Maynard was born in the part of Newcastle hospital that fell down in the earthquake. The son of Howard Cunningham and Gladys Kravitz of Hamilton South, he rapidly rose to the dizzy academic heights of year 11 at the same high school that silverchair went to. A career in the railway beckoned and during his 11 months working for State Rail of NSW was almost hit by a train only twice.
Creativity was what he was looking for when he became a photographer at BHP’s Central Research labs at Shortland. While there he took many highly praised photographs of steam and managed to avoid BHP’s layoffs by leaving in the 80s, that showed ’em.
Running away to join cabaret legends The Castanet Club he saw London, Edinburgh and Twin Towns.
Radio ready, the manic mic man started at 2NUR in Newcastle then took his “Radio Stupid” show to 2SER in Sydney.
JJJ foolishly liked what they heard and soon he was on weekend breakfast leading to weekday breakfast for 3 1/2 years during which he slept a total of 5 hours.
He started the “MADD Club” at the Piccadilly Hotel in Kings Cross in 1987 and it ran inexplicably on a Monday night till 1994 peaking with a support tour with Bjorn Again in London. Best described as “a food fight with a DJ”, public liability won’t allow you to see that kind of thing anymore in this country.
And there’s probably a good reason for that.
Moved to “Sunday Afternoon Fever” he introduced Australia to Japanese Ska and Mrs Fred Sinatra of Las Vegas.
Maynard worked on NEW-FM in Newcastle doing breakfast where he enjoyed ringing Torana owners at ten past six in the morning to explain themselves.
The station was sold and went for that safest possible format known to music, even Ace Of Base were considered “far too edgy” and Maynard moved back to Sydney to begin a career on cable TV after making a pilot TV show “Fist Me TV” on stage at Kinsela’s in Sydney. Try getting that through as a “reality” show.
He started on day 1 of Foxtel’s FX channel doing “Planet Fx” a sci-fi variety show that ran for 2 years before being moved to Red the music channel where he frightened the viewing public with Red Retro six days a week.
Maynard moved to Channel V where he was until 2001
Maynard hosted the breakfast show on 2SER-FM with DJ Sveta as well as breakfast on FBI Radio & FREE-FM during their test broadcasting periods, a golden time for radio in Sydney with a different radio station on the FM band every 3 months.
He worked at the ABC, until 2014, as their Online Goose.The ABC was closed in 2015 due to lack of interest.
Against all advice Maynard still DJs and even presents The Madd Club.
Maynard has been a PR Associate for The No Agenda Show and has received commendations for his work from Adam Curry & John C Dvorak.
Maynard’s favourite show while with the ABC was The Dirty Disbelievers. It was heard weekends on ABC digital radio across Australia during January 2012.
The show made such an impact with middle management that it never found a time-slot with the ABC.
Maynard is keepin’ it real, by keepin’ it wrong.
Maynard came to the attention of Triple J as a member of the Castanet Club cabaret group, and worked for the youth-oriented radio network from the mid 80s to the mid 90s, most famously as host of the flagship Breakfast Show. At home on multiple platforms (stage, radio, TV, Foxtel and podcast) and in both public and commercial media outlets, he has assembled a CV of epic diversity. Along the way, he released two compilation CDs on the Central Station label: Maynard’s Classics 1995-2000 and Maynard’s Classics 2000-2005.
Someone who definitely doesn’t fit the classic DJ mould is Maynard – the former Triple J radio host formerly known as Maynard F# Crabbes. These days he ‘still does retro sets all around the place’. In fact, he had just returned from being the MC and host for the Vengaboys’ 2016 tour of Australia when interviewed for this history. With his cultured-sounding voice and acute sense of irony, he manages to sound both authoritative and irreverent at the same time. ‘If I’d been able to sing, I probably would never have been a DJ,’ he says. ‘It was just a way of performing. I can’t mix to save my life. Most DJs don’t want to talk, whereas I’m very happy to talk. In fact, it often hides the very bad joins of my mixes.’
In the mid 80s – when he was doing a Saturday morning program on 2 SER – “Radio Stupid”, Maynard was impressed by the new Pitt Street store’s generosity in lending records to community radio presenters. Later at Triple J, he headed to the Oxford Street store for twelve-inch imports ranging from Kylie Minogue’s Better the Devil You Know to Capella’s Helyon Halib (otherwise known as Work it the Bone). Having found his way into radio via cabaret, Maynard didn’t take himself or his playlist too seriously. ‘I really enjoyed being able to play dance music in the morning and I would have been one of the few people doing that at that time,’ he says. ‘Sometimes I’d play twelve-inches in the morning which was also an unusual thing. And a couple of times – if I liked a song – I’d pick up the needle and play it again immediately, which nobody does on radio.’
Belying his madcap image, Maynard prepared himself well for our wander down memory lane. His list of must-mentions included the ‘legendary’ status of Central Station’s Christmas parties, the ‘petty jealousy going on among DJs about who would get the best stuff’ on shipment days, and the ‘social milieu’ at Oxford Street.
‘When everyone was together, for the opening of the import crate, it was the who’s who of the DJing circuit,’ he says. ‘It was also always a bit of a Saturday morning there as well. If you were going for a wander up Oxford Street, it was always good to drop in there with your date and hang around and see who else was there with their date.’
But Maynard’s most revealing story is about encountering one of his listeners in the store. ‘I was doing Free FM breakfast at the time and I’d said something on air about Barbra Streisand after playing the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of her song, Somewhere. Suddenly someone charged up to me and said at the top of his lungs, “How come you don’t like Barbra Streisand?” I admitted, “Well I do like Barbra Streisand. I just don’t like her ballads.” Then he said, “So you don’t actually hate Barbra Streisand?” I told him, “No, my favourite song of hers is Don’t Rain on My Parade. But I hate Evergreen.” He looked at me and said, “Well that’s OK then” and he turned on his heel and went back to what he was doing. I would have encounters like that at Central Station. It was a place where my listeners could meet me and have a chat to me about stuff.’
‘I would be playing the new Kylie Minogue single weeks ahead of all the major stations because I was getting import copies. I was very much on the side of the parallel importers because I always thought that this whole territories thing with copyright was merely there to help large companies. A global release schedule is something they should have got on board with decades ago, if they had maybe we’d still have a music industry. It’s a classic example – if you hang on to something too tightly, eventually someone will take it from you.’
(Rell Hannah from her book The Untold Story of Central Station Records)
If you’re not already aware of Maynard then here’s a lesson in the history of Sydney entertainment. Morning show host on JJJ when people actually listened to the station, Commander in Chief of the MADD Club where things took place that thanks to Health and Safety will never be repeated, TV show host, Castanet Club member and ‘man about town in the shiny suit’.
Maynard brings to the DJ podium all the music you love but are too embarrassed to ask for. He is not so much a DJ as a music phenomenon with his unique and quirky take on the music of the past and his ability to hone in on the music that made your life.
(The Sydney Hellfire Club, 2015)