Donnie Sutherland

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Donnie Sutherland
Birth nameDonald Sutherland
Born (1946-12-22) 22 December 1946 (age 73)
Fairfield, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation(s)Radio, television presenter, singer
Years active1965–1991
  • RG
  • Du Monde
  • Violets Holiday
  • ATA
Associated acts
  • The Titans
  • the Cleves

Donald Sutherland OAM (born 22 December 1946) is an Australian radio and television presenter. He was the host of TV pop music show, Sounds, between 1975 and 1987. Sutherland has also worked as a TV producer and music journalist, and is associated with the local greyhound racing industry.


Sutherland was born on 22 December 1946 in Fairfield. His father Andrew Ross Sutherland was a bus driver.[1] His older brother, Ross Sutherland, was an apprentice jockey who died in February 1958, aged 18, after a four-horse collision at Gosford race-track.[2][3] His younger brothers are Ken and Ted; the family lived at Bossley Park.[1] At 14-years-old Sutherland also became an apprentice jockey, but increasing weight ended this career after four years.[4]

From mid-1965 Sutherland recorded voice demos for job applications as a radio presenter.[5] He fronted the Titans, which issued a single, "Mocking Bird Hill", in March 1966. Norm McLeod of The Biz described how "One of his records, just released, has brought him much praise from critics. The young vocalist first came into prominence when he was a member of a band making weekly appearances at the Marconi Club."[4]

From September 1968 to July 1971 Sutherland was writing for teen-based pop music newspaper, Go-Set, as one of their Sydney-based correspondents.[6] He "was given the task of producing a weekly Sydney gossip and news page. The column known as 'Donnie's Place', was only published in the New South Wales edition, and is in keeping with the strategy of keeping Go-Set local and national at the same time."[6] Ian Meldrum, his counterpart in Melbourne, had been with Go-Set from July 1966.[6]

Sutherland released his first solo single, "Fairyland", in 1969 via Du Monde Records, which is a cover version of a song by United Kingdom group, Pop Workshop, from the previous year.[5][7] It peaked in the top 50 on the local Sydney-based singles chart.[7] It was one of the first stereo singles recorded in Australia, which had John Eggington producing at United Sound Studio, Pyrmont.[5]

In the early 1970s Sutherland began a career as a radio disc-jockey with 2UW.[5]

In March 1975 Sutherland became the presenter of the Channel 7's pop music TV show, Sound Unlimited (later shortened to Sounds).[8] He took over from original host (and former radio DJ) Graham Webb, who remained as the show's producer.[8] It was broadcast each Saturday morning for twelve years until 1987, and was a long-term competitor to the ABC's pop music series, Countdown, hosted by Meldrum. During its early years Sounds was seen only in Sydney, but later it was relayed nationally, its first hour (9am–10am) was still seen in Sydney only, due to time zone differences, and the following two hours (10-12) were screened nationwide.

Debbie Kruger described how the show "was brilliant. Donnie often appeared hung over, his guests often appeared hung over, but everyone trapsed [sic] into the Sound Unlimited studio at some stage during the show's 16-year run – Sherbet, JPY, Jon English, Marcia Hines, and the odd overseas guest who could handle live TV on a Saturday morning."[8] The Canberra Times' Keith Gosman observed "[Sutherland] is not very young. What makes this program even more indigestible is that it has more disc jockies [sic] on it than Countdown. I remember one program when disc-jockies "from all over Australia" appeared and gave their views on the current state of Australian pop music... This program also showcases a hefty amount of disco which speaks for itself."[9] John Byrell of The Australian Women's Weekly described how his lifestyle of "Too much work too many late nights and a poor diet are doing the damage... [he had] a minor physical and nervous collapse" a year earlier.[10]

Sutherland hosted an evening TV special, Olivia's Greatest Hits, in October 1980, to focus on the music of Olivia Newton-John.[11] Also in that month he organised a charity event, "Wonder Wheel", where celebrities, including Gaynor Martin (Skyways actress), Lynda Stoner and Nick Jones (2SM DJ), raced across Sydney Harbour for Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.[12]

From 1982 to 1985 Sutherland also hosted a late-night music and chat show, After Dark,[8] which had a relaxed style. This featured chat segments with Australian and overseas music and entertainment identities, interspersed with music videos; on occasions when Sutherland was unavailable, it was guest-hosted by music personalities Stuart Coupe or Glenn A. Baker. Notable international guests on the show included Steve Marriott, John Cooper Clarke, Ramones and Jello Biafra.

From 1978 Sutherland also hosted five hours of disco music presented on Sydney radio station 2UW on Saturday nights from 7pm to midnight which lasted a year.

Sutherland also appeared in the 1983 film At Last... Bullamakanka: The Motion Picture.

At the conclusion of his tenure with Sounds, Sutherland worked with the emerging Sky Channel until 1991.

Sutherland was diagnosed with throat cancer in March 2014 and started chemotherapy and radiation treatments.[13] In December of that year, after a recurrence of the cancer, he had surgical removal of portions of his throat including his larynx.[3][14][15]


On Australia Day in January 2000 Sutherland was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia with a citation "For service to the music and entertainment industries, particularly the promotion of Australian performers, and to the community as a compere of fundraising events."[16] In the following January he was awarded the Centenary Medal "For service to the Centenary of Federation celebrations."[17]


  1. ^ a b "Bossley Park Boy's Tragic Death". The Biz. 5 March 1958. p. 22. Retrieved 6 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "Young Rider Dies in Race Smash". The Canberra Times. 31 (9, 415). 27 February 1958. p. 24. Retrieved 5 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ a b "Donnie Sutherland loses his famous voice after surgery". The Daily Telegraph. News Corp Australia. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b McLeod, Norm (1 June 1966). "Paragraphs about people: Ill (?) Wind". The Biz (3120). p. 2. Retrieved 6 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ a b c d Kimball, Duncan (2002). "Du Monde Records". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Kent, David Martin (September 2002). The place of Go-Set in rock and pop music culture in Australia, 1966 to 1974 (PDF) (MA). University of Canberra. pp. 58, 64, 68, 228. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 May 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2017. Note: This PDF is 281 pages. Kent sometimes spells Sutherland's first name as Donny.
  7. ^ a b Nuttall, Lyn; Stacey, Terry. "'Fairyland' – Donnie Sutherland (1969)". Pop Archives – Sources of Australian Pop Records from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Lyn Nuttall. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d "Australian Music Media". Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  9. ^ Gosman, Keith (15 June 1979). "Television: Subtlety spoilt by soapbox style". The Canberra Times. 53 (15, 971). p. 19. Retrieved 8 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Doctor warns slow down Donnie". The Australian Women's Weekly (Your TV Magazine). 48 (6). 9 July 1980. p. 13. Retrieved 8 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Evening September 28 Sunday". The Australian Women's Weekly. Your TV Magazine. 48 (18). 1 October 1980. p. 37. Retrieved 8 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Thrills.... spills.... out mostly, chills.... as TV beauties wheel and reel". The Australian Women's Weekly. Your TV Magazine. 48 (22). 29 October 1980. p. 58. Retrieved 8 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ Sharp, Annette (10 December 2014). "TV veteran Sutherland to lose voice box". The Daily Telegraph. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  14. ^ Calligeros, Marissa (10 December 2014). "Donnie Sutherland to have voice box removed after throat cancer returns". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  15. ^ Te Koha, Nui (10 December 2014). "Donnie Sutherland to undergo surgery to remove voice box in throat cancer battle". The Herald Sun. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  16. ^ "Medal of the Order of Australia Donnie Sutherland". It's an Honour. Australian Government. 26 January 2000. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  17. ^ "It's an Honour". Australian Government. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 6 September 2017.

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