Maynard – Keepin’ it real, by keepin’ it wrong.
Maynard was born in the part of The Royal Newcastle Hospital that fell down in the 1989 earthquake.
The son of Howard Cunningham and Gladys Kravitz, he accidentally went to the same high school as silverchair.
A career in the railway beckoned and during his 11 months working for NSW Rail he was almost hit by a train only twice.
Creativity was what he was looking for when he became an industrial photographer at BHP’s Central Research labs. While there, he took many highly praised photographs of steam and managed to avoid BHP’s layoffs by leaving. That showed ’em.
Running away to join cabaret legends, The Castanet Club, he saw London, Edinburgh and Twin Towns.
Maynard founded MADD Club at the Piccadilly Hotel in Kings Cross and it ran inexplicably every Monday night until 1994, peaking with a support tour with Bjorn Again in London. Best described as “a food fight where occasionally music broke out”, public liability won’t allow you to see that kind of thing any more. And there’s probably a good reason for that.
Radio ready, the manic mic man started at 2NUR in Newcastle then took his Radio Stupid show to 2SER in Sydney.
triple j foolishly liked what they heard and soon Maynard was on Weekend Breakfast, leading to the weekday Breakfast Show for three and a half years, during which he slept a total of five hours.
On triple j, he moved to Sunday Afternoon Fever, a comedy variety show which introduced Australia to Japanese Ska and Mrs Fred Sinatra of Las Vegas.
Maynard hosted the Friday breakfast show on 2SER-FM with DJ Sveta, as well as hosting breakfast shows on FBi Radio & FREE-FM during their test broadcasting periods, a golden time for radio in Sydney. He worked on NEW-FM 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 the safest possible format known to music – even Ace Of Base was considered “far too edgy”. So Maynard began a career on cable TV, after making a pilot show called Fist Me TV on stage at Kinselas in Sydney. Try getting that through as a “reality” show today.
When Foxtel came to Australia, Maynard was there from day one on the Fx sci-fi channel, hosting the variety show Planet Fx for 2 years, before moving to the Red music channel, where he frightened the viewing public with Red Retro.
Maynard was a natural for Red’s successor Channel [V], where he hosted the retro music show Rewind.
He affected the minds of children across Australia on Saturday mornings with Mind Twist – described as the quiz show where you strain your brain, but feel no pain.
Maynard has been part of the Australian podcast community from its early days. Inspired by shows from No Agenda and the TWIT Network, he put together The Dirty Disbelievers on the ABC which was a paranormal, comic, sceptical show with music, that asked questions like, “Why are Nazi UFOs so hot right now?” AND it had a poetry segment.
A chance comment during A Very Maynard Xmas show spawned the media juggernaut that is Bunga Bunga. Assisted by Tim Ferguson, of Doug Anthony All Stars fame and now a professional wheelchair owner, Bunga Bunga solves the nation’s and the listeners’ problems with a genius sense of humour and little regard for reality.
Planet Maynard won the Australian Podcast Award for Comedy & Entertainment in 2017.
Against all advice, Maynard DJs and presents MADD Club.
Rell Hannah from her book The Untold Story of Central Station Records:
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 asWork 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.’