Chas Drader

Thirty-five years ago, beanpole broadcaster, Chas Drader, came to Queenstown where he made a name for himself for his “slightly off-the-wall” community radio station, Q92FM. Following his passing on June 18, PHILIP CHANDLER looks back at his life and passion for broadcasting

Fifty-nine  years after kicking off a distinguished radio career, Chas Drader was still on the airwaves Thursday, June 11, signing off another breakfast shift on his tiny station, Glenorchy Country.

Then, his wife Stephanie Drader reports, “he jumped on the sofa for his morning nap with his favourite dog snuggled up alongside him”.

Sadly, he didn’t wake from his snooze.

“My soulmate has departed, knowing I was now capable of managing on my own, ‘but mate, you didn’t check in with me first’.”

Since news came out of Chas’ death, at 75, hundreds of people have expressed their sadness at the passing of a legend who had one of the country’s best ever radio ‘voices’.

After starting in Masterton in 1961, aged only 16, Chas performed a myriad of roles in about 21 mostly government-owned stations – but also at a new private Auckland station, Radio i – before moving to Queenstown to work for Radio Otago in 1985.

He’d at last found somewhere he wanted to settle.

After falling out with his new employer, he started his own station, Ski FM.

However, despite selling three months’ advertising, he had to pull the plug after a month due to licensing issues.

Biding his time before setting up QFM, he had a stint writing for Mountain Scene in ’86.

QFM also wasn’t a stayer, however his fortunes changed when he set up 92FM in, you guessed it, ’92.

Radio man: Chas DDrader, who first broadcast 59 years ago, pioneered independent radio in Queenstown

He was in competition with a revived QFM, along with Radio Otago, but two years later the first two merged to become, under his management, Q92FM later called “a slightly off-the-wall rock ‘n’ roll station”.

In ’92 he’d recruited talent – the likes of Alexa Forbes, Craig ‘Ferg’ Ferguson and Andrew Patterson – who’d never had any radio experience, but it worked.

“Chas was not a social guy but he filled his staff with A-type personalities,” Patterson says.

“He had this kind of magnetism that drew people in to his orbit. He had the radio voice, it was golden – one of those voices you could listen to, forever.

“He could use minimum words for maximum delivery, which is always regarded as good radio.”

Patterson appreciated Chas for backing his ideas – though Chas claimed credit himself for the hilarious Winter Festival drag race – and recalls his ability to “bury a bottle of rum in a sitting”.

However, he says his staff had a meeting to stop him smoking in the office.

Chas still used a manual typewriter long after others had switched to computers.

“You’d hear him punching away on his old typewriter – he could turn out copy so fast.”

Patterson says you couldn’t accuse him of political correctness – “like [the late] Paul Holmes, he knew the line he could go right up against and still get away with it”.

In 2006, Q92FM was bought by RadioWorks (now MediaWorks).

Chas, by then living in Glenorchy, put in four more years’ announcing before ‘retiring’.

In no time he’d started broadcasting Glenorchy Country 89.2FM from his home.

“I make about enough to pay the power bill,” he told Scene.

“There’d be very few people who would do that,” Patterson says.

“He still had that energy and passion and just a vibrancy which came through, right to the end.”