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.”



Collegedale's Independence Day Celebration Cancelled Due To Threat Of Severe Weather

Collegedale's Independence Day celebration has been cancelled due to predicted severe weather. All activities, including the concert, fireworks, and the Collegedale Market have been cancelled.  Collegedale will celebrate on its rain date of  Sept. 7 , Labor Day. (click for more)

TDOT Celebrates 100 Years Of Transportation

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s year-long celebration of its centennial culminated today with the burial of a time capsule and installation of a granite memorial at Bicentennial Mall.  The granite memorial is located at the north end of the Bicentennial Mall, and pays tribute to 100 years of transportation in Tennessee. It was designed by Tuck Hinton Architects, ... (click for more)

Work Set To Restart On Chickamauga Lock This Year

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allocated $3 million that Congress provided for fiscal year 2015 to restart construction on Chickamauga Lock this year, Senator Lamar Alexander and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann announced. “We need to replace Chickamauga Lock before it fails, and I talked with Secretary Darcy today to thank her for making this project a priority by deciding to restart ... (click for more)

Boyd Asks Coppinger For Public Apology; Does Not Get One

County Commissioner Tim Boyd on Wednesday morning read a letter in which he asked County Mayor Jim Coppinger for a public apology. However, he did not get one. Instead, County Mayor Coppinger called remarks last Wednesday by Commissioner Boyd that the county mayor had $4.4 million in discretionary funds "ridiculous." He said that money includes such items as the Humane Educational ... (click for more)

Police Need To Stop The Road Cowboys - And Response (2)

Where is our highway patrol?  If they were known to regularly patrol our interstate highways through our city I don't think it would take long before the "truckers" were aware of it.  There are places in our country where this is the case.   When I have traveled Interstates 24 and 75 I may see the occasional car pulled over but rarely if ever is it an 18-wheeler. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Never Disturb The Dead

I’ve got too many things in my life that scare me so I’ve always been real leery of “unnecessary fear.” A guy named Terry wanted to teach me how to catch a live rattlesnake one time but had a tough time telling me what exactly to do with the angry serpent when the time came to let it go. I have the same view of these paranormal societies where otherwise sane people go around looking ... (click for more)