Vale pioneering label exec, producer & activist Ron Tudor
Ron Tudor, a pioneer of the Australian music industry passed away on the weekend, aged 96.
The son of Victorian dairy farmers with nine siblings who had a huge jazz collection, his knowledge of music brought him to the attention of Melbourne station 3AK in the 1950s.
He joined the new W&G Records, first as a sales rep and then producer/A&R where he signed Ernie Sigley, Johnny Chester, The Thunderbirds Merv Benton, Colin Cook, Diana Trask and The Seekers.
Tudor discovered The Seekers, but released the band when they went to London in case they found a better deal there.
He produced surf band The Atlantics’ 1963 instrumental ‘Bombora’, a #1 in Australia.
Tudor was awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 1979 for services to the recording industry.
This was primarily for a leadership role in the Australian Music Makers Association, lobbying government for three years to increase radio quotas for Aussie artists from 5% to 20%.
Other awards through the years came from APRA, Go-Set, Advance Australia, Yamaha and Moomba.
Tudor is best known for setting up Fable Records in 1969.
“The idea of Fable was to become the biggest record company in Australia, with each record released with great fanfare!” he’d recollect later.
To this end, Fable signed a worldwide distribution deal with PolyGram (now Universal).
Its launch was bittersweet. In May 1970, record labels demanded radio pay to play their records.
Radio responded by boycotting Australian and US records.
With a new label to lift off, Tudor refused to join other record companies.
EMI, which pressed PolyGram’s records, black banned manufacturing Fable discs, forcing Tudor to find a plant in Singapore.
Shipment was initially stopped by Australian Customs.
It maintained Fable’s ‘Made In Australia’ message on discs (to denote a local artist) was misleading because it was “made” in Singapore.
But the stand-off meant that records by John Williamson (‘Old Man Emu’), Hans Poulsen, and Matt Flinders got high airplay – especially when The Mixtures, Liv Maessen and Brian Cadd’s Bootleg Family covered overseas hits.
Mike Brady’s AFL 1979 anthem ‘Up There Cazaly’ sold 250,000 copies at that time.
“Ron was never the boss. He was the leader of the pack. He was the loudest, the funniest and maybe the naughtiest,” Brian Cadd posted after his passing.
“But underlying all that was a deep passion for our Industry and an unshakable belief in Australian talent.”
Tudor felt Fable was being targeted by other record companies because of his refusal to be part of “pay to play”.
In July 1984, he sold to John McDonald. At the time it had amassed 20 gold and platinum records as well as 32 industry awards.
He returned to Armstrong Studios, which he had founded with Bill Armstrong and Roger Savage (later renamed AAV) and worked there until retirement.
His daughter Megan Tudor worked extensively in the music industry in publicity, marketing and artist management.
In 1999, Tudor was presented with the Special Achievement Award by ARIA, who recently uploaded their tribute to him along with fellow recipient Armstrong.