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INTO OUR HOMES
By FRANK DOHERTY
FOR a long time I have wanted to write a
piece in sheer praise of Wilfrid Thomas Not just because Wilfrid is a fine radio man, as suited to his particular metier as Sedgman is to tennis, but because he is an Australian, who has made good.
Thomas has grown up with radio . . . that is, radio so far as Australia knows it.
I am not saying he knew it from its infancy....he is not old enough for that. But he has known it from the days when a singer (and he is a fine baritone, did you know?) sang in a curtain-encased studio for a guinea, and counted it good publicity since there was a "vast, unseen
Today Thomas has forsaken singing.
But he is, withal, probably the most versatile radio man this country has produced. He is writer, compere, producer, actor, singer, storyteller... the Norman Corwin of radio here, and even then he can give Corwin a point or two.
Each week for the last 10 years or more he has crept into your hpme for a half hour each week. The time has changed, but always the programme has had the same intimate approach . . . the soft, haunting theme "Yours for a Song", the half-hour chat, and then the friendly, warming farewell: "This is Wilfrid Thomas,
thanking you for having me at your place."
In case you've never met Wilfrid Thomas, let me tell you a little about him.
He's about 45, Sydney-born, and has the appearance of a mischievous leprechaun ... long nose, hair that is the despair of a normal barber, piercing eyes, a laugh that is as distinctive as Durante's rasp, and a mind that takes in everything from how the
Chinese came to invent chopsticks to the number of notes in a Peruvian's scale of
Nellie Melba discovered him somewhere about 1924, when he was l8 or 19, and took him round Australia as her supporting ar- tist. Followed a tour abroad with the Westminster Glee Singers, and then . . . he found radio.
In England in the late 30's and early 40's he had a great name, both.on the B.B.C. and Radio Normandie.
By this time he had learned (or had been told) that he had been gifted with one of the pleasantest speaking voices in the Eng- lish-speaking world and had capitalised on it with "outside" broadcasts, quiz pro- grammes, recorded sessions, and the like.
rpHEN back to Australia, compering
that well-remembered session "Out of the Bag" (which had Dick Bentley and the late Mike Connors as its stars),
and the by-nosv-10-yeais-old "Wilfrid
This show is a phenomenon.
It has, at times, sublimated the Thomas peisonality to allosv a stoiy or a theme to woik its svay through. At other times it has been so full of Thomas that it has been almost unbearable.
But always it has been listenable . . . and always it has been heralded by that haunt- ing Yours for a Song, a tune specially written for him and recorded years ago by Austialia's Arthur Young on a harpsichord, and Jamaica's Felix Sewande on a Ham- mond organ.
"RUT what is Thomas' success?
Why is it that he can come into our homes sveek after week, and get away
There is, I think, only one answer
Wilfrid Thomas knows exactly svhat a miciophone can do, and he handles it with superlative skill He uses it to bring you not only his own voice or some music, but what Oscar Hammeistein has called "all the sounds of the eaith," which are, in their way, music.
TPHOMAS talks to you, never at you.
He speaks in the language you know, understand, and like, and "fits in" as much in, say, Footscray 01 the West End of Adelaide as easily as he does at Yarra- lumla, Pott's Point, or Toorak.
He is the man who can adapt himself to any surrounding, any company, and yet always be "at home." His sessions (cur- rently heaid fiom 3AR at 8.15 p.m. on Mondays) have the dosvn-to-earth flavor of a pic with sauce, yet the piquancy of cham- pagnes with a hors d'oruvrc
They have, on occasion, been as abstiact as a Dall painting At other times they have been as îaucous and as boisterous as a Saturday night wrestling match. But, to use the phrase of Don Maiquis' Mehitabel . . . "toujours gai, toujours cat. '
He is, all in all, one of the wonder boys the Austt alian radio world has produced.