2UE radio host Gary O'Callaghan dead at 83

Gary O'Callaghan on air at 2UE in 1978.
Gary O'Callaghan on air at 2UE in 1978.

Veteran Sydney broadcaster Gary O'Callaghan has died at the age of 83, according to reports.

Sydney radio station 2GB announced Mr O'Callaghan's death on Saturday morning, prompting tributes on social media.

He worked for 2UE for almost 50 years, between 1956 and 2003, and after that on 2SM.

He was well known for his long running and ratings winning breakfast show on 2UE, and earlier in his career for his coverage of the Petrov Affair in the 1950s.

Mr O’Callaghan had over 160 survey wins spanning 45 years. He earned the silver Raward three times in the seventies, was awarded an MBE, was named Father of the Year and won the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.

"Saddened to hear of passing of the great Gary O'Callaghan. Loved listening to him & Sammy Sparrow & honoured to be on air with him at 2UE," 4BC Brisbane operations manager Mark Braybrook said on Twitter.

Most recently Mr O’Callaghan and his wife lived at Wauchope, on the NSW Mid North Coast, near Port Macquarie.

Republished below is an article from January 25, 2015

Gary O'Callaghan in the 1980s. Photo: Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media

Gary O'Callaghan in the 1980s. Photo: Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media

Radio 2UE celebrates 90th birthday: Gary O'Callaghan joins outside broadcast

After decades of covering the events that shaped Sydney, 2UE will be the centre of attention on Monday when the radio station celebrates its 90th birthday.

In nine decades spanning from the Great Depression, World War II through to the present,  2UE, Sydney's oldest commercial radio station, has successfully gone through numerous changes.

When the station began broadcasting  from the Maroubra home of founder C.V. Stevenson in 1925, times were different.

It was just 10 years since the battle of Gallipoli, the Harbour Bridge was still being built, and a plot of Sydney land only cost 75 pounds.

Over its history, the station has pioneered news reporting, talkback radio and music charts.

Gary O'Callaghan, radio host on the station from 1956 to 2003, joined the station as groundbreaking changes in reporting and programming were being made.

"When I started you played records at the start, then announced and got on with the rest of the show," he said.

Two years after his exclusive radio coverage of the Petrov affair two years, O'Callaghan became part of the station's move to report local events in real time.

"When I started to do breakfast I was really interested in what was happening in Sydney, [so] when we moved to our studio in North Sydney I used to always look out the window and describe what I was seeing," he said.

O'Callaghan was also the first to report on traffic conditions by keeping a police radio handy, something today's commuters take for granted.

The station soon started investing in ways to better report the news. In 1957, a Holden station wagon became the station's roving news van, so reporters could do live crosses on the radio even when the car was in motion. Soon after, the news team took to the skies in a Cessna plane, reporting on beach and crowd conditions on flights between Cronulla and Palm Beach.

A basic form of talkback radio was introduced at this time, with listener feedback read by hosts on air. It was not until 1967 that broadcaster Ormsby Wilkins had the first two-way conversation on air.

O'Callaghan said he believes talkback creates important radio,  despite it taking a while to find an audience at the station, .

"It's a talent, and it exposes many things you wouldn't normally get in news," he said.

"I think talkback has a great market, and it helps people keep their eyes on things."

Music on radio was also diversified at 2UE,  with O'Callaghan and hosts John Laws, Bob Rogers and Ward Austin starting the Top 40 music chart in 1958. The list was decided by song sales and public opinion as well as input from the hosts.

For O'Callaghan, broadcasting at 2UE holds fond memories, with memorable characters - Sammy Sparrow being a highlight. Sammy was a fictional bird who became a household name by flying into Mr O'Callaghan's studio during his breakfast program, the top rating show in the 60s.

"Sammy Sparrow made me popular because I said all the things I wanted to say," O'Callaghan said.

"I had a lot of fun, it beat working!" he said, reflecting on his close to six decades in the radio business.

2UE will celebrate its 90th birthday on Australia Day with live broadcast from Queens Square in Macquarie Street from 5am on Australia Day. O'Callaghan will join John Stanley and Garry Linnell in the studio from 8am.