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  • Writer's pictureJumpin' Joe

Jumpin' Joe Celebrates 20 Years at WJCU

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since I stepped behind the microphone for the very first time on WJCU. I present to you a picture scrap book and an audio reel (coming soon) as we look back over the last 20 years.

This is the very first picture of me in the studios of WJCU. I started off as an "apprentice" for a classic rock show called Vinyl Venue in September of 2003.

Spinning records at midnight on a Saturday night? Yes, please! I was thrilled to be there to say the least!

I am pictured here with John Baryak, who hosted Vinyl Venue on WJCU until 2004. I am very grateful that John gave me the opportunity to learn by allowing me to basically take over the show.

We took a lot of interesting phone calls during our midnight to 2am shift. One time, a listener called in telling us that he sees the number 11 wherever he goes.

No, that's not when I came up with the phrase "crank it up to 11!" It didn't come from the movie Spinal Tap either. In the fall of 2003, I was reading about a DJ from the 60s that would tell listeners to crank it up to 11 whenever he spun a rockin' record.

For the life of me, I cannot name the DJ. I have listened to thousands of hours of radio airchecks from the 60s and 70s, and not once did I ever hear a DJ say "crank it up to 11!" I can't remember where I read it, so maybe I dreamt it? In any case, that's how I came up with that phrase.

Above picture is me in the WJCU studio in March 2006. No, I am not reading from a script. I am looking at the program log I created for the show. I would often look at it in order to avoid eye contact with people peeking through the studio window (to my left). I liked to stay focused.

One night, someone called in to request something from Spooky Tooth. It may have been their version of "I Am The Walrus," but I can't remember. I just remember the phone call that came while we were playing the record...the phone call that would bust open the doors in my musical journey. Someone called in to thank us for playing Spooky Tooth and then asked us to play The Blues Magoos. The Blues Magoos? I had never heard of them. What am I getting myself into?

I searched the WJCU library for some Blues Magoos, and I came across the Nuggets album. Not only did I find the Blues Magoos, but I also found garage classics like "Louie, Louie" and "Gloria." I decided to play the entire album, and suddenly I got my answer to the age old question, "is there more than just the same 300 songs that are played on oldies radio?" Yes! Yes there is!

To this day, when I host a radio show, I always make sure to mix in the classics along with the lost and forgotten so that listeners have a frame of reference. For example, I'll play "Kicks" from Paul Revere and The Raiders and then play something from The Remains or The New Colony Six or The Blues Magoos.

I started Retro Radio at 5am on Sunday January 18, 2004, and it would remain on WJCU for the next 17 years. Retro Radio was my attempt of recreating the sound of 1960s top 40 radio, so I tried sounding like a "boss jock" from that era. In the early days, I played records, CDs, and audio from mini discs. Remember mini discs? They were supposed to be the next big thing, but then the I-pod was introduced.

Bob "Guitar" Maxwell did a story about me in the Carroll News in 2005 about my record collection. It's gotten a lot bigger since then. I'm holding my copy of "Little Bit Of Soul" by The Music Explosion.

After taking the summer of 2004 off, Retro Radio moved to Tuesday afternoons from 3:30-6:30pm in August of 2004. It would remain in that time slot for two years. It was during that time that people discovered the show. The switchboard would be lit the entire show. It was thrilling getting all those requests. In those early days, Retro Radio was more of a request show than a re-creation. I didn't care too much because I was thrilled that there were people like me who were as excited about the music!

For homecoming 2005, WJCU entered the float competition for the homecoming parade. We won first place! To my knowledge, there hasn't been a homecoming parade since. WJCU retired from the parade float competition undefeated!

Pictured is Bob Maxwell, Me, and DJ Michelle from The Lime Button.

This is my favorite picture of me from my early days at WJCU. This was taken in March of 2006. Later that summer, I started Retro Radio AM, a morning music show on Thursday mornings from 7-10am. Joining me in the studio was Robert Duns who did Retro Radio 20/20 news. Today he is a meteorologist on NBC 2 in Ft. Myers, Florida.

It was during that summer that WJCU got a new transmitter and tower, and increased the wattage from 850 to 1,000, and later to 2,500 watts.

Big changes came in the fall of 2006 when the radio station became formatted for the first time in nearly 25 years. This format would later evolve into The Heights. Because of the format change, my show moved to Tuesday evenings from 6-9pm.

In 2007, The Heights format was fully established, and my show was cut down to two hours on Tuesday evenings. I remained on WJCU upon graduating from John Carroll University. Despite being cut back to two hours, Retro Radio soon expanded to two days a week when I took over the Saturday 4:30-6:30pm slot. I began working for the Cleveland Cavaliers Radio Network in 2008. It was an honor to work behind the scenes with hall-of-fame broadcaster Joe Tait. Because the Cavs played nearly every Tuesday, it became impossible for me to do two shows a week. The Tuesday show eventually ended in the spring of 2009 when Mike Young took over to host Music and Memories.

March 08, 2008 was a memorable day for me and the listeners of WJCU. That was the day of the epic snowstorm that dumped nearly two feet of snow. Retro Radio was pre-recorded that day because I had to work a CAVS game, and somehow 13,000 people showed up at the arena. When I left, I headed back to University Heights, and saw cars getting stuck as they tried to turn on the side streets off of Cedar Road. I didn't want to get stuck, so I decided to head to WJCU.

My recorded show was just about ending when I arrived, and Julie from "My Golf Shirt" called to say that she was stuck at her apartment, so I went on the air live for an expanded edition of Retro Radio. Eric Simna, who at the time was a board op for Art Funni's show "I Haven't A Clue," had finished doing some work in the production studio and said he was going to head home. He came back 5 minutes later saying his car was stuck in the parking lot, so Eric joined me on the air. Little did we know, we would be on the air all night!

The cafeteria at John Carroll closed early, so there was a run on the vending machines. It was surreal seeing the vending machines completely empty. From 6 to midnight, all I had to eat and drink was a Twix Bar and a can of Coke. Listeners called in offering to buy us pizza, but no one was delivering. One listener offered to walk to Georgios at Cedar Center, and walk it over to us at the radio station! WJCU listeners are the best!

Because most of the commercial radio stations aired syndicated programming on Saturday evenings, Eric and I were most likely the only live ones on the air in Cleveland that night. Back then, no one had a smart phone, so the snow plow drivers would call in asking us for radar updates, which we were happy to do. Providing weather updates for the snow plow drivers was one of my proudest moments on the air because we were doing a great service to them while entertaining many snowed in listeners.

Eric and I spent the last two hours on the air playing music from the 70s and 80s, and having a wild time. Ashley, who hosted the midnight 80s show, came in to take over. Eric and I walked back to my house off of Fairmount Circle, and it was eerily quiet and a bit surreal not seeing a single car on the road. We could have played a card game in the middle of Warrensville Center Road and never have to move.

A few months later, just for fun, Eric agreed to co-host an 80s show with me, but WJCU GM Mark Krieger had a different idea. He gave us a show, but wanted us to play local music instead. That was the beginning of NEO Rocks, which continues to air on Monday nights on WJCU, and it all started because of a snow storm!

Big changes came in 2010! Not only did I finally get a haircut, but WJCU underwent a $50,000 renovation project. The studio was gutted out and most of the equipment was replaced with all new wireless 21st century technology. Here I am with the old on-air console one last time in June 2010. The old console is now in the WJCU equipment graveyard on the 4th floor of the Grasselli Clocktower.

A month later we had a new studio and a new audio console. This console remained in use until the fall of 2022. There were certainly some technical glitches that had to be worked out, especially with the new phone system as it practically crashed during my first show in the new studio. More changes came in August of 2010 when Mitch ended his "Kick Out The Jams" program after 30 years. This resulted in a shift in the Saturday schedule which saw "I Haven't A Clue" at 11am, "Music and Memories" at 1pm, and Retro Radio from 3-5:30pm (eventually 3-6pm). That's how the schedule remained for quite some time.

WJCU held it's first open house in 2011, and look who stopped by! "The Smoker" Scott Howitt from ZIP 106 and WMJI. When it comes to Cleveland radio history, Howitt is one of the all-time greats as he kept the spirit of The Mad Daddy (WHK) alive with his smokin' style of radio.

My life outside of radio changed drastically a year later. I married my lovely wife in 2012, and we welcomed our first daughter a year later. By 2016, baby #3 was on his way, so I had to cut back on the show. That's when I recruited Ray King to join Retro Radio in the summer of 2016.

In 2019, after 15 years as host of Retro Radio, I passed the torch off to Ray King, who ran with it for another two years. I then started Jumpin' Joe's Basement Show, a show that I host from my basement every week. Here's a pic from my final Retro Radio show. Notice the backpack full of CDs in the background. Most of the students at John Carroll at that time had never owned a CD or any physical form of recorded music. To them, it was an odd sight to see. Talk about feeling old! The big bulky white piece of equipment in front of me is the 360 Shortcut machine, the device I used to record phone calls, which I would then play back on the air. I was the last DJ at WJCU to use it. It was great seeing it again at the Clocktower event this past spring.

I have so many great memories from my days at WJCU. The two moments that stand out the most are the Blizzard Show from March 08, 2008 and the Turn Back The Clock night from March of 2023.

It was a thrill to finally broadcast from the original WJCU clocktower studio (the studio lobby technically) for the very first time. I've been told it won't be my last time!

It's been an honor to be a part of WJCU for 20 years. I'm proud to say that I have helped raise over $75,000 for WJCU over the last 20 years during the annual radiothons, and I have you to thank for that. Your support tells me that you appreciate what I do each and every week...and it tells me that I should keep those records spinning!

There are so many people I would like to thank who have helped me along the way. It's impossible to name them all, but I'd like to acknowledge a few at this time. First, to God and to my family, especially my wife for her support. I thank "Danny Kewl" Dan Exton, who I met when I discovered his website full of WIXY-SIXTY surveys in 2003. He really helped me out with music during the early days of Retro Radio. I thank John Baryak and Matt Taylor for allowing me to get started. I thank Tom Fallon and Dave Atkins for sharing a lot of music with me, especially music that's connected to Cleveland. I thank WJCU General Manager emeritus Mark Krieger and engineer Eric Simna, who had to put up with my occasional shenanigans. I thank WJCU GM emeritus Trent Maverick who was very supportive of me and allowing me to remain on WJCU upon moving the show to the basement. Thank you to our current WJCU GM Jasen Sokol for supporting me and dealing with my occasional OCD moments. I thank the radio stations that air JJBS every week. Thank you for believing that not all radio shows should sound the same! Most importantly, since you've made it so far in the post, I want to thank you for your friendship and for being there each and every week. Without you, this show wouldn't be worth doing.

Thank you!

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1 comentário

Steven Green
Steven Green
07 de out. de 2023

Joe, congratulations. I love those overnight marathon shows that you do on vinyl record day. Was able to listen to the whole six hours of the first show. The second show, was on vacation and driving a lot and could not be up all night. Hope you do those progressive rock shows every year. Steven Green Austin, Texas

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