, Peter Beattie rang to say a few really nice things and the Mayor, Campbell Newman called,’ John said.

History. Bribie Island. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical people.

At this time, the number one hit was The Pushbike Song by The Mixtures

‘He wished me well and then said that as thanks for what I have done for Brisbane, he would like me to accept the keys to the City of Brisbane. He also arranged for a small private reception in my honour,’ he added. Over his stellar career, John was recognised in 1981 as the Time Club’s Goldie Award winner for Top Male Announcer and he was one of four inaugural members of the Queensland Time Club Hall of Fame for Services to the Broadcasting Industry in 1993. In 2003, he received the Centenary Medal for Long Service to Radio Broadcasting and when speaking of the award, 4KQ General Manager Peter Verhoeven said that the staff at the station are all very proud of John’s achievements and his well-deserved recognition. ‘Considering John’s contribution to broadcasting, I am just delighted that he has been recognised for his service to the industry, for nurturing young people and his continued support for charity,’ said Mr Verhoeven.

From when he began flying Tiger Moths in Melbourne, John has maintained an active role in aviation, continuing to fly a variety of aircraft including times when he flew TV reporters to their destinations. He has also taken the role of MC at many air shows both in Queensland and interstate and he recently compared the TAVAS Great War Flying Display at the Caboolture Airfield. He is a qualified glider pilot and, along with this, is the regular Friday tow plane pilot for the Caboolture Gliding Club.

Since retiring to the area in 2006, John has not only involved himself with the local aviation community but has also become an avid member of Toastmasters and a good friend to all who know him. I can only finish off by saying that Knoxy is a man who has had an extraordinary career and this community is fortunate that he and Val have chosen to be a part.

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A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.