Chattanoogan: Talk Radio's "Cowboy Joe"

Thursday, December 11, 2003 - by Nicole S. Gwyn
Cowboy Joe
Cowboy Joe
- photo by Nicole S. Gwyn

A bachelor in Chattanooga could likely find lots of good music, food, and friends to keep him company any given Friday night. Take Radio producer Joe Varner for example. Mr. Varner, known also as “Cowboy Joe” of SportTalk 102.3-FM, likes hanging out at the late night hot spots of downtown Chattanooga.

“The club scene, I like that,” he said. “Downtown has really improved. It’s good to see a mix of people downtown.”

Yet, Mr. Varner sets aside his social life to co-host the Coca-Cola Red Zone, a show that looks at the scores and highlights of area high school sports every Friday night on 102.3 during the fall sports season.

His efforts paid off when the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association last month named the Coca-Cola Red Zone as “Outside Contributor of the Year” at a ceremony in Knoxville.

The A.F. Bridges Sportsmanship Award honored the show for its coverage of high school sports over the past 10 years, said Scott McMahen, Red Zone and SportTalk co-host, who accepted the award on behalf of the Red Zone team.

“Anytime you’re recognized for something like this, especially statewide, it makes you feel proud,” Mr. McMahen said. “It meant a lot to me.”

He commended Mr. Varner for his work on the show, saying that 27-year-old Varner has made personal sacrifices for the sake of the show.

“Doing the show 13 straight Fridays and having to give up a lot … it shows how much (Mr. Varner) is a fan of high school football and wants to give back,” he said.

Mr. Varner said this award was his first in radio. “That was a pretty big deal, being recognized for that.”

He didn’t plan for a career in radio when he enrolled at UTC. “I wanted to be a teacher coming out of high school. I had a friend who was a teacher and that kinda spoiled me,” he said.

He was majoring in secondary education when a friend at WGOW introduced him to radio production. For over a year, he worked on producing weekend and live shows. He eventually began filling in as a producer on SportTalk, which led to a permanent position.

“They accepted me as one of their own,” he said of his SportTalk colleagues.

Mr. Varner said he has a “vested interest in sports” since he played on football teams from third grade through high school. He said he no longer has time to play team sports, but works out with weights. He once entered a weight lifting competition, he said.

Mr. Varner used a couple of different radio monikers, like “Jolting Joe” and “Smoking Joe” before using “Cowboy Joe.” During some on-air banter, Mr. McMahen called him a “cowboy,” so he became known by that name.

He said one of the best parts of his job as a radio host and producer is talking to listeners. “They’ll call in to talk about something that happened the day before,” he said. “There are really good people out there.”

Mr. Varner has never married. He has a younger sister who, he said, is “very outspoken” and tries to keep him in line. Though his parents are divorced, he said they are big influences in his life.

“My mom sends me a lot of fan mail,” he said. “She’s my biggest fan.”



Chattanooga National Cemetery Flag Pick-up Completed

Through an outpouring of support from the media and the public, the Chattanooga National Cemetery was able to pick up and secure all of the U.S. flags that were placed on the gravesites for Memorial Day. The community effort allowed officials to secure all flags within two days, which is usually a seven-day project.  The cemetery received volunteers of all ages throughout ... (click for more)

James And Josephine Webb Honored For Donation Of Webb Building In Cleveland

James and Josephine Webb were honored on Tuesday, by the Cleveland City Council for the donation of the Webb Building to the city. Mr. Webb's former law office has been removed to open the spring at that location. Taylor Spring is the site where the city began. Historic research is underway and planning has begun for a park. The Webbs were presented with a plaque expressing the ... (click for more)

Corker Hails Study That Says VW Expansion Could Add 9,800 Tennessee Jobs

Senator Bob Corker on Wednesday said a University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) study on the impact the expansion of Volkswagen Chattanooga’s manufacturing facility will have on the economy in Tennessee shows the development is paying off for Chattanooga. According to the study, the expansion could add 9,800 full-time jobs to the Tennessee ... (click for more)

Tram Up 1st Street That Proved A Dud Also Falters At Auction

Most of the 21st Century Waterfront development was a major success. Except for that non-working tram going up the steep hill at First Street. The city has finally given up on the unusual mode of transit and has placed it up for auction. But there were only four bids submitted and the high was only $92.50. The owners of the firm that built the tram, Outdoor Engineers ... (click for more)

The Truth About The Rising Costs To East Ridge On The Fire Hall Property

Re:East Ridge Has To Pay Unexpected $428,000 On Bass Pro Shop Deal   H ere is the truth about this article.    One section of the article says: " Unknown to anybody on the council today, the agreement limited use of the land to a fire hall."     In a letter dated Dec. 15, 2010, Mayor Lambert asked TDOT officials to ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Is It Ever Worth It?

There is a better-than-average chance General John Kelly could soon be named as the new Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. He’s one of four men who have been mentioned in prudent fashion to follow General Joseph Dunford (remember that name for a few minutes) as head of the Corps. General Dunford, who held the job less than a year, has just been chosen by President Obama ... (click for more)