DJ Barry Jenkin, also known as Dr Rock, was the inaugural host of late night music show Radio with Pictures in the late 1970s; his famous signature line was "good evening citizens". Kiwi musician and author Michael Larsen has compared Jenkin's influence in New Zealand to that of legendary English DJ John Peel, since both "consistently championed music that is very much off the mainstream".
Jenkin's broadcasting career spans four decades, decades that have seen him passionately championing everyone from The Stones to The Cure, and also contributing to a great many television voice-overs.
Jenkin trained as an announcer for the NZ Broadcasting Corporation in the late 60s. After three years at Palmerston North station 2ZA he was back in Auckland, where he joined 1ZM.
The 70s saw Jenkin alternating extended shifts with the State-controlled ZM and Radio Hauraki — which then often dominated the Auckland market. It was at Hauraki that DJ Fred Botica gave Jenkin his nickname Dr Rock, and Jenkin got the chance to play mostly what he wanted.
In 1977 director Alan Thurston invited Jenkin to be the first host of Sunday night music show Radio with Pictures (for its first year, RWP's music clips had been linked by graphics rather than a presenter). Jenkin signed on, and his pay soon rose to $95 a week, plus free tee-shirts. He would host the show for three years, followed by DJ Phil O'Brien, and returned to RWP to discuss some of his favourite local punk acts on this 1984 episode.
Jenkin has described the late 70s/early 80s as "a unique period for New Zealand music". "..from '77 onwards it was just a revolution...you were either a punk or a hippy. And if you were a hippy pity help you." Initially Jenkin found no love for punk flag-bearers The Sex Pistols, thinking they were "all just shock value and bollocks".
When Jenkin began hosting RWP, Bob Dylan and The Band were still show staples. He was won over to the musical revolution after hearing a track by the Stranglers at RWP 's offices: "..they weren't really punk, but by God did they have attitude."
Old RWP and Radio Hauraki playlists of The Stones, The Doors and Led Zeppelin were quickly dropped. "It was a dreadful decision in many ways — it was suicide and I knew it — but there was nothing I could do. It was too bloody exciting." Jenkin quickly learnt that the 'them and us' mentality of the times meant mixing the new music with old school acts left few parties satisfied. "I pitched all that other stuff out and started to play punk". Jenkin's radio ratings steadily drifted away from 51 per cent to 17 per cent; after being encouraged by his bosses to play more classic rock, Jenkin quit.
Soon Jenkin was offering rare early airplay to The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen on a 1251ZM midnight till dawn radio slot, which he ran alongside Andrew Page. A number of local musicians listened in avidly. Thanks to acquaintances in the music industry, Jenkin was allowed to hunt through local record company shelves for punk and new wave acts, and "grab all their samples. They didn't care." Jenkin persuaded his RNZ radio bosses to source some of the emerging punk and New Wave music directly from England, and occasionally convinced record companies to release some of it locally.
In the 80s Jenkin burnt his bridges and left dj'ing and music behind (he claims to have been fired by five radio stations). He plunged into a busy second career of voice-over work. As Bryan Staff has written, "advertising agencies, film companies and corporate video-makers discovered that Jenkin's gruff tones and measured delivery had many uses".
His screen work includes reading Colin Hogg's award-winning words for Barry Crump documentary Crump, Whitbread yacht race tale Two Boats, Two Dreams and bestselling NHNZ documentary Expedition Antarctica - Into the Frozen Abyss.
Over the years Jenkin noticed a change in how documentaries were created, from the early days when pictures came first. "Now I'll do the read and they'll cut the pictures around that."
In the late 80s Jenkin was kept busy doing voice-over work in Australia, under the name Barry Howard (in Australia his name was already taken). Jenkin got his foot in the door by dressing as a courier, and dropping his CV at a voice agency that claimed not to be taking on any new talent.
While in Australia Jenkin discovered he was a neighbour of Kiwi musician/manager Brent Eccles. Back in NZ, Eccles would tap him to handle publicity for a Kiwi tour by Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn, and Tim Finn. Jenkin has also dabbled in music production, and once personally flew members of post-punk band the Herco Pilots to a gig by aeroplane (Jenkin is a long time fan of flying).
Jenkin has also done further stints on radio, and in 2004 Jenkin bought his own station on Waiheke Island. But "the local economy didn't need it - particularly not what I wanted to play." These days Jenkin is kept busy running Waiheke's first wireless broadband company, Ynet.
Sean Gillespie, ‘Rock solid’ (Interview) - The Aucklander, 6 March 2010
Michael Larsen, See Me Go (Auckland: Penguin Books, 2003)
Bryan Staff, ‘Gruff Enough’ (Interview) - AdMedia magazine, February 2001