Wonderful, but cut-throat: Coxy opens up about his breakfast radio days, ratings and keeping it real


To work in radio is to be familiar with the occupational hazard known as the inflated ego.

I have always been a big believer that the people in radio with the biggest egos are the ones least justified in having them.

On air, they’re like a regular Joe. Off air, they’re high maintenance and hard work.

Thankfully, with former Breakfast radio host Geoff ‘Coxy’ Cox, what you see and hear is 100% what you get: a regular bloke, a true character and a consummate gentleman.

For Coxy, it’s a no-brainer: Why on earth would you be any different off-air than you are on?

Coxy took me on an amazing and emotion-charged radio journey when I spoke to him for the latest episode of the Food Bytes podcast.

Known to both radio and TV audiences, Coxy also carved himself a reputation one of the top session drummers in Australia, touring with the Bee Gees and Cliff Richard and filling in as drummer with the Little River Band whilst Derek Pellicci recovered from burns sustained in a barbecue accident.

Coxy began his radio career at Melbourne AM station 3DB in the 1980s, largely thanks to its then General Manager – none other than the late Bert Newton.

“When Bert took over 3DB, he got Julie McKenna and I to do Afternoons between 12 and 3,” says Coxy.

Alan Dale – the guy from Neighbours  – did Drive.”

Coxy says they were wonderful times, a particular highlight being his special weekly contra arrangement.

“The Fairy Stork restaurant in Acland Street St Kilda used to in bring Chinese every Sunday for lunch.”

As Newton juggled both his on-air and management roles, a new opportunity presented itself.

“Bert said to me one day ‘I’m so busy. Could you do a couple of mornings a week?’”

Slightly taken aback, Coxy decided to give it a crack.

“It seemed to go rather well, and Bert was having a much better time not having to be on air, because he was trying to run a radio station.”

1988 heralded some major changes.

The call sign changed from 3DB to 3TT, the station underwent a major shake-up and Coxy ended up co-hosting Breakfast with Gavin Wood.

For three enjoyable years, ‘Gavin & Coxy’ became a Melbourne Breakfast radio staple.

But, as Coxy can attest, ratings were a bit of a different ball game back then.

“We got to 7.9 and we got the flick!” he says.

In more recent years, Coxy remembers chatting about ratings with the Breakfast crew at what was then TTFM.

“They said ‘How was it when you were here?’ I said ‘Oh, God. We got fired at 7.9.’”

“They said ‘Don’t say anything! We’re only 4.6!’” Coxy laughs.

The early starts that Breakfast radio demands never agreed with Coxy.

“I must admit, I hated getting up at 3.30 in the morning. I think it’s the musician in me – we went to bed at 3.30!”

“I was continually, always tired. It was horrible.”

It was around this time that Coxy discovered he had sleep apnoea, a potentially life-threatening disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

“When you’ve got sleep apnoea, you don’t sleep properly. It’s dangerous and you’re tired.”

Coxy found this out in the most shocking way.

“I swear on my mother’s grave – I was driving from the city, going down Punt Road towards Brighton, where I lived, and I stopped on the corner of Punt Road and Toorak Road.”

“In the front row (of several cars) I promptly fell asleep.”

“I got a toot from the guy behind me, which gave me a hell of a fright.”

“That’s when I started to do something about it and got a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine.”

He says that decision truly changed his life.

And that, says Coxy, was his radio career in a nutshell.

“It was interesting. It was very cut-throat.”

As far as Coxy is concerned, people like 3AW veteran Ross Stevenson deserve a medal.

“To do Breakfast radio for that long! And get up every morning at 3.30.”

“I’m buggered if I know how he does it!”

I couldn’t finish this story without sharing a most beautiful memory about one of life’s serendipitous moments, and you might want to grab some tissues for this.

It happened some years ago, when Coxy and his wife Viv were at Melbourne’s Southland shopping centre.

“There was a mum there with two little children – probably aged about five and seven,” Coxy remembers.

“The little boy has grabbed hold of my leg and the little girl has grabbed hold of my hand, and wouldn’t let go.”

“Their mum said ‘Oh Coxy. I’m really sorry to bother you.’”

“I said ‘It’s no bother. But can you tell me what’s happening here?’”

“She said ‘Your TV show (Coxy’s Big Break) went to air on a Sunday night, two days after my father passed away. The kids were very young.”

“That night, we said to them ‘This is your new granddad,’ (because they loved the little cartoon version of me).”

“She teared up and I teared up.”

“I still send them a card every Christmas.”

*Main photo courtesy of Gavin Wood

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rob grant
4 Mar 2024 - 12:51 pm

one of radio’s really good guys…and professional..
Go well old son

4 Mar 2024 - 2:07 pm

Coxy actually began on 3DB in the late 70s doing the Smithy (Greg Smith) and Cox show in the evenings and you forgot to mention his tenure at 3MP on Jukebox Saturday Nights for many years which to this day I sorely miss and hope that 3MP bring it back one day. A true legend he is.


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