Home > Joe Benson, Kevin Will, KPRL > Help Joe Benson

Help Joe Benson

We have been talking about Joe Benson and his relationship with his current/former employer, radio station KPRL in Paso Robles. Joe has no idea of his official job status since his heart attack last October. To add insult to injury, KPRL chose not to publicize Saturday’s fundraiser, meant to help deflect Joe’s costly medical bills.

Here’s part of what The Tribune reported on Saturday. Kevin Will, station owner and head KPRL weasel, will probably send his lawyer after me again, but this situation is beyond belief. Meanwhile, feel free to donate to Joe Benson’s support fund at any Heritage Oaks bank in North County.

Radio host finds uncertainty after heart attack
Stephen Curran

The last time listeners heard Joe Benson sign off his morning broadcast, the radio personality had just wrapped up a lively discussion with state Sen. Tom McClintock about the conservative lawmaker’s bid for lieutenant governor.

To fans, the Oct. 30 interview sounded like countless others in Benson’s more than a decade as host of KPRL-AM’s popular “Sound Off” program. He politely shrugged off comments from guest Ann Ketcherside, there to promote her own campaign for Atascadero City Council, when she noted that he looked ill.

Benson later admitted the he did not feel well throughout the interview, but it was nothing new to a man who had battled diabetes for much of his life.

It didn’t occur to him until after his wife, Valerie, rushed him to Twin Cities Community Hospital that he had suffered a massive heart attack.

“When they say it’s like a herd of elephants on your chest, they aren’t kidding,” Benson, 54, said Thursday. “I felt that I could see the pain coming out of my fingertips. That’s exactly how I felt.”

Now, almost seven months and a six-way heart bypass operation later, the man dubbed the unofficial Voice of the North County reflects proudly on his role as the folksy uncle to a community he considers his extended family.

Able to walk short distances but only when absolutely necessary, he struggles to reconcile a mind that races with excitement for the future of radio with a body that has trouble keeping up.

Benson says he’s unsure whether he’ll return to KPRL. Relations between him and station owner Kevin Will have soured in recent months even as the station continues to pay a portion of the radio host’s medical insurance. The station has stopped short of assuring Benson it will save his job.

Will, who co-hosted “Morning Exchange” with Benson, has not responded to numerous attempts by The Tribune to clarify the employment status of his former on-air sidekick.

But Benson’s replacement, Central Coast radio fixture Dick Mason, says Will has been unfairly criticized for his handling of what he said is an awkward situation.

“Kevin (Will) was in a tight spot, and he was having to have different people fill in,” Mason said. “But Kevin has all this time paid for Joe’s insurance. That insurance paid for his …bypass.”

But Will’s critics, who include KVEC-AM radio personality Dave Congalton, have taken aim at the station owner for what they say is his unfair treatment of Benson.

Congalton, whose afternoon show is as pointed as Benson’s was diplomatic, blasted the rival station during Wednesday’s broadcast. He and others have said the station has refused to advertise today’s barbecue fundraiser to offset medical debts that Benson says are now “in the five figures.”

“The guy had six-way heart surgery, and KPRL won’t even mention the fundraiser,” Congalton said. “What’s that all about?”
Mason, who is also KPRL’s news director, praised his predecessor but said he could not discuss Benson’s employment.
Since taking over, Mason said he has focused more heavily on North County history and local sports.

“It’s an awkward situation,” Mason said. “Would I have handled it as Kevin has? Probably not.”

Benson, who remains on unpaid leave and relies on state disability payments, spends most days educating himself on the latest in broadcast technology. An alarm clock-sized Internet radio sits on an end table in the couple’s living room.
He and Valerie try not to linger on whether their future includes KPRL.

“In 38 years, I have never taken the audience for granted,” Benson said. “They realize (radio) is my passion. It is a passion that I have lived. I miss it terribly.”

  1. golfingslo
    May 12, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Not telling people about the fundraiser seems petty. Not discussing Joe’s employment status sounds like the stations lawyers are behind that stance. Good luck, Joe and get your act together KPRL. Maybe a few listener phone calls expressing their concern to the stations advertisers not the station might get things to change. I for one will not support any KPRL advertiser until things change in regard to the treatment of Joe. The advertisers have the power for change.

  2. Anonymous
    May 12, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    I don’t know anything about the KPRL situation except for Dave’s comments and the Trib article he posted.

    But it does seem awfully petty not to mention the Joe Benson fundraiser. Why wouldn’t the radio station help promote an event like this?

    Very sad.

  3. Brett
    May 12, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    It’s all Bush’s fault.

  4. Anonymous
    May 12, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    What I’d like to know is did anyone ASK them if they would pretty please advertise it?

    And before crucifying the station, possibly there is some information we don’t know about…& that they are not at liberty to speak of. It is nice (as it should be) that they have kept up his insurance…as that would have really been a tragedy for Joe. And let me tell you….once you lose your insurance, (although he could be covered under Cobra for 3 years paid at a high rate by the insured)insurance companies are getting really hardcore about accepting you….& they go through all your medical records etc before possibly covering you….and then either won’t cover you or won’t cover anything related to what you’ve already had. So…it WAS nice that they continued to cover him medically & pay for part of that.

    So…before I judge the station….even though it sounds a bit strange to me, it IS possible that there is somthing else going on here.

    Of course I wish Joe all the best. It has been VERY difficult for him. And honestly…it doesn’t SOUND like he would be a good canididate for full time work again or at least for a long time, given the description of his condition thus far.

    We all wish businesses in our community would DO the right thing, but sometimes they are not in the financial position to continue to pay someone who is out on medical leave. I wonder how many businesses in our community WOULD do that? Just my random thoughts….GET WELL Joe!!!

  5. Anonymous
    May 12, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    The issue is not whether insurance is being provided to Joe Benson. What upsets me as a longtime listener to KPRL (and KVEC!) is the way this event was handled by the station. The Tribune made repeated attempts to talk to Kevin and he never returned phone calls.

    All he had to do was pick up the phone and tell the Tribune, “Yes, as a matter of fact we ARE promoting the event and here’s the times when we did it.”

    What does that tell you? No small business has the right to treat a loyal employee so crappy.

  6. Anonymous
    May 13, 2007 at 3:35 am

    … a fine example of “free market enterprise”?

  7. Anonymous
    May 13, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Typical leftist liberal BS! Everyone is a victim! Down with Corporate America!
    Donate to starving child that some liberal didn’t abort! That makes more sense!
    unbelieveable! Simply unbelievable!
    I wonder just how far left this blog can go…This sets a new boundry. But I bet you will see more!
    George Bush must be at fault here…that’s coming next!
    Buy some lumber, build a bridge and get over it!

  8. Anonymous
    May 13, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    How much does Joe weigh? Does he smoke, drink, eat a fat rich diet? Does he excersize regularly? Did he floow is doctor’s advice to the letter?
    C’mon! You can’t run your life like a train wreck and then expect that some company or even community to step in and fix what you ignored for 50 years!
    I agree with the previous post!
    Not everyone can be a victim!
    If you want the government to care care of you move to France and see how you like it there.
    What a waste of time!
    And by the way…where does it say health care is a right? Not in my America!
    put up or shut up or pay up! Don’t take anymore of my taxes to fix problems that aren’t mine!

  9. Anonymous
    May 13, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Wow, that was tuff. Is there something un-american about helping a friend?

  10. Anonymous
    May 13, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    “And by the way…where does it say health care is a right? Not in my America!”

    Hmmm, where does it say primary education is a right, local and national parks, fire departments, police departments, interstate highways, sewer systems, treated water, sidewalks, etc. I could go on for awhile.

    None of those attributes in our Country are rights either, yet we expect a certain level of services and goods to be part of our governments responsibility through our wishes that are funded out of our taxes.

    I think we should expect national healthcare to another one of those attributes of our Country that is funded by the citizens that actually creates a “wealthier” nation.


  11. Dave Congalton
    May 13, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    There are multiple issues raised in the Tribune article, but some of you Anomies seem to be missing the point.

    KPRL claims that Joe Benson is an employee.

    Friends and members of the community organized a barbecue to raise money for Joe.

    KPRL always publicizes such events.

    And since Joe is a station employee.

    Why did KPRL refuse toi publicize this event?

  12. Anonymous
    May 13, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    I have a hunch that this has something to do with the fact that he is out on a long medical leave of absence. Seven months IS long…even for heart surgery with complications. Legally….they have to honor the medical leave…but unless he resigns…or they fire him…he can not be replaced either. This often makes employers feel trapped…thus the strained relationship. Doesn’t make it right….but I’ve seen the same thing happen over & over in the medical profession. Our local hospitals do not treat their long term employees (such as loyal 20 year employees)out on medical leave any differently….even though you would THINK the medical profession would take care of it’s own!! Just doesn’t happen, at least not in the San Luis Obispo medical community with hospital staff. Bet a lot of folks think hospitals are more caring than thatwith their employees. But hospitals are a money making business….even the not for profits!! The radio station is probably unhappy with the uncertainty of the situation after seven months. It’s just business, unfortunately.

  13. Bob from San Luis
    May 13, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Dave: The whole situation is very curious; as you stated, KPRL claims that Joe is an employee and they usually promote such events, so why didn’t they? Are they hoping that Joe will simply go away? I have no idea if the management of KPRL has a hard nose business attitude and stringing Joe along by not telling him he is fired, so He seems to be stuck in some “no man’s land” of not be embraced by the station and them helping him in any way possible or, simply being terminated so they would have washed their hands of his situation completely. I do not know anyone involved here, but it kinda feels to me like they would like to let him go but are afraid to face the community uproar if they should do so. I’m not so sure it has to do with his insurance if they are helping him out with some of his coverage. Curious.

  14. Anonymous
    May 14, 2007 at 1:26 am

    C’mon! They didn’t advertise the BBQ because they would admitting his need…He now represents a huge liabilty to KPRL! It’s all now in the hands of the lawyers…and if you don’t think Joe doesn’t have a lawyer I have some land in Florida you can buy!
    Wake up! This is the worlds the liberals have made…heck! a woman got 6+ million for splilling hot coffee on her lap! KPRL wan’t touch Joe out of court with a 10 foot pole!
    You are all dreamers! Wake up!

  15. Rudy McCain
    May 14, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Regarding the previous post, if KPRL wants to get ride of Joe, then fire him, take his name off the web site and hire someone else.

    It seems to me that they’re trying to have it both ways: They’re pretending Benson is still part of the staff so the listeners don’t get upset, but actually they’re trying to distance themselves from him.

    Given this bad publicity, KPRL loses either way.

  16. the ghost of christmas past
    May 14, 2007 at 2:23 am

    Com’ on, guys. If you listened to the interview Dave did (good job, by the way) ou would have heard that his heart troubles were the result of a birth defect where his heart was actually plumbed backwards which necessitated the six way bypass (did I get that right, Dave?) For those of you busting Joe’s balls about his heath status, do you know that everthing about you is the way it should be and that ONLY your choices are to blame? For those of you that wish to sow political hay, shame on you! Here is a man suffering and in need. To make any political reference craps on a man in need of help and some answers from his employer. As any good Christian would tell you, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

  17. Anonymous
    May 14, 2007 at 5:38 am

    Good post, Ghost. It’s very sad to read some of the comments on this thread. I don’t know Benson and i’ve never heard KPRL, but this could easily be anyone we know. How about some compassion out there?

  18. paso mike
    May 14, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Plenty of bodies at Joe BBQ Saturday. Seems like he raised pretty good sized chunk of money. I was hoping to see more KVEC people though. KPRL represented strong.

  19. former listener
    May 15, 2007 at 3:24 am

    The bigger question is:

    How many times is Dick Mason going to be recycled in the radio biz?

    Get better Joe, and don’t go back to work for the ego maniac, who’s granny bought a station for.

  20. paso mike
    May 15, 2007 at 3:36 am

    KVEC is along way from Paso Robles

  21. Joe & Valerie Benson
    May 15, 2007 at 4:21 am

    Ladies & Gentlemen … my dear friends, the incredible community of families,

    I am overwhelmed. You will know shortly of my intent that this extreme display of generosity, love and support for a “radio guy” in small town Paso Robles, California will be returned to this community tenfold.

    So many of the over 1000 people who came to this event, to not only give, but to share their friendship, concern and hope, now know that strong faith and hard work has a place in our community.

    I apologize for the absence from our local airwaves and for the now mean-spiritness of my “employer” who has hurt our community out of his callous selfishness, disrespect, rudeness and lack of feeling due to his “inconvenience” in my leaving, but especially, towards your demonstrated kindness both on air and off, as witnessed by this turnout.

    I will be back. Shortly. In days or a few very short weeks.

    To my radio colleagues in San Luis Obispo, the counties printed press and television … and the joker who posted the “When cardiac patients collide” clip on You Tube, from Valerie and me, our
    forever love, grateful affection and heart-felt thanks.

    For those who have supported me with friendship from my days back in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Memphis, Minnesota, Texas and California…you will never know how your support these months has meant to me.

    You are the faith of this community. I have a renewed hope for Life in a business that I have felt for several years in building as a success and now, I have this incredible support.

    The cost of insurance is but a few hundred dollars. The cost of your Friendship and support these many years is PRICELESS.

    Warmest regards and heartfelt thanks,

    Joe & Valerie Benson
    Paso Robles, CA

  22. Dave Congalton
    May 15, 2007 at 4:26 am

    Here’s the official press release from Saturday.

    Benson BBQ sells out in less than two hours

    The event to support for popular local radio personality Joe Benson was a sell-out success on Saturday, May 12th, in the downtown city park in Paso Robles. According to event co-organizer Steve Martin, about $11,500 was donated during the event, which started at 11 a.m. Benson was present to enjoy the support of community members who turned out to greet him.

    “We were so pleased with the number of folks who turned out,” said Martin. “We prepared tri-tip sandwiches for 500 people. That was gone in less than two hours.” Well over 1000 people attended the event.

    That didn’t stop locals from pouring out support for Benson, who underwent six-way multiple cardiac bypass surgery a couple of months ago. Even with no food to sell, event volunteers continued to receive monetary donations from well-wishers. Before the event started, Divine Appointment Guitars donated an electric guitar to be raffled off. Before long others chimed in with donations. Paso Robles Mayor Frank Mecham donated a signed copy of his latest book, farmers market vendors nearby donated jewelry and other items, Cal Poly donated passes to athletic events, Norman Vineyard donated free wine-tasting and purchase discounts, many others contributed. The impromptu raffle brought in $800!

    “We are really thankful for all the help from businesses and individuals,” said Martin. The Atascadero Kiwanis (who cooked all the food) and the many individuals who showed up saying ‘what can we do to help?’was simply amazing.”

    Martin was joined by Atascadero councilman Tom O’Malley and Paso Robles Mayor Frank Mecham in planning and executing the event. State Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee was on hand to honor and support Benson. Paso Robles council members Gary Nemeth, Jon Hamon, Duane Picanco and Fred Strong were on hand to lend support, as were Atascadero council members Jerry Clay, Mike Brennler, and Ellen Beraud. At the end of the afternoon, Benson was presented with a certificate of appreciation for his continuing, outstanding service to North County communities signed by each of the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors.

    Those who missed the barbecue can still donate to the cause. Make checks out to “Friends of Joe Benson” and deposit them at any Heritage Oaks Bank branch.

  23. The Comrad
    May 15, 2007 at 4:52 am

    KPRL has a great morning show. Kevin Will is apparently messing up big time here, but everyone makes mistakes. Not too late Kevin to change you mind and man up a little here. I believe you are right in not needing to provide Joe a job for eternity, but just being as open as possible cannot hurt anything either.

    We look forward to Kevin and Joe being back on the air. If not, KVEC would do well to send the silly Bean Greenaway and hung over King Harris and hire a real broadcaster like Joe Benson. I hear clear channel is great to work for.

  24. Rudy McCain
    May 15, 2007 at 5:12 am

    There’s no need to attack Greenaway and Harris in order to make your point about Joe Benson. They’re all good people and decent broadcasters. We should be grateful to have folks trying to keep local radio alive.

  25. paso mike
    May 15, 2007 at 5:13 am

    When Joe gets his form back all he needs is the airwaves. A true pro. KPRL has a excellent morning show and will be just fine without the KVEC “hometown thing”.
    Why don’t we start looking into KVEC a little closer and get to the bottom of all their internal dealings.

  26. Anonymous
    May 15, 2007 at 5:32 am

    Several people are starting a petition drive to 1) get Kevin off the air for his rude, obnoxious personality…and going to the OTHER owner to complain (Pete Dakin at ReMax Realty in Paso Robles) and to “bring Joe back as soon as possible to do the morning show…with Dick Mason, if need be.”

  27. Thomas W
    May 15, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    To comrad and paso mike….I’m really sorry that comrad was so pressed as to take such a cheap shot at two men that are professional journalists with all the right credentials and a true dedication to their careers. And as to you, paso mike, perhaps you need to seek some prfessional help with your fixation on plots and subplots. Is Clear Channel the great Babylon? Oh well, back to my cave.

  28. chuck from Atascader
    May 15, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    “Why don’t we start looking into KVEC a little closer and get to the bottom of all their internal dealings.”

    What does Paso Mike mean by this????? Isn’t KPRL the station that’s screwing up?

  29. conrad
    May 15, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Just listen to King and Ben do an interview sometime. King asks questions like “um……so as a police officer you have seen um…lots of um…..partying in the um….neighborhoods” or “so this is a great event in an already busy weekend this um….tip a cop dinner saturday night” (then the guest says no, it is tonigh Wednesday night)

    Something is not right there.

    Besides that, it was a joke. The king and ben are at KVEC to stay and need to keep working on their act.

  30. KPRL no more
    May 15, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Kevin step up?

    EGO.. EGO.. EGO..

    Advertisers and listeners BOYCOTT KPRL!!

    June 11, 2007 at 3:00 am

    Praise Allah!

  1. July 2, 2015 at 3:41 am

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