Vale: Ernie Sigley
Updated: Legendary entertainer Ernie Sigley, who enjoyed a long career in television & radio, has died.
Legendary entertainer Ernie Sigley, fondly known as “the little Aussie battler” has died, aged 82.
Footscray-born Sigley enjoyed a long career in Australian showbiz on television, radio, music and stage.
In recent years he has been in care, after family confirmed he was living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.
He began at 3DB in 1952 before hosting Teenage Mailbag on HSV-7 in 1957. Shortly after this, he travelled to London, gaining some work experience at the BBC. But a bigger break was to come with a three-year stint at Radio Luxembourg, where he performed under the name ‘Ernie Williams’.
He was part of the original cast of Sunnyside Up before hosting Adelaide Tonight in 1959.
By 1974, Sigley was the host of The Ernie Sigley Show, on Nine with Denise Drysdale, which famously included an episode filmed at Pentridge Prison. In 1975 he won the Gold Logie.
The show was abruptly axed after an off-air outburst directed at Kerry Packer. Packer flew to Melbourne the next day and dismissed Sigley on the spot and replaced him with Don Lane.
He then moved to ATV-0 and hosted the early evening variety show Ernie and then in 1978, the Penthouse Club with Mary Hardy on Seven.
Sigley was also the original host of Wheel of Fortune from 1981 to 1984, filmed in Adelaide with Adriana Xenides and announcer John Deeks, and later Pot Luck and Six Tonight for BTV-6 Ballarat.
In 1989 he reunited with Denise Drysdale for morning show In Melbourne Today, reinventing morning television on Nine (also called Ernie and Denise).
‘Hey Paula’ a 1974 duet with Drysdale was a pop sensation, reaching #2 and being performed on shows such as Countdown. He is still remembered for his association with the Adelaide leg of The Beatles tour in 1964. At one press conference, Sigley’s questioning of The Beatles brought about an enthusiastic response from John Lennon, which led to one of the best interviews of the tour.
By 1981, Sigley returned to 3DB to host the breakfast program before News Talk 3UZ and then 3AW in
1996. He hosted the afternoon program for 12 years until his semi-retirement in 2008.
Sigley was notoriously fickle with management. There were arguments at Nine and 3AW, a post-Logies biffo with Don Lane, but his larrikin style kept him popular with audiences across the country.
I’m also personally indebted to Ernie for taking me on as a TV critic on 3AW when his producer suggested he try me out in 2008. The entire first session was a conversation with Ernie asking about my background (and none of my TV notes!) which he later told me was to let the audience get to know me. Ernie didn’t watch much TV then, but always had great anecdotes to share.
He once told Melbourne Observer, “I’d say a bit of a gasbag, more than anything. I just like talking. I don’t sing very well and I crack weak gags.
“I think I can communicate with people, yeah. I think I’ve got a good knowledge of what people want.”
Asked what sort of relationship he has with viewers, he answered, “Mainly, just a friend I suppose. A mate. I believe in live television, like I do, you’re virtually a guest in somebody’s lounge room.
A bit like the bloke next door who comes in and has a drink.”
Denise Drysdale said, “We’ve lost one of the all-time great’s Australian TV and radio today. Ernie Sigley was one of a kind. He was enormously generous to me. In fact if it wasn’t for Ernie I doubt that my career would’ve turned out the way it did. He always just let me be myself and that is the greatest gift of all. I will cherish the memories of all the mischief we got up to together. He still makes me laugh just thinking about him. Love and respect dear Ernie.”
Nine said in a statement, “Today we have lost ‘the little Aussie Battler’ Ernie Sigley and our heartfelt sympathy goes to his family and friends. Ernie entertained millions of Australians. He was an Australian TV pioneer, who began his career in SA and at Nine a man who brightened our lives and brought laughter into our homes, we remember him fondly.”
Bert Newton said, “Ernie & I started out together as young boys. He was one of a kind, had a fabulous career and our love goes out to his family. He’ll be sadly missed.”
Sad news concerning Ernie Sigley.What a lovable larrikin, worked on"Ernie"in '76 on ATV-0 as his sidekick,& in '84 ended up doing WOF after he'd established it.We played a fair bit,never forget days on the farm with laughs late into the night.Thinking of Glenys&family…RIP mate.
— John Burgess (@thejohnburgess) August 16, 2021
Very sad to hear of Ernie Sigley’s death.
His unique larrikin style made it look easier than it really is.
TV,radio,recording success & live concerts – what a great career! But his greatest pride was his family.
He was kind to me so I’ll be sad but honoured to pay tribute today. pic.twitter.com/0D5ZgJdhvE
— Peter Ford (@mrpford) August 15, 2021
Vale Ernie Sigley. Each day at two minutes past midday he’d tell me what I’d done wrong, launch into that magnificent giggle, and show me the door. A complex and fascinating character.
— Neil Mitchell (@3AWNeilMitchell) August 15, 2021
Very saddened to wake up to the news of Ernie Sigley’s passing.
I produced Ernie’s program on @3AW693 when I was 21-years-old to when he retired in 2008.
Ern was the funniest, cheekiest person I’ve worked with. A great interviewer. He had a great impact on me as a kid producer. pic.twitter.com/4OhC7lgBBh
— mark davidson (@markjdavidson) August 15, 2021
Sad news to wake up to the death of Ernie Sigley. He had a million stories and knew everyone. He could be funny warm lovable stubborn and cantankerous all at the same time. Ernie was Melbourne. In 1974 he was bigger than big . A sad day
— Tony Tardio (@tonytardio) August 15, 2021
When I started at @3AW693, I’d never met Ernie Sigley. But, within a week he said “come do my sports segment.” He loved nurturing young talent & my goodness, if you thought he was funny on air, you should’ve heard him behind the scenes.
Farewell, mate. Go the mighty Bulldogs!
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) August 15, 2021
Sad to hear the passing of Ernie Sigley. He was always supportive of me as a young performer. My thoughts to his family and many, many colleagues
— David Campbell OAM (@DavidCampbell73) August 15, 2021
Ernie Sigley set my parents up on a blind date in Adelaide in the rollicking sixties. He will always have a special place in our hearts. Sending lots of love from my family to yours @MatthewSigley ❤️ #Vale
— Angela Pippos (@angelapippos) August 15, 2021
Four times a week for seven years I would talk to Ernie Sigley on @3AW693 from LA. It was always chaotic! I never knew what he was going to say. He taught me how to be spontaneous, when something works go with it and instilled in me a great passion for radio. I owe him so much.
— NickMcCallum7 (@NickMcCallum7) August 16, 2021