Banana Joe Montione passed away on Sept. 11 in Los Angeles. A Pittston Twp. native and 1971 Pittston Area grad, he was 67.
Montione was an internationally known disc jockey who got his start at King’s College student radio WRKC. The King’s gig was the beginning of a radio odyssey that took him from local stations in Pittston and Wilkes-Barre to major markets all over the United States and Canada. He worked as an on-air DJ, but was also a program director and station owner with an investment group that included the late Dr. Joseph Lombardo. In the 1980s, the group bought WHTF in York and WTLQ in Pittston, now WQMX or MAX 102.
Montione worked at WFIL, Philadelphia; WHYI, Miami; CHUM, Toronto; WLO, Orlando; WUSA, Tampa; KTXQ, Dallas and KHJ, an iconic Top 40 station in Los Angeles.
Joe Middleton — who also had a decades-long career in radio — lived in the same neighborhood when Montione was growing up on Gain Street in Pittston Twp. He said anybody who knew Montione then was not surprised by his success.
“I never knew anybody so focused. He knew what he wanted to do from an early age,” Middleton said. “He was determined to make it and he did.”
Montione’s father, Balo Mantione, helped his son with his dream by setting up a makeshift studio with a mixing board in their house.
After the group sold the two stations in the early 1990s, Joe moved back to Los Angeles and started a syndicated show, “Banana Joe Flashback Show,” with KIIS-FM as his flagship station. In 2003, Montione launched the Banana Joe Radio Group, and in 2003 he started an Internet station Flashbacktop40.com.
While at WFIL in Philadelphia in 1975, Montione did a series of one-on-one interviews with John Lennon, set up by Mike Douglass, the legendary TV producer and star who famously interviewed Lennon and Yoko Ono on his talk show.
Montione was last in Pittston in May when the pocket park adjacent to Napoli’s on Main Street was dedicated to his cousin James Musto. Mantione was the master of ceremonies.
As of this writing, there are no plans for a local service.