Veteran Australian entertainment star Ernie Sigley has died, his family has announced.
He had been in residential care and living with Alzheimer’s disease during his final years, and passed away peacefully on Sunday at 82.
A TV host, radio presenter, and singer, Sigley’s diminutive stature, working class roots and larrikin laugh often saw him referred to as the “little Aussie battler”.
His entertainment career began in 1952 as a turntable operator at radio station 3DB Melbourne.
Five years later, at 19, he made his television debut hosting Teenage Mailbag on HSV7 Melbourne. He then spent two years working overseas including a short stint at the BBC.
Returning to Australia, Sigley interviewed The Beatles on the Adelaide leg of the band’s 1964 Australian tour, using his detailed knowledge of music to elicit an enthusiastic response from John Lennon.
He went on to host the top-rating, prime-time Adelaide variety show, Adelaide Tonight, on NWS9 into the early 1970s.
From 1974-1976, he hosted The Ernie Sigley Show, beginning a long-term working partnership with fellow performer Denise Drysdale. It was to be the Nine Network’s highest-ever rating tonight show on Australian television.
Sigley was the original host of the Australian version of the popular game show Wheel of Fortune, from 1981 to 1984.
He hosted the top-rating afternoon radio program on Melbourne’s 3AW from 1996 until his retirement in 2008.
During that time, and in the years following, he performed in his one-man show -and with Drysdale – in clubs and concert halls around Australia.
Sigley received 21 Logie Awards for most popular performer and producer. In 1975, he won the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality, presented to him by legendary movie star John Wayne.
As a singer, Sigley had a string of number one hits. In 1957, his first single Love Is A Golden Ring became a gold record.
In 1974, he recorded one of Australia’s most popular duets Hey Paula with Drysdale. The song was a number one best-selling hit in Australia.
Sigley is survived by his wife of 47 years, Glenys, and their children Matthew, Guy, David and Emma.