Larry Gogan on turning down the BBC and the truth about some of those Just a Minute quiz answers

With the legendary broadcaster finishing on 2fm tomorrow, he tells Marjorie Brennan about his career highlights and that famous ‘Just A Minute’ myth.

When it was recently announced that Larry Gogan was to leave 2FM after 40 years, there was an outpouring of tributes to the much-loved DJ who has been a fixture on our airwaves since the 1960s.

However, Gogan — who doesn’t like to reveal his age — is keen to point out he’s not retiring, just moving to a new home in RTÉ Gold. He told the Irish Examiner about turning down the BBC, how he still misses vinyl and also revealed the truth about some of those Just a Minute quiz answers….

What do you make of all the tributes since it was announced you were moving from 2FM?

They’re all making a big fuss, which is embarrassing, to tell you the truth. I’m not retiring, I’m just moving to RTÉ Gold. I suppose I have been in 2FM for 40 years, since I played the first record. I’ve been there since day one. And I was in RTÉ before that, with Radio One.

What sparked your interest in radio as a career?

I used to listen to AFN as a boy, the American Forces Network in Europe, and Radio Luxembourg. I remember thinking I wanted to be one of those fellas that played the records because it seemed to me to be a very easy kind of job, just sitting there playing records. Strangely enough, I was on Radio Luxembourg later, when Butch Moore won the Eurovision. I did a sponsored broadcast on it for about six months. We had very few pop programmes here. There was nothing on RTÉ at the time.

What kind of music were you into?

I loved Elvis and The Beatles. To this day, their music stands up, it is amazing. I thought Elvis was the greatest of them all. My only regret is that I never met him. He was fantastic, he was really able to move as well. In America, they wouldn’t show him on television from the waist down, which fascinated me at the time. The whole career of the Beatles was only ten years really, but to this day, they still sell records. They had fantastic songs.

How did you end up on RTÉ?

We had a shop in Fairview in Dublin and one of the customers was Maura Fox, who was a producer of sponsored radio shows. I asked her would she give me an audition and she did. We recorded the sponsored programmes at the Eamon Andrews studio. RTÉ were looking for new DJs in 1961; up to then, a lot of the music programmes would have been done by actors. I did an audition, there wasn’t much to it, if they liked your voice, they picked you.

Tell me about your first day on the radio:

It was on a programme called Morning Melody. That was my first live show. I had done recorded and sponsored shows before that. I was very nervous. I had a script and I memorised it. You didn’t pick your own records or anything.

Any gigs that stand out?

I didn’t see The Beatles when they were in the Adelphi in Dublin but I saw Paul McCartney on his own a few years back. I saw the Bee Gees, who were great. I’ve seen lots of great Irish bands, especially the showbands, The Capitol, The Royal, The Dixies — I was a great fan of Brendan O’Brien and Joe McCarthy, of course.

Who were your inspirations?

I liked Alan Freeman on Radio Luxembourg, he was very slick. When he introduced a band, he would give you the bare essentials. He didn’t have long scripts. I liked Pete Murray, David Jacobs…. I’m always afraid to name any Irish ones. I loved Terry Wogan, he was a great broadcaster.

You were approached by the BBC at one point, do you regret not taking up their offer?

They were doing programmes from different countries and they asked me to do one about Irish pop music. It was a one-off programme and then I got a letter from them asking me would I join them. At the time, I had five kids at home, I didn’t want to uproot my family so I didn’t go. I was quite happy here. I can’t complain, I’ve had a happy life.

What was it like to play the first record on RTÉ Radio 2 [now 2fm] on May 31, 1979?

It was fantastic. There was a great buzz about the place. Vincent Hanley and myself always talked about our hopes for a pop music station in RTÉ; before Radio 2, it was all the pirate stations that played pop music. They asked me to play the first record and I said it should be by an Irish act, so I played the Boomtown Rats’ ‘Like Clockwork’.

You worked on the Eurovision for many years. Standout memory?

Seeing Johnny Logan win was fantastic. It was great to be from Ireland and be there when he won

Your outside broadcasts were very popular, what are your memories of being out on the road?

We did an awful lot of stuff on the road, hundreds of people would come out. One of the biggest outside broadcasts I remember was in Patrick Street in Cork, when Michael Jackson was playing there. We broadcast from Golden Discs, and there were literally thousands of people outside. Kim Wilde was a support act for Michael Jackson and they were bringing her in to be interviewed. There were so many people there, they couldn’t get through the crowds. The people from the record company were afraid that she would be mobbed and they drove off.

What do you think when you look back at working on the ‘wireless’ and compare it to how people listen to radio now?

A: It completely amazes me. I’m going to RTÉ Gold, which is a digital station, that you can get on your phone, your computer and your television, it’s hard to believe. You can get so many stations from around the world now at the touch of a button. It has completely changed the way we play records.

When I started, the records would be picked for us, then we brought in our own. Now you don’t even see a record, you put the name in and it just pops up. I like the feel of vinyl and all the information you get on a record sleeve. We also used to get sackloads of requests. We don’t get mail at all now, it’s all texts. But life moves on, where would you be if it didn’t? As the fella says, you’d still be riding a horse.

What do you listen to now?

I like rock music, I’m a big fan of U2, I always have been. I think it’s fantastic that they’ve lasted 40 years and are still relevant today. I listen to a lot of radio as well.

People are fascinated by the funny answers in the Just a Minute quiz and they’re still shared on social media. Are they all real?

A: A lot of them are true but some are made up.“Where’s the Taj Mahal? Opposite the Dental Hospital.” That’s true.

What about this famous one:

Larry: Complete the saying “As happy as... “

Contestant: Emmm...

Larry: Think of me...

Contestant: A pig in shit.

That’s not true at all. I remember a fella told me he nearly crashed the car when he heard that. He didn’t hear it at all. People’s imaginations are fantastic. It never happened. It makes a good story though.


More in this Section

5 of the best wellbeing podcasts to give you a boost

Ask a counsellor: ‘Will I ever get over being raped as a teenager?’

8 things gardeners can do to help alleviate the insect crisis

All the backstage tips for getting the edgy hairstyle from Richard Quinn’s catwalk


Latest Showbiz

Queer Eye star on Lagerfeld: He was sometimes mean but he can be forgiven

Burberry apologises for ‘noose’ hoodie after model speaks out

Karl Lagerfeld made his cat Choupette a social media sensation

Love Island's Eyal Booker: ‘Being in the gym is a form of meditation for me’

More From The Irish Examiner