Bill Armstrong, 2011

Bill Armstrong

Winner of the NFSA Sound Heritage Award
 Matthew Davies

The NFSA’s Cochrane Smith award for Sound Heritage recognises individual achievement across a wide range of criteria, and this year’s recipient Bill Armstrong hits the mark across the board.

Bill’s pioneering recordings represent an important historic collection in their own right, and include music from the 1949 Jazz Conventions, speeches by Sir Robert Menzies, and the first audio recordings made in Australia of court proceedings.

A jazz fanatic, Bill launched his own record labels in the early 1950s, creating an outlet for local musicians and giving the Australian jazz scene an important boost. He was also producing live to air radio programs of jazz and dance music for the ABC, and later working as the recording engineer on live to air variety programs on radio 3UZ.

At the 1956 Olympic Games Bill Armstrong was in charge of the PA system at the main stadium of the Melbourne Olympic Games, and played a key role in the broadcasts of opening and closing ceremonies.

In 1965, Bill established what was to become the ‘hit factory’ for Australian pop music for decades. Bill Armstrong Pty Ltd became known simply as Armstrong Studios, and took the lead in new technologies, equipment and techniques for record production.

Bill then went on to have a major role in new radio services, first by providing the operational and technical support for the new multicultural radio stations 2EA and 3EA, and then as Managing Director of EON-FM, the first commercial FM station in Australia.

For more than 20 years now, Bill has been re-discovering, remastering and releasing the Bill Armstrong Collection of historic recordings. These recordings use the latest in digital restoration to breathe life into old recordings, some of which have never been released to the public before.

Bill is still a very busy man, but he has found the time to work with the National Film and Sound Archive’s Oral history program, recording the stories of other pioneers and leaders in the field of sound and music. We’re grateful for all he’s done, and is doing, for sound heritage in Australia.

Main image: Bill Armstrong, radio pioneering and sound recording legend is this year’s winner of the Cochrane-Smith Sound Heritage Award.