Credit: Courtesy

In Memoriam | Joe Mock: 1957-2022

Joe Mock often worshiped the sun, sitting on a beach towel, wearing faded gym shorts and puka shells. He laughed, smiled, and got a tan while listening to a dented transistor radio.

Joe was usually serenaded through the speaker by Vin Scully and a Dodgers game, or by the classic rock and roll he championed.

Sunny Joe seemed on a religious crusade or political campaign to spread rock throughout Santa Barbara, converting even the most reluctant souls to rock on.

Joe “Mama” Mock was a KTYD disc jockey, a nightclub deejay, a musician in Santa Barbara bands Norman Allan and I Batter, and a mentor and constant cheerleader for local talent. At KTYD, in an era when the station seemed to blare from every construction site and car radio, Joe and Fear Hyple played local bands on their show “Santa Barbara Beat.”

“Growing up listening to KTYD, I thought Joe Mock was an actual rock star,” said Dean Dinning, bassist for Toad the Wet Sprocket. “Joe and Fear gave our band its first-ever play on radio. Years ago, Joe ended up working with our manager Chris Blake, even touring with us as a guitar tech.

“I always heard you should never meet your heroes. But Joe was a wonderful exception to that rule.”

Joe was born June 21, 1957, in Orange County, California. With his tongue buried in round, full cheeks, Joe declared in the early ages of the Summer Solstice Celebration in Santa Barbara that the revelry was dedicated to him. “Ha ha,” he chuckled at his own joke, long before anyone texted “ha ha” on their cell phone or owned one.

“He had an unbridled zeal for life,” said former KTYD deejay Mark Avery and Joe’s onetime roommate. “Joe realized that the music industry is where he needed to be. But to him, it wasn’t and shouldn’t have been an industry. For Joe and many of us, music was an art form to be expressed, shared, and experienced. Which is why it seemed that music was a part of everything Joe did.”

Good friends and relatives of Joe received his mixtapes on cassette, much like the one played by the Chris Pratt character in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy. He combined new songs before the rest of the planet embraced them and rock classics.

Joe named the cassettes everything from “California Calling” and “Summer Solstice 1986” to “Slapshots and Power Plays.” Many of the mixtapes featured rare gems, including Springsteen on Saturday Night Live. Joe unearthed Mike Mills of REM performing “Rockville” on Regis and Kathie Lee’s TV show.

The tapes got people through long drives, lonely nights, bad breakups, and good breakups.

Joe moved to Wisconsin for a time and once turned a bus ride from Madison to Green Bay into a rock lesson and sing-along. 

Outside the bus window, black-and-white dairy cows gnawed on green grass. Inside the dark bus, Joe decided to liven up the pastoral route.

Sitting in the back, Joe rigged speakers to his Walkman and began playing his favorites: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, and more. The Wisconsin riders flipped from shy and reluctant to full-throated crooners. They joined in song, between the driver’s announcements of stops in Appleton, Oshkosh, and Beaver Dam to drop off a box of blood.

“Yeah, man,” Joe nodded. “And good that those people are getting their blood.”

His mission was accomplished after an hour or so. He turned off the music and picked up a paperback.

Joe read voraciously. He dove deep into the Larry McMurtry epic Lonesome Dove. Joe would exclaim out loud, “I can’t believe McMurtry killed the young Irish singer in a water moccasin attack!”

Joe wrote himself, authoring three novels and a nonfiction send-up, Ticket Stubs: A Rock Fan Looks Back at the ’70s. The book included countless photos of the stubs Joe saved.

It’s fair to estimate that Joe saw in person five dozen bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“There are hundreds of books out there written by established rock critics, but I’ve never read one by the average fan who had to wait in line to buy tickets,” Joe wrote in the book’s header that’s on Amazon.

That was Joe, the eyes and ears of the everyman. No designer jeans, by design.

Later in life, Joe lived in Playa Del Rey and delivered flowers and more good cheer.

Bridget Benenate, an acclaimed singer-songwriter and lead singer of the local band The Dreamers, explained that Joe had a rare ability to lift people’s spirits. Benenate knows well about making positive connections. Her songwriting credits are all over pop hits, including Kelly Clarkson’s smash “Breakaway.”

“I just remember Joe being like the sun,” said Benenate. “He was so light. He was always grinning. He was a big presence in my life while I was growing up.”

Joe passed away last winter and is survived by his sisters Julie, Marti, and Mary; brother, Ken; three brothers-in-law; a sister-in-law; and four nephews and nieces.

Relatives and friends still see the plastic cogs spinning his mixtapes. They hear Joe “Mama” Mock taking sad songs and making them better.


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