|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Obituaries|
STAN "THE MAN" ROFE
Died 15 May 2003, Melbourne
Stan The Man (second from left) interviews The Rolling Stones in 1965.
[Photo: Laurie Richards]
Stanley Rofe was a radio legend and a rock music icon. He was Melbourne's first rock'n'roll disc jockey and pop's most influential radio personality for more than twenty years. Stan dominated Melbourne's airwaves through the late 1950s, the 1960s and the early 1970s and his influence extended nationally through his columns in Go-Set.
In more than two decades on air, Stan was beaten in the ratings only twice and his legendary 3KZ show 'Platter Parade', was both compulsory listening for a generation of Melburians and the launch pad for dozens of music careers.
Stan's biggest discovery was Normie Rowe, Australia's top male singing star of the mid-1960s. Normie was just 14 when Stan spotted him singing at a school dance. He introduced him to promoters and arranged for him to appear with established bands of the era. Stan also suggested the choice Normies first single, It Ain't Necessarily So, which became a smash hit and launched his career.
Stan is also credited with launching John Farnham's recording career thanks to a clever piece of reverse psychology he used on John's first hit, Sadie The Cleaning Lady. Radio stations at first rejected the song, labelling it "too corny", but Stan devised a plan with Farnham's manager, the late Darryl Sambell, to deliberately denigrate the song every time he played it. The plan worked like a charm and each time Stan canned the record, scores of listeners would call in to support it, thus generating the buzz that helped pushed it up to the top of the charts.
Music industry figures remembered Stan as a champion of Australian music, a pioneer who played songs other DJs were too scared to play. His tireless support of Australian music and local performers was directly responsible for boosting the careers of scores of Australasian performers and making their songs into hits. Acts like The Masters Apprentices and MPD Ltd owe much of their success to the airplay Stan gave to their records, and many performers benefited from his advice and his encyclopedic knowledge of music.
Dave Miller, leader of Sydney's Dave Miller Set, says that Stan was the only Melbourne DJ who played their singles at a time when the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry was still a force to be reckoned with in pop music. Margret RoadKnight recently told MILESAGO that it was Stan's support that gave her a hit with her classic single Girls In Our Town in 1975. He liked the song and decided to put it onto low rotation for three weeks, in which time it raced up the charts and made it into the Top 20, which in turn led to further national exposure with an appearance on Countdown.
Ian "Molly" Meldrum, who grew to love rock and pop music after listening to Rofe's shows as a teenager, said: "You would listen to him not only to be up with the top 40, as it was known back then, but also you knew this man would play music you'd never heard before."
Friend and promoter Brian de Courcy said simply: "If it wasn't for Stan I wouldn't be in the business."
A trend setter, talent spotter and mentor to musicians and other DJs, Rofe started his radio career in 1956 as an announcer with 3AK before moving to 3XY alongside Bert Newton when the station broadcast out of The Age building in Spencer Street.
After initially playing records by artists such as Doris Day, Stan was one of the first Australian DJs to play rock'n'roll. He got access to the latest records after arranging with Qantas pilots to bring in new singles from the USA and Britain.
Stan went on to work at 3KZ in the Trades Hall building in Carlton, before moving to 3UZ and returning to 3XY as music director in the 1970s. He made forays into TV, appearing on Uptight and Happening '70, and his popularity was recognised when he was crowned King of Moomba in 1968. He was wrote a long-running column for Go-Set, Australia's pop music 'bible' of the '60s and '70s. Stan met, interviewed and became close friends with many top international acts including The Rolling Stones.
But generations of musicians will remember him best as adviser, mentor and guru. He helped start Johnny O'Keefe's career when he was the first DJ to play O'Keefe's first record, You Hit the Wrong Note Billy Goat, and recommending he cover the Isley Brothers' Shout, which became JOK's signature hit. Johnny Chester, the Thunderbirds, Ronnie Burns and Russell Morris also credit Rofe for advice and direction.
"He would encourage young groups to pursue their careers, and he would try and find a gig for them through the influential promoters he knew," said Meldrum, whom Rofe dubbed "Molly" when they worked together at Go-Set magazine. "At times he would actually pay money out of his own pocket, which today is unheard of."
"He was an exceptional, warm man," said singer Russell Morris, who credits Rofe for suggesting he do a cover of Hush, the first hit for his band, Somebody's Image's. "He was such a huge star, but his door would always be open for any 16-year-old kid who came into his studio with a record."
In 1994, Rofe's services to the music industry were honoured when the Australian Record Industry Association presented him with a special achievement award. Ultimately, he will be remembered as a man passionate about his music.
Meldrum said: "For a man who was held in such high esteem to be so humble and helpful was very rare."
Broadcaster Bill Page paid this tribute to Stan:
"Stan [the man] Rofe was an absolute legend of a radio broadcaster. He is best remembered for his music shows on 3KZ and 3UZ in Melbourne during the 50's and 60's."Stan died at his home in Melbourne on 15 May 2003, aged 69, after a long battle with cancer.
"I was lucky enough to work with Stan at my very first job in radio at 3UZ and he had a profound influence on my radio career. This was the man who played Aretha Franklin,Wilson Pickett, The Temptations, Four Tops, Arthur Conley, Joe Tex etc etc long before it was fashionable to do so. Prior to that of course, he had a major influence on the careers of Merv Benton, Lynne Randell, Peter Doyle, Normie Rowe and many, many other Australian acts of the time."
"Stan Rofe taught me more about music than any other person I ever came in contact with in the radio business ... and I remain deeply grateful to him for that. Stan supported Australian music staunchly, and was generous in giving advice and of his time. He gave me an understanding about just how important the music was in radio, something I always tried to remember during my radio life."
"Stan Rofe was a true legend and a great person."
References / Links
Photo by Laurie Richards, Laurie
Richards Photographic Collection, Victorian Performing Arts Museum.
Sourced from the 'Rock Snaps' website: