- 20 Nov 18
There was shock and sadness in the Irish music community today, as the news filtered out that the former Hot Press writer and photographer, and presenter of RTÉ’s widely praised Country Time, Sandy Harsch, had died.
Hot Press is very sad to learn of the death of Sandy Harsch.
Best known as an RTÉ Radio 1 music presenter, Sandy was also a fine photographer, who worked with Hot Press in the early days. She doubled as a writer with the magazine. Sandy died unexpectedly after a short illness. She is survived by her two daughters and a sister. She was 76 years of age.
Born in Rhode Island, U.S.A., Sandy Harsch had spent more than fifty years living in Ireland. Since 1996, she presented Country Time on RTÉ Radio 1.
As well as Country Time, Sandy co-presented Sisters Doing It For Themselves, along with Lilian Smith, and was a contributor to both Arena and Lest We Forget.
Following the news of her death, Head of RTÉ Radio 1 Tom McGuire expressed his sympathies. "Sandy Harsch had an encyclopedic knowledge and a tremendous love of American Country music,” he said. "This knowledge and love permeated 'Country Time' on RTÉ Radio 1 and Sandy's unique broadcasting style created a wonderful welcome mat for a most appreciative audience on a Saturday night. She had met and played with many of the stars of country music, and her anecdotes and stories gave new life to the playlists she chose for every show. As a colleague, Sandy was much loved in the radio centre – and staff here are heartbroken at her sudden passing."
After moving to Ireland from the US in 1960, Harsch worked as a freelance photo-journalist, as well as in music retail and wholesale and then as chief photographer, record reviewer, and interviewer for Hot Press magazine. She got her start in radio at RTÉ as a guest critic with Pat Kenny on Outside Track, and worked regularly as a panelist, critic, and producing feature items.
In 1989, she joined the independent nationwide station Century Radio presenting The Country Store; and she presented a syndicated show on nine local stations. In 1996, she rejoined RTÉ and began presenting Country Time. Sandy interviewed many of the top country artists in the world, including Dierks Bentley, Merle Haggard, Martina McBride and Sugarland.
“Sandy expressed her love of music in everything that she did,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “One of the original crazy gang in Hot Press, she was fantastically knowledgeable about music and was, as a result, a very discerning critic. It was always a great pleasure to read what she had to say and we were proud to have her on board as a writer and a photographer. I think it is fair to say that she truly found her metier as a broadcaster. I remember happening on her show, as I flipped the dial one evening, soon after she had started to present Country Time, and being struck by the wonderfully calm, authoritative, quality of the presenter. And of course I recognised her voice and realised that it was Sandy. She was thoughtful and articulate, and she really knew her stuff – and so she brought country music to life in the most extraordinary way for listeners. She will be greatly missed by her many fans."
Sandy Harsch was a recipient of the CMA International Broadcaster Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by radio broadcasters outside the United States, who have made important contributions toward the development of Country Music in their country.
On receiving that award she said, “Country Music has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid. I have been sharing this passion on air for 22 years and I am totally honoured that the CMA thinks I am doing a good job. Country is a wonderful part of my life and it is a knockout to be given an award. Thank you so, so much.”