Joel Helgren

2016 - Spirit Award

Joel Helgren’s dad introduced him to the music of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean when he was two.

At the age of three, he met Mike Love of the Beach Boys. When he was eight he went with his family to see Jan & Dean, where he was invited on stage. He sang with the band and formed a lasting friendship with Dean Torrence. When Torrence was at the Surf last September, he asked Helgren to introduce the band.

Helgren started doing sock hops at his elementary school when he was 8, and oldies rock ‘n’ roll shows for Relay for Life a year later. Helgren, who is visually impaired, also started doing radio commercials for his family’s business when he was 9. He has deejayed class reunions and private functions, and does an oldies sock hop at the Winter Dance Party in Clear Lake.


Helgren, 28, has been a disc jockey at KRIB Radio since he was 15 years old. He does two back-to-back shows every Saturday morning from 8:00am to 10:00am. The Big Band Hour highlights songs from the big band era. Five years ago, he added Rock N Rewind, which features music from the 1950s, ‘60s and early ’70s.

Joel has been fortunate to interview many famous guests including Chris Montez, Dean Torrence, Brian Wilson, and Big Bopper Junior. He has also met the Band Chicago, Johnny Rivers, Bryan Hyland Little Richard, Chubby Checker, Bobby Vee, Bill Medley, Freddy Cannor, Danny Huttor, Cory Wells, Phil and Don Everly, Tommy Roe, Gary Lewis, Dave Summerville, Leslie Gore, Little Peggy March, the real Peggy Sue, Charlie Gracie, The Cricketts, Sonny Burgess, Tommy Allsup, Shirley of the Shirelles, and Wanda Jackson.

Helgren met Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys when he played the Surf. At the time he told Johnston he was working on a radio program on KRIB and starting at the bottom. Johnston gave him two pieces of advice.


“Never start at the bottom,” Johnston told him, “and have confidence and start in the middle.”

At a later meeting during a concert in Spencer, Johnston told Joel he should buy his own radio station.

“I have been truly blessed to work on radio and share my passion with my listeners,” says Helgren. “Music is a gift that has no boundaries and takes us on those three-minute vacations with every song.”

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