How did it all start? Craig “Huggy” Huggins, Sacha French and Michelle Anderson reveal their lucky breaks into radio
For all of the thousands of people working in radio, there are just as many stories as to how they got there.
Some of us have forged careers behind the mic or behind the scenes. But was it always a dream or was it a lucky accident?
Gold104.3 FM’s morning announcer Craig “Huggy” Huggins was part of Melbourne’s legendary 3XY line-up. He was a jock at EON FM and later Triple M, before moving to KZFM as it morphed into Gold FM.
Huggy’s entry into radio reads like a movie script, where a young teen chases his dream to on-air success.
“Mine was an interesting start. I won the ‘3XY Junior Disc Jockey’ competition where I had to pretend to be a DJ at a couple of shopping centres, writing ads, playing and introducing songs.”
“Part of the prize was a 10-minute spot with Greg Evans on his show. I ended up staying on for about an hour ‘cos they liked what I was doing. About two weeks later I got a call from 3XY’s Program Director Greg Smith (who later created Austereo) asking if I’d like to trial as a mid-dawner.”
“At 16, my daily life was on-air 1am-5am, jog or ride my bike 9km home to Coburg, sleep ‘til 8.30am and then go to school. I’d go back to 3XY to learn the ropes, tram back home for dinner, footy training every second night and then back on-air at 1am.”
“By the fifth week I was offered the job, and I was also doing the weekend breakfast show on Melbourne’s then number one station. I was suddenly a hit with the girls at school!”
Hughesy and Kate’s long-time producer Sacha French fell into radio, while still living in New Zealand. She crossed the ditch and became their producer with the launch of Nova 100 in 2001.
“I’d never thought about radio as a career until I was at university doing an Arts Degree and saw the 89X Black Thunders drive past. I was looking for a summer job and thought handing out cans of coke in a skimpy outfit (it was the 90s) could be fun.”
“After my first day at the radio station I was hooked. Being part of the street team was a great way to get into radio. It gave me the chance to see different areas of the radio station and figure out what I wanted to do. I did a bit of on-air presenting but quickly realised I was more suited to behind the scenes.”
“I moved to Christchurch to do a broadcasting degree at the NZ Radio School and was lucky enough to get a job answering phones on the 91ZM breakfast show while I was still studying.”
“I also did music research at night, produced a weekend gardening show on the talkback station, street team and any other job that was going. I lived in a share house with other radio students, so it’s fair to say that for those two years I lived and breathed radio.”
“25 years on and I’m still just as excited to go into work every day.”
Being a member of a ‘street crew’ seems to have given a lot of people their chance at being on air.
River 94.9’s Michelle Anderson also started doing live crosses and giving out icy-cold cans of Coke as a Casanova – the Nova 100 street team.
It eventually led to stints across the Nova network along the eastern seaboard and also with Triple M in Sydney and Brisbane. But it wasn’t something she was expecting.
“I was actually at a point in my life when I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I’d got a degree in Communications and I was like ‘I’m not really enjoying this’.”
“I’d done print journalism and all that sort of stuff and one of my girlfriends said ‘they’re going to start advertising for street teams’. And I thought ‘that would be fun’.”
“So, I was accepted as a street team member at launch for Nova 100. That was cool. I got to experience it starting off and it was such a great time.”
“I did that for over two years and I’d just got to the point that I thought ‘I’ve got to move on, I can’t be throwing Pepsis out the back of a car for the rest of my life’. And then Dan Bradley approached me and said ‘we wanna keep you on for nights’ which was awesome. I loved the idea of being on air, but I’d never actively pursued it. So, I was lucky to start in metro and stay in metro my whole career.”
“I just love it. I love radio. I love talking. I love having fun at work. And I love the people, I really do. The opportunity to engage the people and be engaged by the people, there’s no other medium that really lets you do that and that’s why I love it. It just doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
A lucky break or a career by design, there’s no one path into a radio career. But what’s obvious is that a first step on the career path can lead to a life-long passion for the industry. And it’s hard to shake.