A NAME SYNONYMOUS with music radio, David Blood was legendary in so many ways. He had a dulcet voice, an impeccable understanding of the political currents that conflated with culture, and an ability to shapeshift and re-invent himself as the industry changed in values and priorities. He also boasted the conviction that good music is far more important than pedantic protocol. He passed away on March 23, 2019 from heart and liver failure. He was 73.
Armed with a wicked sense of humour and a great appreciation for detail, Blood rapidly became a one-man institution on both radio and television in South Africa, holding on to a reputation of not kowtowing to the powers that were.
The Eastern Cape was an important incubator for Blood, who was born there on 29 April, 1945 and schooled in the windy, friendly city, matriculating at the Port Elizabeth Technical High School, with some experience performing Shakespeare, as a youngster. He followed an instinct and started working on radio there in 1963, reading regional news for the Eastern Cape and Border.
In 1967, he married the love of his life, Maria Senekal.
By the seventies, he’d moved to Durban, where he worked on radio drama shows of the ilk of Father Dear Father, The Navy Lark, Friends and Neighbours, Lux Radio Theatre, Playhouse 90, to name a few.
By 1976, with the advent of television in the country, he was identified as not only having a voice for radio, but a face for the new medium, and that year he was employed as a weatherman on SABC, and a presenter for TopSport, the station’s sports show. Later, he was given the nod to be one of TV1’s continuity announcers.
But the wiles and subtleties of British humour and the fierce beauty of 1980s rock music were his real passions. And in 1980, shortly after radio station 702 was launched, eighteen years into his professional career, he moved back to radio, doing the evening music show from 7-10pm daily and Sunday afternoons. But before he was accepted into the lineup, he was tried out on an early morning slot, and remembered in one of his podcasts, the first song he ever played on radio was Olivia Newton-John’s Magic.
In 1984, Blood was headhunted by Radio 5 for an afternoon drive show, which morphed into the Chuckle and Chat show, where he shared the mic with Tony Sanderson. It proved to be arguably the biggest show to hit radio in South Africa at that time. Fans remember it for its unbridled cavalier attitude to all the rules and stereotypes of broadcasting, as imposed by the apartheid government.
Four years later, Blood was back at 702, to launch Talk at Ten, the very first iteration of night time talk radio, which possibly may be reflected as a prototype for social media discourse. The show shifted to being Talk at Nine, and is still in existence in this slot.
Things began to shift in the stability of the media platform at this point, and his gigs with Radio 2000 and Highveld Stereo preceded his Blood Consortium, where he spearheaded an initiative against Primedia which was committed to buying the station.
The cheeky legacy of Blood boasts him always being in trouble for playing good music and not sticking to the ‘format’. “Being able to play what I like and share my music with others, without waiting for the ‘red phone’ to ring, is a great pleasure,” he commented on various platforms.
The difficulties put in his way by radio administrators and others forced his hand, over the years, in shifting the paradigm of his working commitments. During this time he worked for a range of different platforms, including Mix 93.8FM, CDN Sports Institute and LM Radio, but he was diligent in regularly publishing his recorded work on mixcloud. At LM he collaborated with close friend and photographer Manie Grové on a breakfast show for several months in 2017, but was suspended in October of that year. His sin? Playing good music. Streame Rock Radio was his online project, giving platform to his weekly music podcasts.
In March of 2018, Maria Blood suffered a devastating stroke and passed away on 27 December of that year. The couple had no children. Blood leaves his younger brother, Peter, hundreds of loving colleagues and thousands of ardent fans on the other side of the radio.
- Grové hosts a tribute for David Blood at the Morningside Country Club, 1 De La Rey Road, Edenburg, Sandton, on April 2 from 2pm. Cash drinks and food will be available.