Fade to Black: broadcasting community loses another stalwart

It hasn’t been a particularly good month for old broadcasters—or for new broadcasters, for that matter—and, following on from the recent death of Sir Paul Holmes, radio luminary Kevin Black passed away last night at the age of 69 from a suspected heart attack.

Renowned for his booming voice, his prank calls on Radio Hauraki (hear him talk about the recent Kate Middleton prank call debacle with Mike Hosking here), and his rumoured salary of $300,000 when he left his slot on Hauraki for 89FM in 1987, he was one of the country’s first big radio personalities. He was also a bit of a cad and he certainly lived a ‘full life’, as the euphemism goes. And, judging by some of the comments following the news, he was certainly well-loved by his some of his colleagues. 

According to a story on the Newstalk ZB website, former Radio Hauraki morning show colleague and friend John Hawkesby, says ‘Blackie’ “was a slightly naughty boy, but he would give you the shirt off his back. He was just a lovely, lovely, genuine guy … His wife would be ringing at 5 to 6, ‘where’s Kevin, he didn’t come home last night?’ At 1 minute to 6, Kevin would come crashing into the studio looking somewhat worse for wear, turn the mic on with no prep and do an absolute blinder of a show.”

Another former Hauraki colleague, Phil Gifford, told Newstalk ZB his prank calls were legendary.

“One of the things about Blackie’s candid calls, unlike some of the more recent ones ended tragically, was that they always were extremely good natured and extremely good humoured at heart, and extremely funny. The biggest thing about the man, really, was that there was not a malicious bone in the guy’s body. He was one of the nicest men who ever drew breath. That, I imagine, is one of the reasons he was so extraordinarily popular.”

Post radio, he was a director of Nucleer, which “developed an innovative composite product – Nucleer NC007 – that can be moulded to any shape and is lightweight, durable and price competitive to manufacture”, alongside Geoff Thorpe. 

For a taste of the cheeky character behind what Hawkesby calls an “interesting, mischievous voice”, check out Michelle Hewitson’s interview with him from 2011. 

UPDATE: Here’s a few recollections from MediaWorks’ Radio’s chief executive Belinda Mulgrew.

A foundation breakfast host of Solid Gold FM, Kevin Black was a leading member of the Solid Gold team for 12 years, and a valued friend and colleague to many of the MediaWorks family.

Blackie epitomised radio, and his work inspired many of today’s radio announcers to take up radio broadcasting as a career.

He was incredibly generous with his knowledge and time, making himself available to mentor many of our young broadcasters.  Blackie had a keen eye for talent and would seek out young people whom he could take under his wing and assist in their radio careers.

His legendary, wicked sense of humour, quick thinking and love of listeners were key attributes in an enormously successful radio career. 

Industry accolades included recognition for Outstanding Contribution to Radio at the 2000 NZ Radio Awards, and the special award for Services to Broadcasting in 2010.

Blackie will be much missed by his friends and colleagues.  The thoughts of everyone at MediaWorks are with Kevin’s family and friends at this sad time.

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