Not quite crate diggin'!
A glimpse of the work that Pierre Baroni puts in to find soul records that you can hear on Soulgroove'66

 

This announcer spotlight was compiled by Richie 1250 and first published in our biannual member magazine, Easey Mag, December 2020 edition. We hope you enjoy reading this fascinating glimpse into the life of our remarkable PBS announcer, Pierre Baroni.

I grew up in the 60s, commercial radio was AM band, mono and fabulous. It seemed that everyday another new pop gem arrived: impossibly catchy, creative and groovy… well, that’s how it seemed to 10-year-old me. I was hooked on music.

Times were a little tough in our household. I was the eldest of six siblings born to migrant parents. I grew up in a housing commission two-bedroom brick veneer in Glenroy, a working-class north-western suburb on what was then the Broadmeadows train line. Music and football were my escape. On weekends I mowed the lawn and did the rest of the gardening for a few cents pay, which I would take down to the local record store and dig through the ‘sale' singles box to find a record I could afford. This was the start of my record collection.

Years later, I would be playing in bands, eventually, one struck and began selling a modest amount of records. In the mid-80s I listened mostly to Triple R and on the odd occasion PBS. One day in 1987 a PBS announcer contacted me for an interview and I came into the Fitzroy Street studio, back in St Kilda, which was my first time inside PBS FM.

Back in the early 80s, when I was playing in bands, a friend of mine worked as editor at Beat Magazine. The owner of the magazine, Rob Furst, came up with the idea of starting a 60s dance club and wanted a DJ who had 60s records. My editor friend Janine told Rob that I had ’a lot' of 60s records and he asked me to be the DJ on the night, which was called ‘Shout’ and ran on Monday nights (!) in the basement of the Australia Hotel on Collins Street in the city. I remember it being quite a large room and we had two go-go dancers (yes, in cages) and psychedelic oil projectors. That was the start of my DJing out in the world.

In 1990 I started working in the art department at my former record label, Mushroom Records, designing record covers, eventually photographing them as well and later directing music videos. I was still doing a bit of DJing around town. It was around this time, in the 90s, that I had a brief ‘affair' with the Compact Disc. In about 1995, James Young, who was the Program Manager at Triple R, asked me if I wanted to do a radio show. I told him I didn’t have the time to devote to it. He asked me if I was interested in doing some summer fill-ins and I told him I could, but I wanted to do a 60s soul show, which was something that Triple R didn’t have on air at the time. He said that was cool, so that’s what I did. Like everything else I’ve done in my life, I had no training, I just went in one day while he was doing his show and watched what he did.

One night I was DJing at a night called ‘Blow Up’ in Richmond and a guy asked me to play ‘The Snake’ and I told him I didn’t have it. I asked him how he knew it and he told me Vince the Prince played it on his radio show Soul Time. I asked him when it was on and he said, “Saturday afternoons on PBS". So the next Saturday I tuned in and heard Northern Soul for the first time. It was soul music, but not like I knew it, it was faster and ‘poppier’, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Anyhow, Vince plugged a soul night he had coming up the next week at Joey's in Prahran, so I went along. I eventually met Vince and he had heard my fill-in attempts on Triple R and asked me if I wanted to come in and guest on his show … which I did for about the next seven years! Hanging with Vince made me re-discover my love of records, especially those dinked 45s. In 2003 I decided it was time to stop pestering Vince on Saturday arvos and stopped going in. A few weeks later PBS asked me if I wanted to do my own show, and after doing a demo, Soulgroove’66 was born on the Friday morning of 9 May, 2003. A year later I switched to Saturday afternoons, which worked for me as I was so used to doing that slot and Vince had since moved his show to Wednesdays.

That was more than 17 years ago … it’s hard to believe. It’s still the best two hours of my week and such a blast to know it means so much to so many people out there. I’m very lucky.

Pierre Baroni presented Soulgroove ‘66 every Saturday from 3-5pm on PBS from 2003 to 2021. 
Richie 1250 presents Stone Love every Friday from 5-7pm on PBS.