'Lar' was the undisputed king of Irish popular music. A legend in his own lifetime. Although he lived to the ripe old age of 85, he never lost his on-air mojo. The passion he had for what he did remained undiminished to the very last. Larry once remarked that he'd been blessed to have been able to work as a disc jockey. "All I ever wanted to do was play records and talk in between them" he said. This was a typically modest assessment of the kind of work he'd done on both Radio and television over some 60 years.
His consummate modesty made the work he did sound simple but, we all know that it takes lots of talent and loads of dedication to have kept his shows sounding both fresh as well as current over a period of more than half a century. Larry's God-given talent was something that simply couldn't be replicated with his natural, easy-going flair making him utterly inimitable.
Larry Gogan seemed to have been around forever, making it all too easy to have taken his enduring presence for granted. It's safe to say that Marian Finucane gave the women of Ireland a voice during her long and distinguished broadcasting career whilst the legendary Gay Byrne got the whole of Ireland talking. But it was Larry who got Irish feet tapping.
The great man's DJ career grew alongside the rise of popular music in Ireland. He started spinning his pop records on Rádio Éireann during the early 60s and remained loyal to his favourite genre despite a spell of pop doldrums in the 1970s. However, his perseverance paid off when RTÉ launched RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979. Now known as 2FM, Radio 2 was to become Ireland's equivalent to BBC Radio 1 giving popular music a home on Ireland's airwaves. 2FM also became Larry Gogan's home for over 40 years, a place where he rapidly grew to become a national treasure. His popularity was thanks, in part, to 'Larry's Golden Hour' and his often hilarious 'Sixty Second Quiz'.
Gogan had originally aspired to become an actor but, luckily for us, he discovered his calling when he first heard Elvis on Radio Luxembourg (The Mighty 208). He got his breakthrough an uncanny stroke of good fortune when one of his father's regular customers popped into the family shop; a radio producer called Maura Fox. Fox helped the young Larry Gogan into a job at The Eamonn Andrews' Studios in Dublin. He later joined RTÉ, starting his life as a DJ in 1961. Larry Gogan produced his own show and drew up his own playlists.
Colleagues tell how Larry was known for fastidiously keeping up with the very latest pop news, gossip, and new record releases. This was especially so after he landed the prestigious job of presenting Ireland's Top 30 countdown every Sunday afternoon. This was a show that I would seldom miss back in the days when we all had our fingers poised on the "pause" button, ready to record our favourite chart music for playback on our car stereo systems. Larry's presentation style was always bright and enthusiastic. In a word - excellent!
His gift as a broadcaster provided him with the opportunity to move on to television. In the '80s, he presented Larry's Golden Hour as a 'simulcast' on 2FM and RTÉ Television. This meant that RTÉ viewers got to see the latest popular music videos on their TV sets whilst listening to the audio output in perfect hi-fi stereo. But Larry's earliest TV stints harked way back to the 1960s when he presented Pickin' The Pops and The Go 2 Show. Very early on, Larry Gogan had become a star but he wore his stardom with quiet dignity and consummate professionalism.
Gogan's abilities attracted attention far beyond Ireland's shores, with both the BBC and Radio Luxembourg offering him various opportunities. But Larry was a very happily married man, having wed his childhood sweetheart Florrie. With a young family of five children, the couple decided to stay in Ireland despite lean times in 1970s Ireland where opportunities for a DJ were somewhat limited in the rather austere environment of 70's RTÉ. During those bleak old days, Larry's weekly show 'Discs-a-Gogan' was one of only a few outlets for contemporary rock & pop on the rather stuffy Rádio Éireann.
But things got a whole lot easier once RTÉ Radio 2 started broadcasting in 1979. Larry's afternoon show was aimed at the mainstream audience with 'The Golden Hour' helping to broaden the station's appeal by providing space for a little dollop of pure nostalgia within a schedule that had some much younger presenters at the helm. People such as Dave Fanning, Mark Cagney, Arthur Murphy, and the highly irreverent Gerry Ryan.
Larry's devotion to his job never diminished. The studio was always his natural domain. Larry once recalled having a heart monitor installed. His doctor remarked that Larry's blood pressure was never lower than when he was presenting his daily show live on air!
Larry's "Sixty Second Quiz" became a national institution, made famous by the jingle "JUST A MINUTE - THE SIXTY-SECOND QUIZ!" The quiz became well known for its often comedic wrong answer. Here are just a few of the gems:
Q: "Where is the Taj Mahal?"
A: "Opposite the dental surgery."
Q: Name a bird with a long neck.
A: Naomi Campbell
Q: What star do travelers follow?
A: Joe Dolan
Q: What was Hitler’s first name?
Over the years, Larry became a well-loved fixture on 2FM with his enduring on-air presence. But poor health and personal bereavement eventually visited Larry. The sad death of his beloved wife Florrie in 2002 delivered a huge blow to him.
2FM became increasingly youth-orientated which necessitated moving Larry from his daily show onto a less arduous weekend slot. Larry finally announced that he was leaving 2FM in January 2019 after 57 years of service. Despite his declining health, Larry kept on working, presenting a show on RTÉ Gold. “You’d go mad doing nothing," he said.
Following the deaths of Gay Byrne and Marian Finucane, Larry Gogan’s passing seemed to close an entire chapter at RTÉ. Perversely, having been one of Ireland’s first-ever DJs, it may well turn out that he'll end up being one of its last. It's almost fitting because it's a case of - follow that.
There's no question that Larry Gogan was the very best of the old-school DJs. He was never more content than when he was playing the music that Ireland loved and wanted to hear. You could say, he was 'happy as Larry'.
It all sounds pretty easy doesn't it? The thing is though, no one else did Radio quite like Lar. His affability made easy listening, well, easy. And you can't bottle that!
Larry Gogan - 1934 - 2020
Un attimo, è Larry Gogan...
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