San Antonio’s Spirit of the Radio: Remembering Joe Anthony

{Michael Lee’s blog from Michael Lee Band}

 

It’s the season for conjuring up spirits. And for some reason, I’ve been haunted lately by one spirit in particular….that of a rock legend who’s been gone now for over 23 years. Yet, I can close my eyes…remember his voice…and be instantly transported back in time- every time I listen to one of the legendary rock tunes this pioneering disc jockey brought to South Texas listeners of KISS-FM / KMAC-AM radio back in the day…

Like so many others who grew up in San Antonio- “the Heavy Metal Capital of the world!” on Friday nights, I worshipped at the altar of The Godfather.

Legendary Rock DJ Joe Anthony

THE ROCK GODFATHER

Joe Anthony was the Godfather of Rock N Roll.

The San Antonio-native radio DJ not only played incredible music, introducing unbelievably talented bands over the airwaves…but he also brought the bands to the masses. He was pivotal in importing overseas bands to America, in some cases for their very first shows in the states. That was certainly the case when I saw Def Leppard for the first time, with original guitarist/founder Pete Willis. And Joe’s influence wasn’t just limited to foreign imports: he did plenty for American rock legends, too, like Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Van Halen and Queensryche, just to name a few.

One of my earliest concerts was Def Leppard, when their big hit was "Wasted," a song Joe Anthony played relentlessly over SA airwaves. The band happily played it to a huge crowd at Hemisphere Arena in 1980.

One of my earliest concerts was Def Leppard, when their big hit was “Wasted,” a song Joe Anthony played relentlessly over SA airwaves. The band happily played it to a huge crowd at Hemisfair Arena in 1980.

 

 

Another early concert I went to completely blew my mind: Triumph! Bassist Mike Levine became one of my early musical heroes.

TRIUMPH was another early concert I went to that completely blew me away! Bassist Mike Levine became one of my early musical heroes, and the stage show was unlike any other at the time.

 

 

Canadian rock trio RUSH pose with DJ Joe Anthony, who arranged a special concert for the band at SA's intimate venue, Randy's Rodeo, in 1975.

Canadian rock trio RUSH pose with DJ Joe Anthony, who arranged a special concert for the band at SA’s intimate venue, Randy’s Rodeo, in 1975.

 

 

From Ted Nugent to Triumph, from RUSH to Def Leppard…with UFO, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, and scores of other groups in between, Joe Anthony is commonly cited in early LP liner notes as a ‘Special Thanks’ key contributor. Just look him up…

I was a little rocker, weened on hard rock and heavy metal- all thanks to the Godfather of Rock!

I was a little rocker, weened on hard rock and heavy metal- all thanks to the Godfather of Rock. (note the Rob Halford-inspired spiked belt and leather bracelets!!)

 

Even though I was just a kid during Joe’s pinnacle run, like any hardcore listener I was blown away by his radio shows! And I went to more than 80 concerts back in the day that he had a hand in. That music changed our lives. We would have never heard it…if it weren’t for the Godfather’s careful touch.

Though I never got to actually meet the man in person, I did get to speak to him. I would call in to his Battle of the Bands shows and his special request hours, and hearing that unique, one-of-a-kind radio voice on the other end of the phone was a huge thrill!

It was quite commonplace to hear lots of record scratches in the middle of some of Joe’s favorite tunes that got the most airplay…like “Blinding Light Show/Moonchild” by Triumph, “Victim of Changes” by Judas Priest and “Holiday” by the Scorpions…

Triumph's Just A Game tour brought them to SA in 1979, for one of my very first concerts.

TRIUMPH’s Just A Game tour brought them to SA in 1979, for one of my very first concerts.

Joe was never shy about chiming in right in the middle of a particularly badass tune, either. I recall how pumped up he would get during his shows and sometimes just screech, “Rock N Roll!!!” right in the middle of a song.

I remember the first time I heard “Suite Madame Blue” by Styx…of course, it was courtesy of the Godfather- and in the hard-rocking bridge of the song, Joe inserted himself…right on cue.

He was quite the spontaneous showman!

Joe Anthony was most at home behind the microphone at 99.5 KISS radio in San Antonio, where he helped turn unknown bands like Triumph into international superstars.

Joe Anthony was most at home behind the microphone at 99.5 KISS radio in San Antonio, where he helped turn unknown bands like Triumph into international superstars.

 

The legendary DJ caused many of us to hit the local Sound Warehouse or Davey’s Locker in a hurry to add to our record collections. (I still have the original vinyl from Starz, sampled below…)

In those days there were other radio shows of influence: like ‘Dr. Demento’ and the King Biscuit Flower Hour (which I can still remember staying up for to get the static-y transmission from Houston to hear a QUEEN concert one time.) On TV, the “Midnight Special” with another legendary radio DJ, Wolfman Jack, was key in introducing up and coming new acts as well. But make no mistake: Joe was in a class all by himself. RUSH said it best: he was the Spirit of the radio!

That Spirit has long been gone far too long, was taken far too soon and is deeply missed every single day.

Joseph Anthony Yannuzzi was a good soul, too: he took care of his mother and made his mark on the San Antonio landscape with his famous landmark restaurants like Mr. Pizza and Villa Italia. Some said Joe also had an interest in the Godfathers Pizza chain, and that was how he wound up with the Italian Godfather moniker. As with any legend, there is lore…and folklore. But there is no question he touched countless lives with his tastemaker talent and song-picking genius.

It was a tremendous shock to all his fans when he died from lung cancer on September 12, 1992. He was only 55.

The final resting place in San Antonio for the "Godfather of Rock N Roll."

The final resting place in San Antonio for the “Godfather of Rock N Roll.”

 

GONE…BUT NOT FORGOTTEN…

I know that Joe’s spirit lives on through the music he shared with all of us. Every time I hear a legendary tune from that era it brings a flood of memories back to life. And as a long-time listener who went on to make music myself, I know that his spirit reverberates in my own sound.

I can only hope my music today would somehow make the cut of my rock hero’s impeccable taste meter. In particular, with my songs like “Waiting For A Sign,” “Lost In A Touch,” and “One Last Stand,” I hope that somewhere…….a fist is raised…..and that immortal voice of the airwaves is exclaiming- as only Joe Anthony could- “ROCK ON!”

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For my own October séance, here’s a master playlist of the Godfather himself. These were some of Joe’s favorite tunes, and each one will take you on a Rock N Roll journey like nothing else. This is just about as close as you can get to feeling Joe’s spirit again today.

WARNING: the music you are about to experience is the hardest, dirtiest, coolest, most badass rock on the planet!

No matter what your background, if you do not instantly begin to ROCK OUT upon listening to Starz, see a doctor IMMEDIATELY! You have no pulse!!!

 

BONUS: For die-hard Joe fans who will remember the last days of Disco, here’s a sweet jam from SWEET, who came to SA in 1979 thanks to much airplay from Joe Anthony…

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