Wednesday 20 November 2019

A passionate and professional disc jockey to the very end

A distinctive voice on Irish airwaves for years, Tony Fenton was a master of his trade, writes his friend John Clarke

DJ Tony Fenton
DJ Tony Fenton

John Clarke

Tony Fenton loved Radio Luxembourg and wanted to be Rob Jones. Not alone did Tony hit those heights, he surpassed them to become an iconic disc jockey (he never wanted to be a broadcaster or presenter. I can hear him say: "I'm a jock, dude").

His time on the 2fm Hotline was legendary. His passion for music never waned during the many years he spent there. In fact, that passion increased within every successful decade he spent enjoying his one great love - radio.

He was unique, caring, and strived to do his best show every time he got into a radio studio and behind a microphone.

In a live performance, he was a master of stage craft ("You don't need to be able to dance to be a jock, dude"). Check out YouTube for the Fentone on the 2fm beat on the street ("You say KIT, I say KAT, I can't hear you").

After four decades, his enthusiasm for radio showed no sign of waning, and he continued to love 'freestyle radio', "No f***in' Australian witch, oops, radio doctor for me, Dude."

His anticipation of the arrival of the weekly chart, and his excitement at seeing the new entries, was boundless. And it was all the sweeter to him, as he would have championed many of those new entries weeks before.

Then, at five o'clock on Friday, when he became the master of the chart rundown, his sheer quality, professionalism and delight in the job he was doing shone through.

His great voice also lent itself to voiceovers on commercials, and he used this ability to great effect. It was an entertainment in itself to watch him doing this work. He would be in the booth, doing a great voiceover in one take, and he'd say, "You want one more take - no problem, dude, catch this one."

I've great memories of our pirate-radio days, the glory days, the schedule-changing days.

But this is a business that can be ruthless, and known for its career bitchiness. But it never got to Tony, never made him cynical. In the 40-odd years I have know the Tone, I never heard him say a negative comment about anyone in the industry. The man was just so positive, his love of life was an ocean deep. He made every day count.

No party ever really started until Tony Fenton was in the house. It could be two or three in the morning, when all around him were flagging and wilting, and then Tony would pipe up: "Let's do Renards - you'll be a long time looking at the lid of a wooden box."

The Fentone certainly lived a full life, and his lust for life was infectious and rippled over those in his company. Every individual is unique on this planet, whatever journey they are on. Tony enjoyed his journey, but reached his destination far too soon.

Tony's passing simply highlighted how fragile life is and how everyone should cherish the now and live the moment. Time is finite and we should never waste a second.

With any passing the loss of anyone is filled with vivid memories, and these are some of my cherished memories of Tony Fenton.

Well, Tony, now that you are sadly gone, we'll never get to know how the Carter Twins met.

I'll raise a Sean for you (when you know Jack Daniels as well as you do, you can call him Sean).

Tony, rest in peace, and thanks for the memories. I know you always liked the night to end on a laugh.

The radio was on with the volume up to 11 when you closed your eyes. You must have been listening to Dignity & Integrity FM.

Finally, to quote your good self: "A nod of respect to talent." You had it in spades, dude.

John Clarke is editor of music programming on RTE GOLD (digital radio). He was the head of 2fm for 11 years.

Sunday Independent

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