Donnie Sutherland's Horse Racing Annual
Donnie Sutherland OAM CM
After leaving school at age 14 Donnie became an apprentice jockey unfortunately increasing weight ended that career.
He then joined a band and by day drove trucks. When the band split Donnie decided to become a radio announcer.
In 1968 while working as a disc jockey in a Kings Cross night Club/Disco, he also began as a Music Columnist with Australia’s first Music Magazine Go Set.
In 1969 he releases his first solo single titled Fairyland as a promotional Tool.
Fairyland was Australia’s first stereo single, a techno idea, the single charted in the 30’s, in the top 40 charts of the day. His next step was to join Sydney’s leading top 40 Music Radio Station 2UW. He became part of the team known as the 11-10 Men. 11-10 being the stations number on the AM dial. In doing so he became one of the first ever radio announcers to begin in Sydney Radio without spending years on Country Radio. In 1971 he co-hosted a segment on NSW TV, the show was “Happening 71“ on Channel 10 with Dal Myles. After a short stint on Brisbane Radio 4BK, Donnie in 1972 returned to Sydney and joined “Graham Webbs” Small production team putting together Grahams “Baby”. The first ever in the world (“Music Radio with Pictures”). Film clip TV, called The Graham Webb Saturday show.
Graham would use clips from Music Movies and he had a friend Russel Mulcahy who worked in the news area of the TV station Channel 7 who put together film clips for the current hits of the day.
In those days film clips for record releases were unheard of. Graham Webbs idea changed all that – Film later became video and today DVDs. Graham’s team then expanded to a daily music TV show “Scene@5”. This caused a ripple in the music business and in 1974 countdown was launched by the ABC.
Graham had invented what was to become a world wide phenomenon. In 1974 Graham was the 1st person in Australia to play ABBA. Their film clip from the Eurovision Song Contest of “Mamma Mia” was history making and kicked of a huge career for the group.
Donnie’s biggest break came when Channel 7’s General Manager Ted Thomas suggested a new music clip show to welcome in colour TV in Australia. The show “Sounds Unlimited” was hosted by Donnie and executive producer was Graham Webb. “Sounds Unlimited” ran from 10am till 12 noon Saturday March 1st 1975 on that historic day.
It was the first full colour TV show (No black and white). Officially, in Australia all other TV shows on the day were a mixture of black and white and colour.
The shows title was soon shortened to “SOUNDS” and the show was given a 1 hour extension. Sounds ran 3 hours weekly for (just 2 weeks short of 13 years) 52 weeks a year. Still Australia’s longest running hosted music show ever!. In that time Donnie boasts doing over 5000 Interviews and there were many firsts. He did the 1st interviews on TV with hundreds of local acts. He was the first on oz TV to speak with Kiss, Dire Straits, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Laura Branigan, Peter Allen, Adam Ant, Herb Alpert, Eric Burdon, Bill Wyman, Frank Zappa, Robert Plant, George Benson, Debbie Harry, Boney M, Kim Carnes, Phil Collins, Joe cocker, John Denver, Ian Dury, Duran Duran, Dr Hook, Eurythmics, Hall and Oates, Cyndi Lauper, KC and the Sunshine Band, Madonna, The Osmonds, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, Davey Jones, Dionne Warwick and dozens more.
His exclusives include Midnight Oil (Peter wouldn’t be interviewed on any other music show). Elton John (after the cancellation of the huge Symphony Orchestra Tour). He did the last interview with Sting, who was leaving Police in fact most performers who toured Australia from 1975 to early 88 were interviewed by Donnie.
He hosted Dragons 1st live concert in Australia, the first for Joe Dolce’, the last for Split Enz and The Models and Johnny O’Keefes last TV appearance was on sounds, 2 days before his untimely death.
To highlight his versatility in the mid 70’s Donnie was a voice of Channel 7 for a few years doing both announcing during daytime television shows. In the late 70’s and early 80’s he featured as the audience warm up guy ‘For this is your life” episodes hosted by “Roger Climpson” and Mike Willesee.
Another 1st for Donnie took place in the early 80s when he and his team did a 3 hour Sounds show from the newsroom in Los Angeles via satellite. This was a difficult production technically done live on a Friday early evening USA time back to Sydney Australia between 9am and midday Saturday our time. It went off without a hitch. Special guests on that historic broadcast are members of the Doobie Brothers, The Sparks, Martha Davis,The Tubes, Kim Carnes, Lindsay Buckingham, and our own Divinyls, Mark Holden and Rick Springfield. Another historic event took place in 1984 when Sounds won Bronze at the New York film and television awards. Sounds won the award in The Best Music TV Show in the World category, with a show done on Great Keppel Island.
M.T.VS producers came to Australia in 1983. Viewed both sounds and countdown in production and proceeded to put a music channel to air 24/7 shortly after! Over a decade after Graham Webb first launched his “baby” - “Music with Pictures”
Through the 70s and 80s, Donnie on Sounds heavily promoted hundreds of Aussie and NZ Acts as well as through a second TV show = “After Dark” a weekly newspaper column in the Sunday Sun Herald, through Radio Programs, Columns in various magazines, at Disco’s as a guest DJ and thru interviews shown in flight on Australia’s TAA Airlines. Nobody promoted more Aussie and Kiwi acts in the 70s and 80s than Donnie. Sounds, was a ratings winner all those years boasting 60% to 80% of all available viewers week in and week out. The most watched show for all of its 13 years on Saturday mornings! Donnie’s radio career began in the 60s with 2UW, over the years he worked on 4BK Brisbane, 2GB and 2UE. In the 90’s through till 2004, he worked for the then Racing Radio Station 2KY. It was over his years with 2KY that he put together a book on Horse Racing that did very well on release. Highlight of his radio years was when Ricky May lined him up a Guest Spot for a 3 hour shift on BBC Radio London with an audience of around 14 million.
In 2000 Donnie was awarded the OAM medal for his promotion of local talent for decades and for his undying work for charities. In 2003 he was awarded the Centenary Medal (C.M) for his contribution to Australian Society! Next Australia Day would have been Donnie’s 16th year as an Australian Day Ambassador, popping up all over the country every January the 26th.
Unfortunately, Donnie won’t be out there this Australia Day, as he recuperates in Hospital following major surgery in December.
He wishes everyone the best for the ‘festive season’ and will see you all in 2015.