Radio legend Kevin Black dies

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Radio legend Kevin Black.  Photo /  Steven McNicholl
Radio legend Kevin Black. Photo / Steven McNicholl

New Zealand has lost its second prominent broadcaster in a month, with the sudden death of former Radio Hauraki breakfast host Kevin Black.

"Blackie", 69, died at his Remuera, Auckland, home last night following a suspected heart attack.

Tributes quickly flowed for the man who was once the highest-paid private radio DJ in New Zealand and was famous for his on-air pranks.

Many came from broadcasters still mourning the death of Sir Paul Holmes.

Black occupied the same timeslot as Holmes on Auckland's radiowaves, albeit on music stations - most famously Hauraki, and later Solid Gold and the Sound.

Kerre Woodham wrote on Twitter: "Oh no. We've lost another broadcasting legend ... Blackie was the first million dollar, Rolls Royce driving DJ. He was the eighties!"

The Radio Hauraki site simply said: "RIP Kevin Black, a true legend of broadcasting.

We owe you."

Neighbour Aline Sandilands said she was good friends with Black, wife Kristen and daughter Kandace, 14.

Ms Sandilands said she saw an ambulance outside the Black family home in Victoria Ave about 7.30pm.

"It's a tragedy - it's quite awful. He was truly a radio legend ... and such a great guy. We saw him every day. He was a great gardener, he loved it."

Ms Sandilands said it was understood Black was alone when he died, and was found by his family when they returned home.

"This evening we noticed the ambulance coming down. We went to see if we could help in any way - his family, as I understand it, they were out, and we believe they came back and they found that he'd collapsed."

On Twitter, broadcaster Mike Puru wrote: "Sad to hear about the loss of Kevin Black. Another legendary broadcaster who always had time for a great yarn. Thoughts are with his family."

Miles Davis of RadioLive tweeted: "Blackie, you were a ground-breaker, rebel and a radio legend. But most of all you were a great bloke. You will be greatly missed."

Radio host Dom Harvey said he was "devastated" by the death: "I love that man. At 14 I decided to get into radio because of him. So sad he's gone."

Broadcaster Lorna Subritzky expressed her sadness on Twitter: "RIP Kevin Black. Never forget working with you, you were a legend of broadcasting. Imagine the jocks meeting in heaven right now!"

Presenter Kate Hawkesby said: "Lost a neighbour & a friend last night, and yet another of Dad's mates, too soon. So very sad. RIP lovely Kevvy."

Black left Wellington's St Patrick's College - which he affectionately called Colditz Castle - at the age of 15 and travelled to the Prince of Wales Sea Training School in Dover, England.

It was in the British Merchant Navy, sailing to such exotic destinations as Brazil, Africa, the Persian Gulf and South-east Asia, that his interest in radio developed. The ships were divided into "the football freaks and guys of my own generation who'd come through the rock and roll thing" and put their own aerials up the mast to listen to the radio. It was the start of The Beatles era.

After five years at sea, Black was having a chat in a London pub one day when he got to talking to "someone who knew someone" at Radio Caroline, the world's first pirate station. He applied for a job, thinking they might have work for an able seaman. Instead, he landed a role selling promotions and doing production work. His broadcasting career had started.

Later, on a trip home for Christmas, he was downing a drink in Wellington when he learned the old state-owned New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation was auditioning for announcers. He applied, and was accepted.

Black began his New Zealand broadcasting career as a radio "floater" in Dunedin. He also read the television news.

He was transferred to Auckland, did drive-time on ZM and floated to ZB.

Then Hauraki pioneer David Gapes tempted him to switch to private broadcasting. That was in 1976.

Black went on to become famous for his breakfast show's "inspired lunacy", keeping the city's Weet-Bix munchers rolling around in fits of laughter with fellow presenters such as Phil "Loosehead Len" Gifford and John Hawkesby. The show pulled in 160,000 Aucklanders every morning.

In the 1980s, Black left Hauraki in a blaze of publicity to set up 89FM with other ex-Hauraki guys. Josh Easby, Black's one-time boss at Hauraki, said he introduced something that was different to breakfast radio.

"He was a very talented broadcaster, who took breakfast radio to a new level.

"He was a naturally talented guy who instinctively knew how to entertain.

"He said things that had people talking about what he'd done."

Black also had two adult children, Kyran and Xavier.

- NZ Herald

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