Broken Spoke bassist Red Smith - the last DJ to broadcast at the Beer Can Hill studio of Nu Country FM - survived to tell the tale.

And also join Nu Country TV as the newest co-host of the top rating bi-weekly show.

Smith played a diverse selection of roots country music in the cosy first floor studio of the station that nestled above a garage during his popular shifts.

But at 9.49 p m on Monday June 26, 2000 - first day of the station's 28th broadcast - his show was even hotter than normal.

< Red Smith

Smith smelled smoke from a not so distant fire as heart transplant recipient and bluegrass DJ and midnight host Peter Cresp-Gerrard and humble assistant Steven Stebbings were aroused from their telephonic office jangle.

The duo saw flames leaping from a hallway air conditioner that was taking a down draft from the ceiling puffed up with a quaint city insulation - a selection of suburban straw.

Smith was back announcing his four-play of new releases when alerted to the flames by his partners in rhyme.

And just as the flames became a blazing vortex swooping into the memorabilia adorned studio and office Smith grabbed a bag of precious personal belongings and followed his Samaritans out the door.

The trio fled through the office that adjoined the Northcote Leader Newspaper building and car park.

They ducked burning embers and shattering glass as they descended the stone stairs faster than a country chart bullet as the bathroom, office and studio windows exploded with all the gusto of a numbing night in Baghdad.

It was only when they gathered in the then crowded Butler back street after calling the Fire Brigade on a mobile phone they realised how close they came to death.


Smith, one of the station's key on and off air volunteers, helped rebuild the station with his pro-active role in music showcases, desk staffing and broadcasting at the resurrected studio at Harley House at the Paris, Texas, end of Collins St in the Melbourne CBD.

It was there that Smith and fellow announcer Paul Hicks met the late Hans Herdina and began performing with Connie Rose as The Haybalers.

Their current band Broken Spoke, augmented by Dead Livers guitarist Roger Delfos and drummer Ron Mahoney, arose from the ashes of The Haybalers.

It's this musical rapport that persuaded long time Nu Country TV producer and director Peter Hosking to invite Smith to co-host episodes of the second series of the show.

Smith shed his motorcycle leathers to follow Hosking into a co-hosting role with Hicks at the veteran actor's CBD editing suite.

The duo swap anecdotes as they introduce the live footage, videos, interviews and Mid Pacific Bob Olson's recipes that make Nu Country TV a must for discerning fans - 8 p m each Saturday - and 6.30 pm on the Sabbath.

Smith, Hicks and master renovator Hosking film their hosting roles in between soirees to the Shipwreck Coast and suburbs for song and dance and frequent acting and voiceover commitments.

And they never look up at the ceiling wondering what surprises the autumnal and winter rain may bring.

Hosking has a telling instruction - look at the camera and smile as you introduce the most neglected music in the unlucky radio country.

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