3AW is 90 today! Take a look back through the decades with us
3AW is 90 today!
The station first hit the airwaves at 8pm on February 22, 1932.
To mark the occasion, panel operator Damian Tardio has compiled some of 3AW’s most memorable on-air moments from over the years.
And Neil Mitchell invited 3AW listeners to share their memories of the station.
Plus, we’ve taken a walk down memory lane, looking back on 3AW’s past with a mini history lesson on each decade.
1425AM was where you could find 3AW on the dial, and we were broadcasting from a makeshift studio at the front part of His Majesty’s Theatre.
Our first full-day lineup:
7.00am – 8.30am – Good Morning By Vernon Sellars “The Cheerful Philosopher”
9.00am – 9.30am – Shopping With Suzie starring Isabel Ann Shead
9.30am-10.30am – The Women’s Sessions – hosted by Miss Beatrice Day who used the pseudonym “Mary Elizabeth” helped out by Isabel Ann Shead and Miss Toni Seymour.
12.00pm -2.00pm – two hours of “luncheon music.”
3.30pm – 4.00pm – Miss Beatrice Day would return with “Over the teacups” (for this session she used her real name)
4.00pm – 5.15pm – More music
5.30pm – 7.00pm – Isobel Ann’s Children’s Session with two characters “Woozel and Wog”
7.00pm – 8.00pm – The Evening Sessions – music, followed by sponsored programs such as “Russell’s Yeast Session” or “Clyde Booteries” or “McIntosh Shoes” and even a program called simply “Coles and Garrard”
9.30pm – 1.00am – Programs relayed from the Regent Theatre such as “Roy Cade and his Orchestra” playing live music or a live play such as “It Pays to Advertise” starring 3AW’s star talent E Mason Wood, Vernon Sellars and Jack O’Hagan. Followed by music until the station closed down at 1am.
If there was time between programs the station would simply turn off!
The 1930s also saw the emergence of 3AW’s first breakfast duo (let’s call them the original Ross and Russ) — Nicky Whitta (pictured below with wife Nancy Lee, who was also a 3AW presenter) and Fred Tupper.
The pair were so popular that about 40,000 people turned up to a public picnic they threw in March 1936 in Greensborough.
Cars flocked in their hundreds and local land owners made a small fortune charging for parking.
Twelve extra train services had to be put on to cope with the crowds!
Radio plays and book readings were all the rage in the ’40s!
Early in the decade, 3AW broadcast Marcus Clarke’s 1874 novel, For the Term of His Natural Life, at 8pm every Monday evening.
The tale details the life of a young man transported to Australia as a convict for a murder he did not commit.
Roy Rene (pictured on the right below), one of the biggest stars in Australia in the’40s, was heard on 3AW in radio sketch comedy McCackie Mansion.
The 12-minute program was recorded in front of a live audience in Sydney and syndicated to radio stations across the country.
It’s estimated 2.5 million people, from a national population of 8 million, regularly tuned in!
The 1950s heralded the arrival of one the biggest names in broadcasting to 3AW, Norman Banks.
One of his first roles was to call the footy, an exhibition game between Richmond and Essendon in 1952 alongside Tony Charlton.
It was a special-one off night game played after the ’52 season had ended on 11 October 1952.
Banks went on to broadcast with 3AW until 1978.
Pictured below are Norman Banks and Ian Johnson calling a game. (Image: Laurie Richards)
Press PLAY below to hear Tony Charlton’s memories of calling 3AW’s first football match
The ’50s was also the decade General Manager Miles Wright established the 3AW newsroom.
During this time 3AW was the only station to broadcast news bulletins on the half hour.
Pictured below is the 3AW studio during the ’50s at 382 La Trobe Street.
We broadcast from this building from the late ’30s until 1990!
In 1967, 3AW became a talkback station! The radio technicians were nervous about the shift, so they decided the first call to Norman Banks’s show had to be a 3AW employee – secretary Barbara McFarland got the job.
Press PLAY below to hear Barbara McFarland recount her experience as the first talkback caller in Melbourne on April 17, 1967.
3AW spent a lot of time at the beach in the ’60s. Our outside broadcast van is pictured below at Elwood Beach in 1962.
And it wasn’t just city beaches we frequented. Pictured below is 3AW’s mobile studio at Ocean Grove beach (first image) and the Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club (second image)
Peter James (pictured below) – Darren James’s dad – was also a regular fixture at 3AW in the ’60s!
In the 1970s Philip Brady joined 3AW as a weekend music presenter.
And our journalists were also getting around in adorable 3AW branded Mini Minors!
Pictured below is journalist Paul Nicholson getting into one of them outside the studios at 382 La Trobe Street in 1970.
3AW was known as ‘personality radio’ in the 1980s, with big names, big opinions and a big presence in Melbourne’s media landscape.
John Blackman and ‘Uncle Roy’ (Bruce Mansfield) hosted the breakfast show for much of the decade.
There were several memorable 3AW television commercials throughout the 1980s.
The one below is a particular favourite!
Listeners could even get their hands on drink coasters, with prints of their favourite presenters!
The 90s played a significant part in shaping the 3AW you listen to today!
Ross Stevenson arrived at the station in 1990, while Neil Mitchell made the switch to Mornings the very same year.
They’ve been mainstays in those slots ever since!
Rex Hunt was at the peak of his powers, changing football broadcasting forever, while Bruce and Phil began their iconic Remember When program in December 1990, which went on to become a ratings juggernaut.
Below: A very young Ross Stevenson and his first 3AW Breakfast co-host, the late Dean Banks.
John Burns became Ross Stevenson’s on-air partner on 3AW Breakfast in 2001.
They would dominate the ratings for the next two decades before Burns retired in 2020.
3AW switched frequencies from 1278am to 693am in 2006.
AFL legend Ron Barassi was given the task of flicking the switch!
Sadly, it wasn’t always good news.
We lost beloved sports broadcaster Clinton Grybas suddenly in 2008.
He is sorely missed.
In 2010, we left our Bank Street home of almost 20 years (pictured below)…
And moved to our current studios on Collins Street.
(Image above: Elekhh)
In 2018, Neil’s Wheel launched, raising funds for the Good Friday Appeal.
Since it began, the fundraiser has raised more than $1 million for the Royal Children’s Hospital.
We reclaimed the title of Melbourne’s most listened to radio station in survey five of 2014.
3AW has been #1 ever since, notching up 57 consecutive survey wins!