His listeners can't see it but 'Baby' John Burgess doesn't look to have aged a day. The skin is tight. The hair colour is fresh. And the huge diamond ring he regularly adjusts on his left hand is leftover bling from his glory days as Perth's radio king when a Ferrari sports car was part of his 6PM salary package.

This month, in the modest surroundings of a struggling, inner-Melbourne radio station, the rebirth of 63-year-old 'Baby' John Burgess slowly began taking shape.

In the past three weeks, the man who ruled Perth's airwaves for more than a decade has been waking up 3MP's modest audience with a soundtrack of Roy Orbison, Celine Dion, Elton John and the Bee Gees. And quietly planning his comeback.

If he had had his way it would have happened in Perth, the city that made him a star and kept him at the top of the ratings through the 80s, when AM ruled the radio dial.

Burgess flew back six months ago to shop himself around Perth's media outlets as a potential morning host on 6PR or as the new face of Channel 9 news.

'We were investigating a few possibilities which didn't look too bad,' Burgess says of the trip he made West with his wife, Jan, in April. 'I was talking to 6PR and I was talking to Channel 9. And then this came up.'

6PR and Channel 9 Perth say it was Burgess who made the approaches.

So Burgess took up the 3MP gig, where he has been given a one-year mission to breathe life back into the struggling Melbourne station while it provides a platform for his national comeback.

'It's a real challenge. They've asked me to come here to try to raise the profile of the radio station a bit and help with the revenue. That's my job,' he says, leaning back in his new office, its walls already plastered with 'Burgo' memorabilia.

The gig marks an end to a frustrating two years out of the public eye, when Burgess was still on contract with Channel 9 in the East. They kept paying him after Catchphrase ended in 2004 but never used him.

'The first six months is terrific but then it starts to get a bit boring,' he said. 'You just sit back and watch your profile sink slowly in the West.

'When I put that argument up it was explained to me on numerous occasions 'no, no, there's nothing wrong with your profile, Burgo, because people will miss you and they'll never forget you'

'Having sat around for 2 1 /2 years doing absolutely nothing and being bored  pardon the expression  shitless, I decided to do something.

I mean you need to do something. The money's very nice and everything but you just need to do something.

Burgess, a former bowling champion who was groomed for radio by John Laws, made the move to WA in 1978 after Kerry Packer, who owned the station at the time, convinced him to head West.

'Kerry convinced me I should go. I didn't really want to go, to be honest, because I figured it was too far away,' he said. 'Anyway, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse so I said I'd do it for two years. Well, I stayed for 15. And for 10 of those years I was number one in breakfast. Absolutely undefeated.

Burgess would rule WA's breakfast radio during the week and fly to Adelaide every Friday to film a week's worth of Wheel of Fortune.

'I did that for 44 weeks of the year for 12 years,' he said.

When the workload became too much, he quit radio in 1992 when 6PM moved to the FM dial. Four years later, he got 'boned' from Wheel of Fortune while he was at the top of his game.

'That was pretty hard to take, he says. 'They moved the production from Adelaide to Sydney. So I was just sitting at home waiting for the call to start rehearsals. And the call didn't come.

'So I rang the Grundy organisation. And they said 'oh, by the way, I've just been told Channel 7 want to change the host of Wheel of Fortune'. That's how I found out. I was devastated because it was the number one rating program in the country.

It's never really been explained but there is a reason for it which one day we'll talk about. I said to my wife 'life as we now know it has ceased'.

'I went from earning a lot of money to none.

'Low and behold, Wheel of Fortune got rid of me in June and then in November they offered me my job back because they realised they had made a monumental blunder.

'So that was quite satisfying to be able then to say 'no, I'd rather move forward than go back'.

'And then we did Catchphrase on Channel 9 and it became the number one game show at 5.30pm and we saw Wheel of Fortune off.

'And, as sad as it is for me to say it, Wheel of Fortune has never really recovered from those days.'

Burgo's return to radio is only part of a planned comeback which he hopes will also see him back on Australian television screens in the first half of next year. He is preparing a pilot for a new show which is being kept a tightly-guarded secret.

'It's a game show. I'm quite excited about it,' he says. 'I sort of know what's happening but I can't say anything. We've done one part (of the comeback) I'm back on the radio. Now I've just got to get my head back on the box.

'It is 41 years ago that I started in this business. They said it wouldn't last but here we are.

'Television'I reckon I might have two or three years in me because I'm not getting any younger obviously.

'Who knows what's going to happen. I've always said that I won't need to be prodded. I'll know when the time comes. But at this stage I still feel as if I've got something to offer so I'm doing my best.

Steve Pennells (SOURCE The West Australian)