Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Little, Jack Hiram (1908–1986)

by Barry York

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Jack Hiram Little  (1908-1986), television presenter and wrestling commentator, was born on 20 December 1908 at Missoula, Montana, United States of America, second child of John Herman Little, salesman and amateur vaudevillian, and his wife Edna Jane, née Fife, schoolteacher.  Aged 5, Jack sang as a boy soprano.  When he graduated (1931) in music from Washington State University, he was a gifted bass singer who performed in repertory theatre and toured with his own jazz band.

In 1931 Little worked for Seattle radio station KJR and next year commentated for professional wrestling shows at Everett, Washington State.  He married Ann Oman, a Swedish American, in 1935 at Portland, Oregon; they later divorced.  On 27 September 1942 at Christ Church Unity, Los Angeles, he married Patricia McNamara, a divorced Australian office worker.  He served in the United States Army during World War II.  After the war the couple lived at Hollywood, where Little broadcast on the sports station KMPC, announcing televised wrestling matches from the Hollywood Legion stadium.  In 1946 he admitted to being an alcoholic and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, for which he worked tirelessly.

The Little family moved to Australia in 1952.  He soon had his own quiz show, 'Two for the Money', on Melbourne radio station 3DB.  This was followed by 'Magazine of the Air', where he talked about philosophical and spiritual subjects and positive thinking.  He brought to Australia film footage that was screened (1957-60) on television channel HSV-7 as 'International Wrestling' before becoming 'Ringside with the Rasslers'.  In 1960 GTV-9 had began telecasts from Festival Hall.  Little’s commentary and vast knowledge of the simulated sport dominated both channels.  From the advent of television in 1956, his contributions to GTV-9 had included both announcing and scripting, comedic sketches on 'In Melbourne Tonight', news-reading--with (Sir) Eric Pearce--and sports reporting.  He was also an announcer on the afternoon game show 'It Could Be You' (1961-69).

The versatile Little had secured a major theatrical role in J. C. Williamson’s  Pajama Game in 1957 and also had success in Tea and Sympathy (1956) and Anniversary Waltz (1958).  In 1959 he separated from his wife and on 12 December 1967 at the Congregational Church, Kew, married a singer-dancer, Patricia Dolores Anderson, known as Patti Raye.

Little’s lanky body and thick-rimmed glasses were familiar features of Australian television but it was his deep, booming, gravelly voice with an American drawl, and the rhythm and masterly timing of his catch-phrases, that enraptured viewers.  Some memorable sayings that he popularised during his years (1964-78) with GTV-9’s 'World Championship Wrestling' were 'Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am!', 'Wow! How about that?!' and 'Be there!'.

In 1982 a wrestling night at St Kilda celebrated Little’s fifty years in the business and in 1985 a rock music tribute, Over the Ropes, featured excerpts from his wrestling commentary.  Survived by his wife, the daughter of his first marriage and the two daughters of his second, he died on 4 January 1986 at Upper Ferntree Gully and was buried in the Catholic section of Springvale cemetery.  To his youngest daughter, he was 'brilliant, very funny, loud, a bit of a brooder at times, occasionally short-fused, a very philosophical and spiritual man'.  To the public, he was 'Mister Wrestling'.

Select Bibliography

  • Listener In-TV, 16 December 1967, p 3
  • Age (Melbourne), 6 January 1986, p 18
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 6 January 1986, p 4
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 9 January 1986, p 6
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 January 1986, p 11
  • TV Scene (Melbourne), 18 January 1986, p 29

Citation details

Barry York, 'Little, Jack Hiram (1908–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/little-jack-hiram-14160/text25172, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 September 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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