Graham Kennedy : biography
Kennedy was born in Camden Street, Balaclava to Cyril William Kennedy and Mary Austen Kennedy (née Scott). His mother, who was 18 years old at the time of Graham’s birth,Blundell (2003), p. 9 was employed at a local picture theatre. His father worked variously as an engineer and handyman, mowed lawns and washed cars, and in 1939 joined the RAAF as an air gunner.Blundell (2003), p. 11 His first home was a "small, crowded duplex" at , Balaclava. A 20 cm diameter plaque was placed on the property by the City of Port Phillip, coincidentally in the week of Kennedy’s death.
When Kennedy was two years old, his parents moved to Carlisle Street, St Kilda for two years. His parents divorced shortly before World War II, and Kennedy was largely raised by his grandparents, "Pop" Kennedy (who had been an electrician at Melbourne’s Tivoli, Royal and Bijou theatres) and "Grandma Scott", to whom he remained particularly close until her death. Kennedy later said that he had: often wished his mother and father had never married. ‘I wasn’t enamoured of either of them […] they betrayed me […] divorce is not too much fun for a little nine-year-old […]Blundell (2003), p. 351
After Kennedy’s death, an article in The Bulletin by his friend and colleague John Mangos recorded that: … he would sometimes talk about the violent arguments between his parents, how he gravitated to his grandmother’s bosom, his two uncles ("one fought the Germans, the other fought the Japs") and how one of them took liberties with the boy. Graham never resented him, claiming he equated it with affection.
Kennedy was educated firstly at Euston College (which no longer exists) on the corner of Chapel and Carlisle Streets, secondly at Caulfield North Central School (now Caulfield Junior College) and finally at Melbourne High School, South Yarra.
In 1977, Kennedy chaired a project to raise funds for improvements at Melbourne High which raised more than $100,000 in its first year.
During a school break in 1949, Kennedy worked in his uncle’s hairdressing shop at 475 Collins Street, where he met clients who worked in the same building for the Radio Australia shortwave service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He was offered, and accepted, a job as a news runner from Collins Street to the ABC studios in Lonsdale Street. Shortly thereafter he went to radio station 3UZ, working in the record library.Blundell (2003), p. 28. The MHSOBA obituary records that his report card states "[…] he was employed by Radio Australia (Short-wave Division) at 475 Collins Street Melbourne after leaving school. However, during 4th form at MHS, he worked as a messenger at the ABC on Wednesday nights from 5 pm to 11 pm."
3UZ and "Nicky"
Melbourne’s top commercial radio personality was "Nicky" — Clifford Nicholls (real name Clifford Nicholls Whitta). A radio performer since 1932, he presented a popular housewives’ programme, as well as "Chatterbox Corner" with his wife Nancy Lee (Kathleen Lindgren).
In an era when Australian radio announcers routinely adopted false British accents and a "hard sell" approach to advertisements, his authentic Australian voice and irreverent attitude towards his sponsors made him the idol of his audience. By the early 1950s a newspaper survey found that more than 70% of Melbourne housewives tuned into his show.
In his foreword to Nancy Lee’s book Being a Chum Was Fun (1979) Kennedy wrote:
About forty years ago, when I was a snow haired six year old, I can remember being totally captivated by a grown man pretending to be a naughty little boy on 3AW’s children session called "Chatterbox Corner". His name was Clifford Whitta, and he was to become the most important man in my life. Years later I was even more fascinated with this man when he conducted a breakfast program and let the boy who played his records actually talk on the air with him.