From his days at Capital 604 to East Coast Radio and then onto his time on Magic 828, Dave Guselli has always turned listeners into friends. This month, as he keeps music lovers company – playing classic hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s on East Coast Gold – the much-loved legend in the South African radio landscape celebrates a 40-year career in radio.
“Radio is all about connection, and that’s what people seem to have forgotten. My motto is ‘it’s just radio and nobody died’. You’ve got to put the fun back into it.” Reflecting on his first day at independent radio station, Capital Radio 604, which was run out of a rambling old double story house in Port St Johns, Dave laughs. It was 1981 and he was a blue-eyed lad fresh out of Manchester, where he worked at Piccadilly Radio. “What a disaster! I was so psyched and mentally prepared for my first day on the graveyard shift – 1am to 5am – and then my wife got food poisoning the night before. She was so sick that we had to get a doctor out and he was rather drunk, which didn’t help. The only other option was making an almost two-hour trek on the dirt road, in the pouring rain, to the nearest hospital in Mthatha. Fortunately, former programme head of the radio station Stuart Lee took care of that first show for me so I could take care of Cindy.”
Durbanites might remember Dave better for the 22 years he spent with East Coast Radio (then Radio Port Natal), seven of them being in the afternoon drive time slot. He has always had considerable crossover appeal and, over the years, built a loyal following.
“The short and sweet of 40 years of radio is this: getting onto radio is easy, staying on is hard. You have to be creative and move with the times. I started with vinyl and today the songs I play are all in an IT cloud. Dealing with big changes has not been easy, but I have a hunger and a passion for what I do. My show is very light-hearted and steeped in nostalgia … there’s very little of me, and a whole lot of good music.”
A big fan of music from the 70s and rhythm and blues, Dave says he could listen for hours to the likes of Luther Vandross, The Real Thing, or Earth, Wind and Fire. My favourite song of all time is Let’s Stay Together by American singer Al Green and I’m not going to tell you why. Everyone knows I’m a storyteller, but there are some things I’ll take with me to my grave.”
Speaking of stories, some of Dave’s greatest radio experiences make for really good ones. Being a warm-hearted, caring individual who loves to give back to the community, some of his biggest inspirations have been Stage 4 cancer fighter and friend Byron McDonald and a young girl he helped raise R300 000 for so she could be flown to the States to remove a malignant brain tumour. The operation was a success and they are still in contact today.
“I’m privileged to have met Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Elton John, Chris de Burgh, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder, with highlights being Celine Dion and Nelson Mandela – if ever there was a day my knees were weak and I was filled with humility!”
When the work day is done, Dave enjoys unwinding with a glass of decent red wine. “I’m a dog lover, a Manchester United fan and a man of healthy eating habits. I love a good cup of coffee to start the day, drink lots of water, moisturise with an SPF and thrive on long beach walks.”
With Heritage Day around the corner, Dave admits he’s by no means a ‘Jan Braai’. : “But it isn’t all about that anyway, it’s about celebrating who we are as a nation. It’s hard for me not being a true South African, but I look back to where I come from and where I am today, and I think I’ve earned the right to feel like I belong.”
Catch Dave on East Coast Gold every weekday from 5 to 9pm and Saturdays from 2 to 6pm.