Australian Record Industry Pioneer John McDonald Dies At Age 88 -
John McDonald of Fable Music - photo from Fable Music website

John McDonald of Fable Music - photo from Fable Music website

Australian Record Industry Pioneer John McDonald Dies At Age 88

by Paul Cashmere on December 7, 2022

in News,Noise Pro

John McDonald, one of Australia’s great music industry pioneers, has died at age 88.

McDonald was the owner of Melbourne record store Disc Shop in Bourke Street when he founded Sparmac Records with radio DJ Ken Sparks. John was the mac in Sparmac, Ken the Spar. One of his employees at the store was a very young Colin Hay, later of Men At Work.

Sparmac had almost immediate success with a stable of artists including Robie Porter, Rick Springfield, Daddy Cool, Healing Force and Gerry & The Joy Band.

The label’s first hit was Robie Porter’s ‘Gemini’ in August 1970.

The big one came in 1971 with the eighth Sparmac Record ‘Eagle Rock’ by Daddy Cool. It is now considered one of the greatest Australian hits of all-time, so loved by Elton John that it became the inspiration for his song ‘Crocodile Rock’.

Healing Force ‘Golden Miles’ was another national hit for Sparmac. The song was one of Australia’s best examples of Prog Rock at the time.

Sparmac released Rick Springfield’s debut solo single ‘Speak to the Sky’. It reached no 14 on the Australian chart.

Another Sparmac act was Frieze, a band featuring ex-Zoot members Daryl Cotton and Beeb Birtles. Beeb would go on to form Mississippi with Graeham Goble which became Little River Band.

John McDonald was a major figure in the Australian music industry at this time. He was entrenched in the business, with international stars he could call trusted friend including Johnny Cash, Leon Russell and the Everly Brothers.

John was in France in 1982 when he heard the song ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’. He picked the song up, had it recorded by Colleen Hewitt in Australia and it was a hit in Australia in 1983 years before Bette Midler recorded it for Beaches in 1988. (Fun fact: The first person ever to record ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ was Australian based crooner Kamahl).

John never retired. He worked in music until the end as CEO of Fable Music with his daughter Lee running the publishing side of the business.

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