Peter Overton carried the coffin, Alan Jones delivered a reading and Ray Hadley introduced his new wife Sophie to his old mates in the radio industry.
Some of the biggest names in Australian broadcasting packed St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Wednesday for the funeral of radio legend John Brennan.
Talkback titans Jones and Hadley, who owe their fame to ‘Brenno’, joined hundreds of mourners who turned out to pay tribute to the man known as radio’s ‘kingmaker’.
Channel 9 newsreader Overton was accompanied by his journalist wife Jessica Rowe, who was seen comforting reporter Angela Bishop as she covered the service for Channel 10.
Also present were TV and radio presenters Ben Fordham, Tim Webster, Ron Wilson, Prue MacSween and Susie Elelman, Sky News commentator Paul Murray, Sony Music boss Denis Handlin, and broadcasters John Stanley and Chris Smith.
Some of the biggest names in Australian broadcasting packed St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Wednesday for the funeral of radio legend John Brennan. Jessica Rowe (right) puts an arm around entertainment reporter Angela Bishop, who was covering the funeral for Channel 10
Channel 9 newsreader Peter Overton helped carry John Brennan’s coffin to a waiting hearse after his funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral. Brennan, known as radio’s ‘kingmaker’ mentored a young Overton after he left school
Talkback titan Alan Jones delivered a reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians as he mourned the death of John Brennan, who gave Jones a start in the radio industry
Mourners included Sky News commentator Paul Murray (left) 2GB morning presenter Ray Hadley (centre) and his new wife Sophie Baird (right)
Channel 9 entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins was a late arrival at John Brennan’s funeral
Brennan has been remembered as a larger than life character – an unparalleled spotter of talent, ‘media godfather’, and master at keeping massive egos in check. He is pictured with Jenny, his wife of 66 years
Brennan was remembered as a larger than life character – an unparalleled spotter of talent, ‘media godfather’, and master at keeping massive egos in check.
He gave John Laws – who has been in poor health and was not at the service – his big break in radio and helped guide Laws, Jones and Hadley’s careers to extraordinary ratings success.
Hadley said his mentor was ‘probably the greatest programmer radio’s had in both talkback and music’, while Stanley called Brennan ‘an amazing guy’.
‘He pretty much gave me everything I’ve got in life,’ Stanley said.
The Requiem Mass began with an audio failure – celebrant Father Brian Lucas explained he had started one minute early and his microphone was not turned on.
Brennan, a devout Catholic, had chosen the readings and hymns himself but had expected his funeral to be held in his parish church rather than the mighty cathedral.
Jones delivered the opening reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.
‘If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal crashing,’ he said.
Ben Fordham, who replaced Jones in his breakfast slot at 2GB last year, is another to have benefited from Brennan’s support and guidance. Fordham is pictured
Channel 9 newsreader Peter Overton was accompanied by his wife Jessica Rowe at the funeral of radio kingmaker John Brennan at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral
Radio broadcaster Ray Hadley and wife Sophie Baird were among the mourners at John Brennan’s funeral
Fr Brian Lucas blesses John Brennan’s coffin next to a photograph of the radio legend
Fr Lucas used his homily to call on the heavy-hitters of the broadcast media to show kindness and understanding in their work.
‘Perhaps the world of broadcasting might be better off if we take less pleasure in other people’s sins and more delight in truth,’ he said.
Son Peter told the congregation some of the lesser-known facts of his father’s long life.
Brennan had suffered a serious stutter from the age of five until his 40s which disappeared when the microphone was on.
As a young man he had been an outstanding rugby player and as a football commentator had marked schoolboys Peter Sterling, Greg Alexander and Benny Elias as future stars.
The cream of Australia’s broadcasting industry has gathered for the funeral of radio legend John Brennan (Alan Jones pictured)
Television presenter and author Susie Elelman was among the mourners
Radio broadcaster John Stanley arrives at the Requiem Funeral Mass for prominent radio executive John Brennan
He was also an accomplished dancer who had once been offered a chance to perform in Hollywood.
And while at 2SM he had been the first music programmer in the world to play ABBA.
He was ‘Mr Immaculate’, ‘The Kingmaker’ and ‘The Ringmaster’.
‘Here in this cathedral and right around the country there are generations of media professionals who owe Brenno,’ Peter said.
In the 1960s Brennan took a struggling 2SM to the top of the ratings, then in the 1980s assembled Sydney’s talkback kings at 2UE before a final triumphant stint at 2GB.
Brennan mastered Top 40 music programming before moving to the fledgling talkback format which he developed into ‘dial-in democracy’.
He summed up talkback this way: ‘Two basics of talk – to inform and entertain. Entertain informingly, inform entertainingly.’
Brennan famously convinced Wallabies coach Jones to get behind the microphone and asked former taxi driver Hadley to fill-in for Laws in his morning position.
Sony Music Australia CEO Denis Handlin arrives at the Requiem Funeral Mass for John Brennan. ‘He was just a true legend and pioneer. He paved the way for so many people,’ he said
Brennan mastered Top 40 music programming before moving to the fledgling talkback format which he developed into ‘dial-in democracy’. Brennan met his future wife Jenny at a 21st birthday part in Wagga Wagga. They married in 1954 (pictured)
As program director and station manager he launched or nurtured the careers of Mike Walsh, Ron Casey, Mike Gibson, John Stanley, Stan Zemanek, Amanda Keller, Geraldine Doogue, Prue MacSween, Jason Morrison and a young Peter Overton.
Ben Fordham, who replaced Jones in his breakfast slot at 2GB last year, is another to have benefited from Brennan’s support and guidance.
‘A force of nature, a lion tamer, a pioneer of people power – he harnessed the idea of dial-in democracy,’ Fordham said.
John Patrick Brennan died at a retirement home on March 12 aged 89 after a long battle with vascular dementia
John Patrick Brennan died at a retirement home on March 12 aged 89 after a long battle with vascular dementia. His funeral was delayed so family members could return from overseas.
Brennan began his radio career at 2WG in Wagga Wagga in 1949 at age 17 and later worked at 2GZ in Orange where John Laws took his slot when 2SM coaxed him to Sydney in 1956.
He introduced the Good Guys format, a US-style team of disc jockeys who played Top 40 music, at 2SM and stayed at the station for 26 years.
[2SM took its callsign from St Mark’s Church at Drummoyne – where parish priest James Meany raised the finances to form Catholic Broadcasting Co Ltd and obtain a radio licence in 1931 – and not St Mary’s, as many believe].
Brennan spent 20 years at 2UE where Laws, Jones and later Hadley dominated the airways, then did eight years at 2GB after Jones and Hadley jumped ship.
A challenging part of Brennan’s job was managing the huge egos of stars who could squabble over their prominence in station promotions, relative office sizes and pay packets.
Channel 9 newsreader Peter Overton, who was mentored by Brennan early in his career, was a pallbearer. He is pictured with Jessica Rowe
Former federal Labor senator Stephen Loosely (left) spoke of behalf of Brennan’s widow Jenny. Broadcaster Chris Smith (right) was also among the mourners
Brennan, whose love of radio began in childhood, once described his recipe for harnessing talkback listeners.
‘You’ve got to be able to greet them, meet them, and then that conversation can go in any direction,’ he said.
‘Everyone wants to be a talk host, or anyone that wants to be one has to have an ego, if they don’t, I don’t think they’ll be highly successful.’
The biggest names in AM radio paid tribute to Brennan as they mourned his death.
‘I’d never been in a radio station so anything I might have or might be I owe to him,’ Jones said.
Hadley told his 2GB listeners: ‘I owe John Brennan absolutely everything.’
Fellow 2GB announcer Chris Smith said: ‘Others might claim they invented talkback radio, but Brennan did.’
Broadcasting kingmaker John ‘Brenno’ Brennan, 89, died in Sydney on March 12
One of the photographs in Brennan’s order of service captured (left to right) Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Brennan, Mike Gibson and Brian Bury
Nine Radio managing director Tom Malone told staff in an email that Brennan was ‘a legend’ who transformed radio wherever he worked.
‘He understood the power of talk radio and its ability to give ordinary Australians their say, and holding law makers and institutions to account,’ he said.
‘He loved the interaction with callers, and was passionate about news and current affairs keeping copious notes on issues important to everyday Australians.
‘Better than anyone he understood the companionship talk radio provided – on weekends, overnights, during holiday periods, and big news stories.’
Brennan received an Order of Australia Medal in 1991 in recognition of his services to broadcasting and was inducted into the Commercial Radio Hall of Fame in 2002.
Peter Overton was a pallbearer at the funeral of John Brennan, who chose the readings and hymns for the service
His 2014 autobiography Brenno was subtitled: The Life and Times of a Media Godfather.
Brennan retired in 2007 but remained involved in radio as a consultant. Malone said he was known to call hosts to give them feedback or just to let them know he was listening.
Others who worked with Brennan recalled he would regularly ask about the welfare of their wives and husbands – and always remembered the names of their children.
They remembered an irreplaceable mentor, mate and gentleman.
Brennan is survived by Jenny, his wife of 66 years, sons Peter and Richard, their respective wives Dearne and Kim, and grandchildren Jennifer, Joshua and Olivia. Daughter Jan-Mary died of cancer five years ago.
A private burial was to follow the funeral.
Brennan is survived by Jenny, his wife of 66 years, sons Peter and Richard, their respective wives Dearne and Kim, and grandchildren Jennifer, Joshua and Olivia. Daughter Jan-Mary predeceased him.