“If you’re listening, and you’re a Central Coast local, you really do feel you’re on the Coast. And there’s something magical about hearing those old hosts, their voice is real Aussie, real Gosford, been here for a long time,” Singleton says. “And they’re all from here. I’ve never seen anyone who’s not happy. I wish we’d had that morale at GB.”
Every month or two, Singleton, who joined as patron in February, drops in and has a chat to volunteers and staff – occasionally on-air.
“ ‘Singo’ is this legend I used to know about. John is a different person. He comes into the radio station. He’s one of the team – that’s how it feels,” says Cheralyn Darcey,
Darcey is a bestselling gardening book author and the co-host of the fishing and gardening shows who Singleton has nicknamed Tatts given her tattoos. “It’s inspiring having him around. It’s a big stamp. A big end of town admires what we do,” she says.
One day, Singleton called former 2GB star Alan Jones and asked if he would answer daily audience questions on the station. “He did it for zip,” Singleton says. “He’s a very kind person.” For about a month before Easter, Jones had a pre-recorded daily 7am segment answering questions put to him by locals. “He’d come back, if we asked … probably charge the same price, too.”
The Railway Hotel and Singleton’s Burbank House and Garden nursery sponsor the station, which, under community radio rules, is only allowed to run five minutes of ads every hour. “We have everything from betting companies to dental surgeries to hotels,” Warry says. “A really broad mix of big names and mum and pop shops.”
Singleton also backs the station’s Community Club Awards, which gives small grants to local charities. It is, Singleton says, a very different atmosphere to high-pressure commercial radio like Macquarie Media.
“Community radio stations do not work, to my knowledge, anywhere in Australia like CoastFM. I mean, have you tried to run 70 people at GB? Well, good luck. You’ve got 70 egos. It seems to me here it’s ego free,” he says, in an interview – at his pub – that walks casually between the hyper-local issues of the Central Coast to global power players.
As he talks about thoroughbred racing, he mentions Kerry Packer, Rupert Murdoch and Gerry Harvey; reminiscing about other business deals, he brings up Richard Branson, Lachlan Murdoch and Dick Smith. He’s also open about his recent failures.
The Australian Financial Review reported in 2021 that Singleton splurged $US6.9 million ($10.3 million) to buy the first property he saw in Hawaii, a 1960s waterfront bungalow he called Shells on Oahu’s Lanikai Beach.
“I hate the cold. So going away for six months seemed like a good idea. Hot-hot. Look at a house, find the first one on the water. Negotiate? No. Whatever price, that’ll do,” he says, adding that he spent “zillions” doing the place up before realising that couldn’t come and go as he liked due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s like being in jail if you can’t go home. Also, there’s no gambling, there’s no horse racing, there’s no rugby league … next time, I’ll go there for a week first and just stay in a little motel,” he says.
The home was quickly offloaded.
“At a substantial loss. You can’t win them all,” he notes.