Joe Brown belongs in the very top echelon of Australian race broadcasters. Said colleague Bryan Martin: “He had a voice of velvet and when he spoke he commanded attention”. His career spanned 37 years.
Joe Brown was born and brought up in Tasmania, where he learned his love of racing from his grandfather – who gave him the affectionate nickname of ‘Joe’. When working as a young man at Cadbury’s chocolate factory, he often attended thoroughbred, trotting and dog racing meetings, which led him to seek a career in race broadcasting. In 1944 Brown obtained the post of assistant ABC race caller in Hobart, and twelve months later he was promoted to the number-one position. In 1947, with the retirement of Jim Carroll, Brown was selected from 600 applicants to be the racing voice of the ABC in Melbourne.
Twelve months later Brown called his first Melbourne Cup. He later recalled: “It was the first time the photo-finish had been used for the Melbourne Cup. It was a great struggle down the straight between Rimfire and Dark Marne. They went neck and neck to the post, and I just happened to fluke it. I said ‘I think Rimfire might have just beaten Dark Marne’”. He was the only racing broadcaster to pick the winner.
In 1980 Brown broadcast his last Melbourne Cup, and in June, 1981, his career came to an end with the when he called the Moonee Valley Hurdle. The following January he was awarded an MBE for his services to racing. He died in 2001, a genuine turf legend.
“No matter how great the field, he calls every horse at every post, salting it with enlightened comment” (Red Smith).