One of a kind: John Bowden retires from radio news
Today marks the end of an era, with legendary Melbourne newsreader John Bowden hanging up the headphones after a radio career spanning 50 years.
And those of us who’ve been fortunate enough to work with John over the journey know that radio news will certainly not be the same without him in it.
John’s last few decades have been spent at racing station RSN 927, but prior to that, he was an enduring and popular presence at a host of stations, from ABC Radio (where he started as a mail boy) to 3AW, 3UZ, 3XY, 3DB, TTFM, Gold 104.3 and 3AK.
John was also News Director at EON FM (now Triple M) and 3TT.
He is considered one of the best news presenters in the country. But there are many more facets to the man.
When you worked with John, hilarious antics were all part of the daily routine. A more fun colleague you would be hard pressed to find.
John is also generous with a capital G. He went through a lot of good quality filtered coffee (because not only does he share it with his workmates, he has a habit of accidentally knocking his cup over and spilling it – usually one minute before news time).
John enjoyed an idyllic childhood, growing up in the Melbourne beachside suburb of Brighton.
“In summer, after school, we’d ride our bikes down to Brighton Beach and Dendy Street Beach,” he says.
John attended Haileybury College and spent four years in the Army Cadets.
“I needed the discipline … and probably still do!”
John says he was interested in a news career from a young age.
“I always wanted to be a journalist for some reason and eventually I got a first-year cadetship at 3AW. I did three years there. It gave me a great grounding.”
John then moved across to the mighty Melbourne rock station 3XY.
“I spent ten years there. It was hard work, fun and parties.”
“I worked with some great radio names such as Mark Irvine, Greg Evans, Kevin Hillier and Peter Harrison. Also the late, great Mike Drayson, who more than once kicked down the record library door to get the tracks HE wanted to play – not what was on the play list – but he made it work. He was a great talent.”
John credits his first News Director Robert Blanchard with having helped shape his career, along with Paul Sime and Colin Denovan.
During his five decades in radio, John got to meet some of the biggest names in music, including Billy Joel, Joan Jett and a memorable encounter with Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles at TTFM.
But a standout highlight came when John door-stopped Rod Stewart whilst the singer was out here touring.
“I huddled in beside him as we walked along, while the TV cameras and reporters tried to surround him,” says John. “But I snared the prime position next to him. His manager was on the other side.”
“The photo was on the front page of The Age newspaper the next morning.”
A boxing fanatic, another major highlight for John was interviewing Joe Frazier, when he came out to fight Jimmy Ellis in Melbourne.
During his time in news, John has covered the lot: sport, politics, police news, fires and everything in between.
Of his decision to retire from radio, John says he’s ready for the next chapter with his partner Anja (pictured above with John).
“I’ll miss the working life – presenting and self producing news bulletins at RSN in breakfast and working with the likes of Daniel Harford and the team, and more recently Andrew Bensley on Spring Breakfast.”
“Also Kevin Bartlett, Gary Honey, Collingwood legends Chrisso and Mick, Angela Pippos and others. There are just too many to name.”
“The current team is great and the station in its new headquarters at Flemington will do well.”
John had a major health scare 20 years ago, surviving a heart attack.
He later suffered a detached retina.
“The doctors, nurses and eye specialists were amazing,” John says. “Don’t take your eyes for granted.”
“My main vice now is too many cakes!”
As for what the future holds, John says he has absolutely no plans, apart from shutting off the 2.45am alarm for good and enjoying some well-earned sleep-ins.
“I will walk, get fit and see what life presents, I guess.”
Passionate about music, John says it’s times like this that he likes to think of the Rolling Stones song Tumbling Dice.
“We have to keep rolling and tumbling along and enjoy life.”