The name Mike Joseph may not sound familiar to many Westporters.
But the former resident — who lived here from 1959 through the early ’90s, and died recently in Los Angeles at the age of 90 — had an enormous impact on the sounds Americans listened to, for several decades.
Joseph has been called the nation’s first independent radio programming consultant. With Rick Sklar, he turned WABC into one of the premier AM stations in the country. He hired Dan Ingram, “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, Scott Muni, Chuck Leonard and Ron Lundy as DJs.
Beginning in 1977 he turned around over a dozen major market radio stations, with the “Hot Hits” format he created. His first success was flipping WTIC in Hartford from a low-rated classical station to the very popular “96 TICS.”
Other stations included WFBL in Syracuse, and WCAU in Philadelphia (“98 NOW”, WBBM in Chicago and WHYT in Detroit (both “96 NOW”), and KITS in San Francisco.
Before WABC, his radio turnarounds included stations in Flint, Michigan — one of the first Top 40 formats in America — and others in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Rockford, Illinois; Syracuse, New Orleans, Honolulu, WPRO in Providence, and powerhouse WKBW in Buffalo.
In the early 1960s, he was vice president of NBC radio.
Joseph was born in Youngstown, Ohio to Syrian/Lebanese immigrants. He studied pre-law at Western Reserve, and married Eva, an immigrant from East Berlin after World War II.
The basement of his Westport home was filled with thousands of records, including rock and roll, soul, funk, jazz, classical, even Arab music.
Joseph is survived by his ex-wife, 2 sons and 2 daughters (all graduates of Staples High School), and a grandchild.