“Good evening, citizens.” Those are the words that a generation of New Zealanders who love music will forever associate with Barry Jenkin, aka Dr Rock, the broadcaster who once held one of the most powerful positions in the country’s music industry.
He has died at the age of 75. His daughter, Andrea, announced the news on a Facebook page for fans of Jenkin.
“Sad to say dad has died at 4.30 today, 16 May, 2023,” she wrote.
“He’s lived exactly as he chose to. To the full, larger than life, belligerently listening to punk. Barry Jenkin, aka Dr. Rock, is dead. His legend lives on.”
Over the course of his four-decade broadcasting career, Jenkin ardently supported everyone from The Stones to The Cure while also lending his voice to a sizable number of television voiceovers.
In the late 1960s, Jenkin received training as an announcer for the NZ Broadcasting Corporation. He spent three years working at Palmerston North radio station 2ZA before returning to Auckland and joining 1ZM.
Jenkin alternated long shifts with the state-controlled ZM and Radio Hauraki in the 1970s, a time when Radio Hauraki frequently dominated the Auckland market.
Jenkin acquired the opportunity to play mainly what he wanted. It’s also where he received the nickname that most people would come to know him by, coined by DJ/ programme director Fred Botica - Dr Rock.
The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen soon had exclusive early exposure from Jenkin on the 1251ZM midnight to dawn radio slot, which he co-hosted with Andrew Page. Many of the local musicians were listening intently. Jenkin was permitted to scour the local record store shelves for punk and new wave performers thanks to friends in the music business.
Popular New Zealand music commentator, musician and good friend of Jenkin, Simon Grigg, remembered fondly in a Facebook post a time in the late 1970s when they gatecrashed his radio show.
“I remember a night, sometime in September 1977, when Jim Salter, William ‘Billy Planet’ Pendergrast, Buster Stiggs and myself gatecrashed your show one evening at Radio Hauraki with a handful of punk 45s,” Grigg wrote.
“You were gracious and open-minded and had not undergone your punk epiphany (that came later with The Scavengers).”
“What awful news. You changed lives, you changed what we listened to and opened door after door, but mostly you were just one hell of a guy and I’m proud to have called you ‘friend’ for four and a half decades.”
Jenkin burned his bridges in the 1980s and gave up DJ-ing and music (he claims to have been let go by five radio stations). He jumped right into doing voice-overs. Advertising agencies, film studios, and corporate video producers “discovered that Jenkin’s gruff tones and measured delivery had many uses”, according to Bryan Staff.
In 2004, Jenkin purchased his own station on Waiheke Island but reportedly said there wasn’t space in the market against the big onshore companies.
“The local economy didn’t need it - particularly not what I wanted to play,” he told the Aucklander.
Jenkin’s legacy in the music industry will undoubtedly live on, but for now, it is a final good evening, citizens.