Playing music on the air since 1968, and on the Los Angeles airwaves since arriving at KLOS in 1980, Joe Benson's presence both on and off-air has made his voice and name one of the most recognized in Southern California broadcasting over the past three decades. He hosts the nationally syndicated OFF THE RECORD with Joe Benson musicians interview program, and has published six volumes of UNCLE JOE'S RECORD GUIDES. Since the mid-Eighties, J.B. has announced at every Southern California auto racing venue including the Auto Club Speedway since it's 1997 inception — in the process interviewing every major race driver in America. As a driver, Joe has won NASCAR oval races, NHRA drag races and SCCA road races. His UNCLE JOE'S RACING cars have been used regularly for public appearances since 1989. If you were to ask him, Joe would tell you that he's been very lucky to have worked with and met so many fine people, and to have touched the lives of millions of listeners. To Southland listeners, he is truly their Uncle Joe!
The following chronicles high points and low — everything that makes radio succeed and fail — as accurately as memory serves. Apologies to any old friends whose names seemingly vanished in the ether.
February 2013 to present
Time to wake up! Joe jumped into morning drive (5:30am to 10am) to have some serious fun telling stories and playing a true variety of Classic Album Rock with the Uncle Joe's Rock & Roll Morning Show and his Uncle Joe's Laughter At 45 After at 100.3 The Sound of Southern California. The line-up includes Andy Chandley in mid-days, Julie Slater in afternoons and Rita Wilde at night.
May 1998 to Present
Joe hosts Westwood One's nationally syndicated OFF THE RECORD, an hour long, in-depth look at Rock & Roll's Classic artists. Each week Joe mixes Classic Rock and conversations with musicians like Pete Townshend of the Who and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and his own unique insights. The amazing Stacie Parra produces the show, and engineer Bret Abbott is responsible for the pristine sound. OFF THE RECORD with Joe Benson can be heard in 80+ markets around the country including at 8pm Sundays on 100.3 The Sound KSWD, Los Angeles.
May 2005 to February 2013
Uncle Joe returned to afternoon drive (3pm to 7pm) at the legendary 95.5 KLOS — the very station where he first started in Los Angeles 25 years earlier! By 2012, the line-up included Mark & Brian in the morning, Cynthia Fox in mid-days, J.B. afternoons and Gary Moore at night. That was L.A. Rock & Roll!
April 2004 to March 2005
Sleep at last! Uncle Joe switched to afternoon drive (3pm to 7pm) as Jonathan Brandmeier joined the ARROW 93.1 team. Mary Price continued in the mid-day shift, with Maggie McKay, Chris Taylor and Patti Piech rounding out the full time ARROW Staff.
July 2001 to April 2004
As J.B. continued in the morning drive (6am to 10am) position at ARROW 93.1, his crew included sports demi-god Scott St. James, news master Molly Paige and traffic goddess Sioux-z Jessup. Patti Piech preceded J.B., and Mary Price continued in the mid-day shift. Chris Taylor, Maggie McKay and Danny Martinez rounded out the full time ARROW Staff.
August 1997 to July 2001
Excited about working with Bob Coburn (his long time friend and professional cohort) and Arrow's program director Tommy Edwards (a 14-year on-air veteran of Chicago's legendary WLS), Uncle Joe accepted the morning drive (6am to 10am) position at ARROW 93.1. His crew included producer Stacie Dockray, newsman Lon Landis, sports demi-god Scott St. James, and Sioux-z Jessup. Mary Price did the mid-day shift between Joe & Bob, and Maggie McKay followed Bob into the evening hours. Danny Martinez and China Smith rounded out the full time ARROW Staff, and they all had a blast!
Uncle Joe and his morning crew
Stacie Dockray & Sioux-z Jessup.
August 1996 to August 1997
After 20 months away, Uncle Joe returned as host of The SEVENTH DAY program, Uncle Joe's Race Report, and various other shifts. From mid-February through mid-August 1997, Joe did afternoon drive, taking KLOS' adult ratings from their lowest to their highest numbers in two years. KLOS' reluctance to properly compensate opened the door for J.B.'s next move.
July 1995 to August 1996
Alternative Talk during the week — with Howard Stern, the Regular Guys, Jim Daniels, Riki Rachtman, Scott Ferrall and Carlos Oscar — and Alternative Music with Uncle Joe on weekends. Regular features included Uncle Joe's Race Report and Sunday Night Soiree.
January to July 1995
Classic Rock with an excellent veteran airstaff: Bob Coburn, Jim Ladd, Cynthia Fox, Beau Rials, Shana and Cindy Davis.
Uncle Joe in his element.
October 1980 to November 1994
14 years is longer than most marriages survive, and five program directors is perhaps more than any career deserves (see WYFE listing for details). High points included: The SEVENTH DAY program; the Rock & Roll Race Report, the Local Licks (Music) Show, the infamous Graveyard shift; various evening shifts; the Request Zone; Get The Led Out; literally hundreds of concerts and live remotes; 21 Porsche giveaway broadcasts from major malls around L.A. and Orange Counties; several AOR Station of the Year awards; and the greatest air staff in the world, including Bob Coburn, Rita Wilde; Geno Mitchellini, Steve Downes, J.J. Lee, Al Ramirez, Mark & Brian, Chuck Moshontz, Gayle Murphy and others.
Uncle Joe with a Porsche 944 filled with $100,000
and a few anxious contestants.
August 1979 to October 1980
Morning drive in a Top 10 market; intense lessons in take-no-prisoners promotion and counter-promotion; concerts; live remotes; the Bozo Breakfast Club; the Cleveland Comedy Club; the Basement Tapes local music show; notable on-air sessions with the Police, Chrissie Hynde, old friends Cheap Trick, Bruce "Baby Man" Baum, and Lyle Alzado; a very interesting rock & roll mix; and a strong confirmation that L.A. was the place to be.
October 1978 to August 1979
The #1 music station in Milwaukee in 1978 and 1979, WZUU was owned by one of America's biggest radio chains of the time and was to be a temporary stop on the road to a sister station like Cleveland's WMMS. But after months of filling-in on every shift but mornings, too much pop music took its toll. As Seger said, "Get outta Denver, baby, go, go, go." This period marked Joe's first real voice-over work, formation of the Ben Rasta Productions commercial agency with good friend and WQFM alum Rich Cleary, and Benson's first eye-opening trip to Los Angeles. It was also at WZUU that Joe first got to know Jan (who worked in the promotion department), although it would be another seven years before they fell in love — and 10 years before they married. Evidently, Joe couldn't see the forest through the trees.
WZMF jock Downstairs Dan (holding the loaf, naturally), the store owner, songwriter/producer Jim Steinman, WZMF's Music Director/APD Uncle Joe and his pal Meat Loaf, 1978
March 1978 to October 1978
Music director; afternoon drive; concerts; killer live remotes; Milwaukee's first local music show; complete musical freedom; minimal promotion; and then a pay check bounced. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it (see the KSTT and WNUW listings for further details).
September 1977 to March 1978
Reunited with some old Top 40 friends, WRKR saw the debut of Joe's first album-feature program "Benson Onna Sunday Night." Only one other jock survived from that version of WRKR: Big Marty still reigns in Las Vegas!
May 1976 to September 1977
By Fall 1976, Joe was doing afternoon drive at the biggest Album Rock station in Wisconsin, with some of the coolest on-air people ever. Even with haphazard promotion, by Summer 1977 Uncle Joe had beat the AM stations and "Where the hell is Benson?" bumper stickers were appearing in the weirdest places. While at QFM, Joe developed his on-air interaction techniques with other jocks and listeners; worked with most every top artist of the mid-Seventies (even Bob Marley!); did many, many live remotes; refined his on-stage persona MCing too many club dates; perfected the art of being an AOR music director; and scored his first stock car victory (on the Cedarburg dirt track). A great, creative time was had by all before the burn out set in. Several of the airstaff went on to success including Bob Reitman (who became the biggest morning guy in Milwaukee after switching stations), Rick Schraeder (of KFWB/KNX fame) and Space Commander Green.
January 1976 to May 1976
An attempt by the owners of WNUW to deny FM radio was the future. Joe swore he'd never do AM or Top 40 again. (Do you get the impression that radio has caused Joe to swear a lot?)
September 1975 to January 1976
A very viable combination of Top 40 with album rock that proved those who don't learn from history (see KSTT and WYFE listings for more details) are doomed to repeat it. It was fun for a while, but Joe swore he'd never again do morning drive or work with a G.M. from another galaxy.
A rocking 50,000 watt signal covering the beautiful Green Bay, Appleton, Neenah-Menasha area was a dream gig — until the job offer came from Milwaukee three weeks after Joe hit the WNAM air waves. (Benson never even got a picture of the WNAM billboard with his name on it!) While it wasn't lucrative, that August was the wildest month spent with some of the coolest people ever.
In the 10 days between the WROK and WNAM gigs, Joe worked at the "other" Rockford rock station for kicks (and $6.50 per hour). The lesson learned: some program directors get their jobs via work release programs from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
A great Top 40 station with excellent promotion and on-air talent, WROK was Joe's last on-air gig at a station within his parents' listening range. But the guy (wimp) that Benson was hired to replace decided not to leave. WROK: a lesson in heartbreak (and the last station to pay Joe's moving expenses).
January to July 1975
The station where Benson came into his own doing afternoon drive and every outside promotion known to mankind. As WQTC's music director, Joe was introduced to record promo guys, trade magazines and Bass Ale by John Barber the morning guy — a true inspiration! The location of the minuscule studios adjacent to the county's only topless bar insured visits from record promo guys on their way to Green Bay. Therein was a steady source of promo records, and thus did Uncle Joe's record collection grow.
December 1974 to January 1975
One Christmas season at the legendary KSTT (by then a WOKY-wanna be) was enough. In addition to demonstrating bad management's ability to negate a good airstaff, this high-pressure Top 40 station encouraged development of Joe's on-air caustic wit and desire to escape.
August to December 1974
After a Madison, Wisconsin program director told Joe he wasn't good enough to work in that #120 ranked market, Benson defiantly took a weekend/fill-in airshift at one of the biggest Boss stations in the Midwest. WOKY, the top music station in America's #21 market gave Joe an intense education in music programming, successful promotion and on-air timing. This was the first station on Joe's resume with a lock on the washroom and the air studio door, and the last where Joe worked with a 30-song playlist.
March 1972 to August 1974
Joe's first job in commercial radio was in a double-wide trailer in the middle of a corn field (it still exists today as WFPS). The music ranged from Gordon Lightfoot to Top 50 hits. It was from WACI that Joe broadcast as a tornado ripped the roof off the building, and that his knack for live remotes first developed. This was also the last station at which Joe played music, and did newscasts, obituaries and hog reports on each of his shifts.
August 1970 to May 1973
The University of Wisconsin - Platteville featured a very ambitious radio and TV program that Joe fit right into. No peculiar show names were used for his regular Saturday, then Monday night programs — although his best friends Road Runner and Warthog made regular appearances on their "Uncle's" radio show. The range of music spanned from Deep Purple, Little Feat and Alice Cooper to early Pink Floyd and Genesis.
October 1968 to June 1970
When he realized the Loras College radio station wasn't playing any of the music his band was, a "very young" Joe Benson traded his services as a technician for a Sunday night airshift. Playing Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix album cuts, along with Buffalo Springfield, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Moby Grape and Led Zeppelin (probably for the first time ever in Iowa), Joe called his show "Yankee Stadium, Second Base." The only known excuse for that title seems to be that it was still the Sixties.