Almanac Music: Vale Pierre Baroni – PBS FM Soulgroove ’66


This last week has certainly been a tough one for those involved with Mushroom records. On 2nd March we lost legendary music icon and arguably the biggest name associated with the label in Michael Gudinski. As he was farewelled by family and a host of music industry figures on the 10th, news broke that another former Mushroom alumnus who, while not as familiar a figure as Gudinski, was just as revered by those who had the pleasure of knowing him. Pierre Baroni, the much-loved broadcaster of PBS-FM’s Soulgroove ’66 and legendary photographer had passed away on 9th March after an 18-month long battle with cancer.


Pierre had been involved in the Melbourne music scene for many a decade, fronting The Pony with his brother, Dean, during the 80’s (their single, ‘I Lied’ being performed on ABC-TV’s Countdown in March of 1987), then later joined the art department at Mushroom Records in the 90’s, quickly progressing to Art Director and is responsible for a number of iconic album covers such as Archie Roach’s ‘Charcoal Lane’. He took up photography during this time with his subjects ranging from Australian artists such as Tina Arena and Jimmy Barnes and international artists such as Wilson Pickett, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Mavis Staples, shooting with the lens wide open focusing just on the eyes. Having never studied or taken a lesson with regard to any of his artistic pursuits, his talents became highly sought after and won him great acclaim. Yet he was never one to boast about or chase work but it had no trouble finding him. He once described himself in an interview as ‘the worst self-promoter I know’. Despite this reluctance, Pierre remained in demand as a photographer, as well as a DJ, and crammed a lot of living into his 65 and a half years.


It was as a DJ and broadcaster that I came across Pierre. On one of my many visits to Melbourne, another legendary figure on the scene, Northside Records’ Chris Gill, recommended I go to Cherry Bar on AC/DC lane on a Thursday night for ‘Soul In the Basement’, a long running weekly soul night that would go from 9pm until 5am featuring local acts and all original soul and r&b 45s spun by revered DJs Vince Peach and Pierre Baroni. Vince would to the early set and Pierre would take the midnight to 5am shift. Meeting both of these people changed my life. I had been presenting at RTR-FM in Perth for a couple of years by this time and had already become program coordinator of Soulsides. But meeting Vince and Pierre made me want to be a DJ. Vince is primarily a Northern Soul DJ, whereas Pierre would have a grittier rhythm and blues angle. Pierre’s late sets would often be mind-blowing with people packing the small basement out which was by and large a rock and roll venue and dancing non-stop until the wee small hours. It was something else to watch him work a crowd. Both Vince and Pierre were largely responsible for the resurgence of the interest in soul and rhythm and blues music in Melbourne. Before too long though, I had stopped going there to dance. I’d seat myself at the end of the bar and would remain there knocking back many a pint and enquiring about 45 after 45. Both Vince and Pierre were always accommodating despite my constant pestering them for the name of the track that was just played. “Good luck” was Pierre’s go-to phrase for anything that was going to prove an arduous task to find. He would know. There’s a famous picture of him sifting through piles of vinyl (and mud) in a basement in New Orleans that had been subject to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. One can’t say the man didn’t love a dig.


Best seat in the house. Pierre Baroni with that infectious grin alongside Vince Peach at Cherry Bar for ‘Soul in the Basement’. (Photo by Kenny Forbes.)


Back home in Perth, many a Saturday afternoon would be whiled away listening to Soulgroove ’66 which, depending on the time difference, would be 12-2pm or 1-3pm during the footy season. My own style when presenting Soulsides was always to cram as many tunes as possible in to the two-hour timeslot and I always thought that the PBS-FM presenters talked too much. However, when Pierre did speak, it was the words of someone who had an unimaginable level of passion for the music he played and his preparation and research was meticulous to say the least. When my son, Matteo, was born in November of 2015, I was quick to get him signed up to PBS-FM as an ongoing member of Soulgroove ’66 (along with Blue Juice). It was always a treat to hear Pierre announce his name on the show whenever his renewal came up. When not broadcasting or doing the late shift at Cherry, Pierre would also be seen spreading the joy as support for local and international acts as well as PBS-FM’s monthly ‘Soul a Go Go’ which I had the pleasure of being on the DJ bill on one or two occasions and Slow Grind Fever which, when it initially began, it was to an audience of four but the nights quickly assumed legendary status and something like 10 compilation albums.


If there’s one thing Pierre loved as much, perhaps if not more, as music it was his beloved Bulldogs. A Footscray Fightback member from 1990, I doubt anyone could comprehend how he and countless others must have felt when the Dogs finally broke through and won that elusive premiership in 2016 after many years of heartache, with a fair chunk of it dished out during September by my Cats. One of my favourite photos of him has to be the one of a pleased-as-punch Pierre holding the 2016 premiership cup aloft. He had one hell of a smile but I don’t think I ever saw it beam quite as much as when that cup was in his hands. I don’t know if this is true, and sadly I don’t think I’ll ever be able to confirm, but rumour has it he was one of the two duffel-coated urchins holding the banner for Ted Whitten to run through on that soggy day at the Western Oval in 1970 when EJ played his 321st and final game for Footscray.


The tributes that have been flowing in for Pierre are an indication of just how much he meant to those who knew him. Like Vince Peach, meeting Pierre changed the course of my life. One regret, and I’ve got many, is that I didn’t get to know him better. I last saw him at a Slow Grind Fever gig at Brunswick Street’s Bar Open in July of 2019. At the top of the stairs sucking back on a stubby of Melbourne bitter. We’d both have to be said nectar’s biggest fans. Given the timeline of his battle with cancer this couldn’t have been too far from when he was diagnosed. He did look a little older sure, but for a man in his 60’s who had lived as much as he had he was entitled to. Later the next year I saw a YouTube post of him in discussion with Archie Roach and later still in a couple of photos taken at Northside Records for the annual James Brown Xmas Party, of which Pierre was a regular on the turntables. Again, it looked as though age was really starting to catch up with him. But surely this was just the ageing process shifting a gear and it wouldn’t be too long before we met again.


I was getting a coffee across the road from my work on the morning his passing was announced on the PBS-FM Facebook and Twitter pages. I like many others had no idea that he was sick and it hit me like a sucker-punch. Had I known prior to leaving for work that day I would have stayed at home. But it was Pierre’s wish that his illness was kept private. When Pierre first told staff at PBS-FM he was ill, he told them he intended to keep hosting his show until his last breath and he certainly kept his word. He had been hosting his program Soulgroove ’66 since 2003 and he hosted his last episode, number 927, on the Saturday before he left this mortal coil. Of course, he had no intention of it being his last, signing off with his usual, “Talk to you next week”. I admit I hadn’t listened to his program as regularly as I used to after Matteo’s birth as it often crossed over with his nap time. On his final show, it was clear Pierre was struggling. He was cogent but he was definitely hampered. I listened to two shows while at work. His final broadcast and the one where Matteo’s membership was last renewed. I couldn’t finish the latter; it was just too much.


You meet people over your journey who change your life. Pierre, along with Vince Peach, was one of those. I wouldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for people like them. Pierre’s passing has left a massive hole in the Melbourne music scene and he is going to be terribly missed. He brought a tremendous amount of joy to many people, a great deal of those he hadn’t even met. As a DJ and photographer, his modesty and unwillingness to boast is an example for others to follow. From very early on I’ll admit I held him in quiet awe and I regret not getting to know him better. I had plenty of questions for him on the subject of music, photograph and footy all set up for when I’d next venture east. Still, I couldn’t imagine him being too pleased if I had the opportunity to ask him for his take on the 1992 Qualifying Final between Geelong and Footscray. Methinks the mere mention of Bill Brownless would trigger him good and proper. But I guess that’s one discussion, along with confirming him as one of the banner boys et EJ’s last game, we’ll never get to have.


When I first started going to Melbourne back in 2005, it was often visiting certain landmarks, footy grounds, pubs, etc. As I started to get acquainted with people over there it very quickly became about them. Whenever I’d spend large parts of the day walking the streets alone, it was always comforting to know that the likes of Pierre among others would be around somewhere and you were pretty much guaranteed to run in to these people if you knew where to go. With Pierre gone, the next visit is going to be a fair bit lonelier having one less legend around. Will miss you always.




30th Oct 1955 – 9th March 2021


Link to 3PBS-FM Soulgroove 66 can be found HERE



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About Adam Fox

Perth-based DJ, radio presenter (hosting and coordinating Soulsides on RTR-FM 92.1), writer, serial procrastinator, plate-licker, leftist, Geelong supporter with a very soft spot for Fitzroy and Richmond. I play late ‘50s to early ‘70s r&b/soul/mod 45s both on air and about town. I completed my BA Honours by submitting a thesis on Frank Zappa. I love the history of the VFL/AFL, especially the old suburban grounds and am obsessed with the 1989 Grand Final (especially the ABC-3LO call). My passions are footy, 45s, my cats (RIP Althea & Cliodhna), my wife and young son Matteo and the city of Melbourne which I visit as often as possible. I also like long walks on the beach and long necks of Melbourne Bitter.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Fantastic tribute Adam! Always enjoyed listening to Pierre and loved the soul music he played particularly from around the mid ’60s. He will be sadly missed and his shoes hard to fill.

  2. Many thanks, Colin.

    Richie 1250 did a great tribute on Stone Love yesterday, recalling a moment when Pierre hired AC/DC to do a gig in 1975. He’ll be doing Soulgroove ’66 today.

    Here’s last night’s tribute:

  3. Forgot to add, when I last saw Pierre in 2019, we were talking about the Bulldogs’ flag which by then he had watched about 10 million times with all the different commentaries.

    I’ll be forever grateful he told me about this moment from Brian Taylor:

  4. Wow Adam, just beautiful. A tribute that recognises one of music’s great fans and contributors but also offers deep, personal revelations. I was moved (and I’m a Hawker!). I know of Pierre, but have only listened to his show if driving. I’ll have to make up for that now! Thank you for sharing.


  5. Emma Peel’s tribute today on Switched On. Beautiful tribute, toughed it out to the end.

  6. As a long-time PBS subscriber, I was saddened upon learning of Pierre’s passing.
    I did not know PB personally, but I reckon we listeners develop a type of invisible rapport with the presenters of the shows we love.
    Thanks for this touching tribute, Adam.

  7. Thank you for your article. I could relate to so much. Some regrets here too, and awe including at his simple kindness.Sadness at his loss yet gratitude for his life – just got to get comfortable with there being both.

  8. Smokie – earlier today I was speaking on the phone to another PBS presenter who was a long time friend of Pierre’s (actually live not too far from each other) who’s taking the loss pretty hard and wasn’t able to do his show last Sunday. There aren’t many people who know who PB is in Perth so I felt compelled to talk to someone over east and I explained to him I felt kinda sheepish being as upset as I was having not known him as closely as his Melbourne based friends and whether or not it was my place to. But then I realise there’s untold numbers who wouldn’t have even met PB who are going to be gutted. Some voices you can really get used to.

    Meg – Agreed. We were lucky to have walked the earth at the right time. Very fortunate to have rubbed shoulders with the man.

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