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‘Devastated’: Laurel Edwards breaks silence on shock 4KQ departure

It was a “pinch me” moment for the much- loved radio presenter who is about to celebrate another milestone – and an Australian record. Next Wednesday, Edwards will mark 30 years as a breakfast presenter on Queensland’s 4KQ radio station, making her (according to available current records) the longest-serving announcer – male or female – on the same shift at the same station in Australian broadcast history. It’s a remarkable achievement for Edwards, now 55, and for the past 15 years sharing the breakfast slot with Gary Clare, and Mark Hine on the “Laurel, Gary and Mark” 4KQ Breakfast Show. “I’m very lucky,” Edwards says of “this wonderful career that has given me so much.”Edwards’ anniversary comes just after it was announced by the former owners of 4KQ, the Australian Radio Network (ARN), that the new owners, SEN, would be changing the station’s format from music to sport and would not be keeping the Laurel, Gary and Mark Breakfast Show. While the show will remain on air for some time, it is not known when it will end.The news broke just before Qweekend went to print, and Edwards says she has already been fielding offers from various radio networks, but is taking her time to consider her future while she mourns the loss of her 4KQ family. “This is a radio station with such incredible heritage in Queensland and with such loyal, longtime listeners, I am devastated that this will be the end of an incredible era in Australian radio,” she says. “For me, I fully intend to still celebrate my 30 years on Wednesday because nothing changes there, those memories remain the same, the well-wishes keep coming in for that and I remain so proud of my own legacy with this station. I also remain so proud of my co-hosts, who I love like brothers and know that the three of us will be okay, I can’t say too much, but I’m sure we’ll pop up somewhere.“In the meantime, it’s 4KQ as a music station that I’ll miss the most and I just want to thank all the listeners for the past 30 years. “I must admit when I first joined this industry I thought I’d be in it for a couple of years, so to have a 30-year run with the one station has been an absolute blessing and a privilege. That’s what we’ll be raising a glass to on Wednesday.”It’s also a career that very nearly didn’t happen, with Edwards sharing her less-than-stellar audition story for the job that would become hers for so long, interviewing everyone from the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes and Brian May.“I’ve loved radio all my life,” Edwards says. “When I was little I was just glued to the transistor, and radio hosts were my idols. I’d ring in with my song requests and to me, people like (legendary Brisbane radio hosts) Lee Cornell and Waynie Poo Roberts, they were like rock stars. After school, I sang in bands and worked in a record store (the much loved and lamented Brash’s in Mount Gravatt) and then I landed a job hosting a kids’ TV show Okay For Kids on Channel 9, and when it went off air after three years, I was a little lost, and not sure what to do next.”Through a friend, Edwards heard that there was a breakfast co-hosting spot opening at 4KQ. “It was the Kim (Mothershaw) and Jill (Ray) breakfast show, and it was hugely popular. Jill was leaving and they said I could come in to audition,” she says. Edwards did, but faltered at the start by saying: “Good morning everyone, you’re with Kim and Jill.” Edwards laughs. “Just nerves, I was so nervous I didn’t say my own name.” But the station gave Edwards a shot, one where she learnt the tricks of the trade. She credits Mothershaw as a great, early teacher. “He taught me so much, including the value of listening, really listening during interviews, so you can take the conversation in different and unexpected directions.”And Edwards had to learn fast; just a week after landing her job, in May 1992, she found herself in London for the 25th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ legendary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, broadcasting from Abbey Road Studios and interviewing luminaries such as television host Michael Parkinson and Queen’s Brian May. It was a baptism of fire for the young presenter, who quickly became an audience favourite. By her side, cheering her on much of the way was her now-husband of 27 years, country music star Troy Cassar-Daley. The couple, who met at the 1993 Gympie Muster (Cassar-Daley has said he “fell hard” for Edwards from the moment he saw her; “I spotted this gorgeous brunette and was just knocked over by her”) went on to have two children: Clay, 23, a radio announcer on Triple A Murri Country, and Jem, 21, an up-and-coming singer/songwriter. Cassar-Daley, who has just celebrated his own outstanding achievement, winning an unprecedented 40 Golden Guitar awards (beating Slim Dusty’s record) at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, is pretty chuffed at his wife’s achievement. “I’m so proud of Laurel,” Cassar-Daley says. “When we first met I was sleeping on her lounge, and she left at the ungodly hour of 4am and well, I didn’t know what she did or where she was going because I didn’t live in Brisbane at the time. So, fast-forward to 30 years later, raising two kids and supporting a country music singer husband, she’s the definition of a hardworking career woman, loving woman and mum all rolled into one. She’s my best friend, and had my heart from the very beginning. “Thirty years is an amazing achievement and will be celebrated in our house, that’s for sure.”For Edwards – who says Cassar-Daley was her rock when he would “do the school runs, make the kids breakfast, plait the hair” when he wasn’t touring (then her family would help out) – having a solid home base was important.Edwards did experience darker moments when she went back on air just four weeks after giving birth to her son Clay, only realising weeks later that her sorrow, dread and anxiety was postnatal depression.“It just wasn’t talked about in those days the way it is now, so I was just in this state, I couldn’t stop crying and then I’d have to be very up and bubbly on air … it was tricky,” she says. But then – as now – it wasn’t just family (“especially my mum Dell, who we call Super Dell”) and friends that kept her going, it was her loyal, and loving, radio audience. “I’m so grateful to all the people who have listened over all the years. What happens is that they become your radio family.”Edwards feels lucky too, for all those “pinch me” moments her career has given her; at the top of her list, sharing the studio all morning with the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb. “Barry had grown up in Redcliffe and he had great memories of 4KQ. He and his brothers Robin and Maurice had entered the 4KQ talent contest in the ’60s, so he sat in the studio with us, took calls from listeners all morning and it was so fantastic, so special.”Tomorrow morning, Edwards will, just as she has done for the past 30 years, get up, at some ungodly hour, get dressed and drive in the pitch darkness to 4KQ. She will grab a coffee, ready to talk – and listen – to her family of listeners, bringing in another day.

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