The Radio King of New Zealand

The Jack Maybury introduction to radio was inspirational in two ways - for Jack himself and for his audience. It transformed an electrician cum car-radio salesman into the most popular radio personality the country had seen.

From a humble start on the 3ZB lunch-hour shift, Jack made every step a winner. From 1937 and through the World War II years 1939 -1945 as host of the Children's Hour programme with Grace Green, they were the adored combo of Jacko & Gracie. For kids in Christchurch and outlying areas this 5 pm weekday slot became their escape from the grey tones of a World War. There were novelty quizzes in the studio, talent quests and teaser games, adventure outings like bike hikes and treasure hunts and coordinated Club creations like the Happy Feet Club and the Musical Army where every local kid got to explore their abilities as musicians or tap-dancers.

Added to this impact on families were the fund-raising efforts by Jack at weekly Sing-alongs in the Civic Theatre and War-bond excursions on the North-South Railway Network with whistle stop entertainment at major stations along the way. These pastiches were second nature to genial Jack. He was a first rate musician who'd been a cornet champion with the Ashburton Silver Band as a teenager and later led his own dance-band at Wellington's Majestic Cabaret. On top of that background he was a fun-loving prankster with a marvellous sense of humour who respected and cared for the man in the street.  If most Canterbury homes had earlier hung portraits of Michael Joseph Savage in their living rooms it was Jack who had captured their heart.  At the close of the War in 1945 the tumultuous crowd who gathered outside 3ZB's studio in Colombo St they all chanted as one “we want Jacko, we want Jacko”. And an elated Jack emerged onto the balcony behind his office, mike in hand to broadcast the celebration.  From luncheon host to local hero his radio career had virtually only started. 

Soon would come the ascent from provincial identity to national recognition as Jack accepted the offer from Lever Brothers to become compere of three outstanding radio formats on the Commercial Radio network. These programmes were delightfully varied and commanded a complete range of listeners.  There was the ‘Lever Hit Parade’ catering to the musical tastes of so many, ‘Quiz Kids’ with appeal to all families and then ‘Lux Money-go-round’ the first network quiz to carry rich rewards in prizes.  So now, not just Canterbury folk could enjoy the talent of this remarkable broadcaster but the whole New Zealand audience from North Cape to the Bluff.

In 1947, Jack Maybury moved to Wellington, now wedded to his second wife Dorothy Jean and operating through the Advertising Agency Lintas Pty Ltd assisted charities all over the country by bringing his quiz shows to their town.  Jaycees, PTAs Scouts, etc would take all door sales from the crowds who thronged the venue and offered an intimate setting for the recording session involved.  People watched their neighbours go through the quiz process and cheered every success. So the Jack Maybury image grew nationwide and maybe it was inevitable that an offer would eventually come from across the Tasman. In 1952 Atlantic Union Oil Company offered him a ten-thousand-pound- carrot to leave NZ shores and match his radio skills with the two Australian greats; Jack Davy (a fellow kiwi) and Bob Dyer (ex USA).   

You're the radio king of New Zealand with a big decision. A young competitor in Selwyn Toogood had made his voice heard with a novelty quiz called ‘Posers, Penalties and Profits’ (which aired for only ten weeks) was waiting in the wings. You've built an unmatchable following over nearly five years and you're going to walk away from it. Thank you Lintas.  Thank you Lever Brothers.  But the ten thousand Australian pounds a year sounds promising! Jack's gone.

In Dad’s absence, Selwyn Toogood had taken on the role and had launched the eminently successful ‘It’s in the Bag’. But after only a year away and knowing the NZ market well, Jack Maybury came up with new formats that appealed instantly to a new sponsor, Colgate Palmolive. By 1954 he was back on the Commercial network with ‘Scoop the Pool’ and ‘Number Please’.  It meant he was competing with Toogood as a celebrity but their shows were on the same network and not opposed to each other.  The NZ audience could enjoy both of these talented quiz men and have a preference if they wished.  But their styles were in quite different and probably balanced out happily for listeners all over the country. 

While introducing these new quiz shows, Dad talked his sponsors into one extra musical format called ‘Tossing the Tune’ which involved the pair of us, me in Australia (then hosting the weekday breakfast show at  2SM), he of course in New Zealand. The idea was for me to record my choices at the 2SM studios and in turn Dad would insert his selections highlighting performers of an earlier era. This show gave my mates in NZ a chance to hear my old voice again one night a week and earned a little pocket money on the side. As it turned out I never heard the finished product and don’t know what lines of mine got through Dad’s editing process. No problems, he was the boss.

From 1954 through to his shock death in 1960, Jack Maybury was again part of the NZ way of life, a favourite in homes everywhere. One of the most popular quiz formats he introduced along the way was the ‘64 Hundred Question’ with his popular show sign off “when you buy Colgate Palmolive products tell them Jack sent you” that became a catch phrase around the country.

My starting date at 3ZB Christchurch was March 1951 but maybe nobody noticed. Jack Maybury had ruled the roost in radio but I was destined to root the rules. For nine years, I too enjoyed my studio time that took me to Wellington and then on to Sydney & Melbourne. Then for a further two years as the front man for the Colgate Palmolive national radio show, taking over from Jack.


John Maybury 2006
Sue Maybury