Ken Sparkes, for years the host of Channel Nine’s F1 TV broadcasts - and a good friend of your TMR correspondent – has died suddenly while holidaying in France.
Ken was a passionate enthusiast of motoring and motorsports (only last week we said we must call him about his Ferrari Dino which is in need of restoration). For many, Ken was best known for hosting the Channel 9 F1 telecasts with Alan Jones and, in Adelaide, with Murray Walker. Later he was the front-man for the Gold Coast Indycar ontrack TV broadcasts.
He was also in great demand to host car club and car industry functions – a task he did with great enthusiasm and professionalism.
But, not widely known within the motor sports fraternity, Ken was one of Australia’s best ‘voice-over’ talents - constantly ‘voicing’ commercials, corporate videos and in-house numbers for Channel Nine and hundreds of corporate clients. For years viewers of Channel Nine’s TV new programs around Australia heard Ken’s voice before anyone else – as the opening sequences rolled, Ken was the guy who said: “This is Nine News with Brian Henderson, Peter Hitchener etc”.
Legend has it that one day Ken walked into a voice-over studio to record a commercial only to find ‘The Man With The Golden Tonsils’, John Laws packing up after completing the previous ‘read’. “G’day John, how’s Australia’s best voice,” Ken cheerily said. “Not bad Kenny, how’s Australia’s second-best voice,” Laws responded.
In fact, after starting-out at radio station 2MG in Mudgee, NSW (within reach of Young, where his contemporary Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren - the voice of Channel Nine’s NRL and Olympic broadcasts - got his start calling the horse races and working at radio station 2LF), ‘Sparksey’ (as everyone called him) moved first to Sydney and then to Melbourne working at a number of radio stations. He also worked from Vietnam during the war years.
And later, he had ‘bit-parts’ as an actor on TV shows like Homicide and Division 4.
Sparkes was the voice behind ‘Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars’; one of Australia’s most well-recognised television advertising campaigns.
But music was Ken’s thing. In the rocking 60s and 70s he worked on Bandstand and Kommotion and moved with Sydney’s in-crowd including the likes of Johhny O’Keefe, Col Joye and Ward ‘Pally’ Austin. He was even seen in company with ‘colourful bookmaker’ George Freeman and Jack Gibson who was actually a bouncer at Thommo’s Two-Up Club in Darlinghurst before moving-on to become the most revered NRL coach and football commentator of all-time.
Most recently, Ken was hosting the Aurora Channel’s Jukebox Saturday Night and had a lucrative deal providing English-language voiceovers in China.
Ken Sparkes was 76.
TMR extends our condolences to his family and friends.