One of the most famous voices and faces on Irish radio and TV, it’s now forty years since Marty Whelan first graced the airwaves. But he has no intention of stopping anytime soon as he’s still enjoying every minute of it, he tells Seán Creedon.
Irish people listen to a lot of radio early in the morning. For those who work outside of the home it may begin with a quick soundbite in the kitchen over a rushed breakfast, followed by plenty of options on the car radio on the way to school or work with news, sport and traffic updates to choose from.
As we go through the different phases of our life I think the radio stations we listen to probably change; pop music when we are young, ‘Morning Ireland’ when we get serious and maybe Lyric FM when we grow older.
However, Marty Whelan, who presents a popular programme on Lyric from 7am to 10am Monday to Friday, wouldn’t agree with that last sentence. Marty would rightly claim that his eclectic mix of tracks from diverse artists such as Ennio Morricone, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra, together with jokes submitted by listeners, the contributions of ‘Hugo’ and chef Nevin Maguire, plus various competitions, attract listeners of all ages to his three-hour morning programme.
Forty years ago Marty was one of the young disc jockeys that RTÉ recruited from various pirate radio stations when they launched Radio 2, later to become known as 2FM, in May 1979.
During the past four decades the man with the famous moustache has many highs, and also a few lows in his career. But every time Marty suffered a setback, he bounced back and the affable Dubliner is now recognised as a vital cog in the national station’s radio and television schedules.
Marty was not on air on opening day of Radio 2 on Thursday May 31, 1979, but presented his first programme on national radio the following day from RTÉ’s Limerick studios. It was a drive-time programme and was aptly named ‘Whelan Home’. His first track, which he has subsequently used to kick-start other radio programmes, was the Thunderclap Newman track, Something in the Air. It’s still one of Marty’s favourite songs of all-time.
The first voice heard on Radio 2 was that of Brendan Balfe, while Larry Gogan played the first track, Like Clockwork, by the Boomtown Rats.