He was born in the Cockney area of London to a Jewish rabbinical family, but was raised mainly in Germany and Spain, returning to England in 1931, which resulted in his trademark hard-to-pin-down accent. He came to Australia with his wife and daughter in 1951. In Melbourne, he managed Thomas's Records, and became managing director of the National Theatre in St. Kilda from 1969 to 1989.
His many occupations included: aircraftman, art dealer, art exhibition organiser, assistant cameraman (films), author, ballet administrator, broadcaster, building designer, comedy writer, compere, concert promoter and manager, critic, diamond merchant, impresario, intimate revue pioneer, journalist, lecturer, mechanical engineer, opera producer, photographer, radio programmer, record producer, record retailer, recorded books reader, schools administrator, television presenter, theatre manager, theatrical agent, toolmaker and turner-fitter.
Singers of Renown
Cargher is most famous for single-handedly compiling and broadcasting Singers of Renown, a weekly celebration of the great classical voices from the earliest days of recording through to the present day. The program was broadcast on ABC Radio. It started on 17 April 1966 on 774 ABC Melbourne (then known as 3LO) for what was meant to be a 13-week run. Such was its popularity that after 10 weeks it was transferred to the Australia-wide ABC Radio National network. Singers of Renown remained on Radio National after all the other classical music programs were transferred to ABC Classic FM in 1976. It became the longest continuously running Australian radio program presented and produced by the same person, and Cargher himself became the longest continuous program presenter in the ABC's history. Every recording John Cargher played throughout the program's 42-year run was from his own private collection, which he built on the couple of hundred 78s he brought to Australia. In Cargher's opinion the best modern musicals could become classical if they were presented by the best voices. Cargher never just introduced passages from various performances; he would also inject fascinating historical details. His retirement from broadcasting due to ill health was announced on 15 April 2008. His final Singers of Renown program went to air on 27 April. He died three days later.
After his death, the ABC released a 3-CD tribute to Cargher, with 2 complete episodes of Singers of Renown, and some excerpts from his Music for Pleasure programs.
His books include:
- Music for Pleasure
- Opera and Ballet in Australia Cassell Australia 1977 ISBN 0 7269 1360 X
- There's Music in My Madness
- How to Enjoy Opera Without Really Trying
- How to Enjoy Music Without Really Trying
- How to Enjoy Ballet Without Really Trying
- Bravo! Two Hundred Years of Opera in Australia
- The Good Classical CD Guide
- The Good Opera CD Guide
- Luck was My Lady: Memoirs of a Workaholic (autobiography; with a foreword by Sir Zelman Cowen)
- "Radio's Cargher dies after retiring – The Australian".[dead link]
- Sydney Morning Herald 3 May 2008 obituary
- The Australian 24 April 2008
- "Obituaries: Soprano Frances Yeend dies at ninety-five; soprano Brenda Miller Cooper; arts advocates Jock Lawrence and Polly Lauder Tunney; pianist George Malloy; critic John Cargher.". Opera News 73 (1). July 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
- It's an Honour: AM
- Cargher Tribute