33 YEARS ON AIR: Mark Eckel.

By JOHN DOOLEY

MILDURA-based OzCMR reaches a world-wide audience across the internet and has established itself as one of the premier country music streaming radio stations.

Developed from an idea of station operator Mark Eckel and former legendary radio presenter, the late Max Thorburn, the 24/7 program line-up heard on Oz-CMR also includes music from the USA, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Mr Eckel said the inspiration to establish a country music radio station came when he was working at community radio station more than 30 years ago and became disillusioned with the change in music direction taken by its board.

“I had developed a pretty good national and international listening audience and so I approached Max who owned 1611AM Old Gold, and asked whether I could use his studio to broadcast,” Mr Eckel said.

“Max said “yes”, on condition that I hosted a ‘Country Breakfast Show’ – it was a deal, and I brought my ‘Hitz Show’ with me as well. That was 1987 and its been going ever since, coming up to 33 years.”

Mr Eckel said that the other main motivation was his disappointment that Mildura had the largest independent country music festival in the world, but no country music radio station.

“Having served on the Mildura Country Music Festival organising committee as the Wentworth Club’s representative for some years and entertainment manager at the Wentworth Club, I had established a close association with not only independent artists in Australia, but internationally,” he said. “That provided me with the opportunity to use that knowledge and experience to ensure content for the station wasn’t an issue.”

Early to rise
An early riser, Mr Eckel works on air from 6am through to noon Monday to Friday, continuing to broadcast across Sunraysia on the 1611AM station from 8am to 10am as well as live streaming his program.

Mr Eckel is ably assisted by producer and musical director Mark Deakin, who also provides technical support and carries out marketing for the station, as well as working on air behind the microphone.

“We have a Top 40 Chart in arrangement with TYGAFM in Tasmania, working with Nigel Jones, a past resident of Mildura,” Mr Eckel said.

“We have also developed a marketing package for independent artists in Canada, USA, Ireland, Norway, England, Scotland and with a musical director in Norway – Konny Christensen and my Nashville representative Annemarie Picerno.”

Mr Eckel said his Facebook music page has more that 4800 members.

“The site has had tens of thousands of downloads, and has certainly kept Mildura on the country music world map,” he said.

In 2007, the Tasmanian Independent Country Music Awards recognised Mr Eckel with the ‘National Legend Award’ for his outstanding contribution to Australian country music.

Irish connection
OzCMR’s international audience members and contributors frequently contact the station to express their enjoyment of the music, and the opportunity it offers for country music artists.

“Here in Ireland Mark has many listeners as Ireland is truly blessed with wonderful artists − singers and songwriters − and over the years, many of our artist both young and old tune, into Mark and send their CDs and albums over to him,” said Julie Healy from Galway.

“There’s no doubt he loves the Irish singers and their songs, and of course, a touch of the ‘Blarney’ and the Irish sense of humour!”

Nashville entertainer, Anne-marie Picerno said that it’s always a pleasure to tune in to Mark and OzCMR.

“As an artist from Nashville, it is always an honour to have my music aired on his music programs,” she said.