Not All Talk
Williams, Rob, Winnipeg Free Press
Morning-show DJ Joe Aiello gives his voice to causes and charities all over the city
Joe Aiello was almost known as Joe Capone.
Back when the 46-year-old Winnipegger got into the radio business in the late 1980s, ethnic names such as Aiello weren't the norm. He had to fight to keep his Italian surname.
"It was from a lesson I learned from my grandfather about respecting your name. At that point in broadcasting, everything was so Anglo, like Joe Jones or Joe Johnson or Joe Smith. I don't look like any of those.
"I said, 'Look, I've got to have an Italian name.' "
Eventually, he was told, 'OK, Aiello is too soft sounding; how about Capone?'
"I still have some friends that bug me about that," Aiello says, laughing.
In the end, he was allowed to use his own name, but more often than not these days, he's known simply as Joe, one half of Tom and Joe, 92 CITI FM's popular morning-show team who have worked together for more than 18 years.
Aiello got into the radio business through sheer determination, hard work and stubbornness, qualities he says he learned from his family.
Aiello's great-grandfather was the first in the family to plant roots in Winnipeg, emigrating here from Amato in the Calabria region of Italy more than 100 years ago.
The family travelled back and forth between the old land and the new land. Aiello's dad came to the city as a 13-year-old and stayed, eventually buying a house on Beverley Street when he was 19, before moving to Clifton Street when Joe was five.
The West End of Aiello's youth was a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds with a large presence of Italian-, Portuguese- and Filipino-Canadians.
The area is still home to a diverse demographic, including Aiello's father, who lives in the same house, because "you can't move a garden," Aiello says.
"I used to joke that Italian kids could never become professional hockey players because any time we would have a hockey stick, our dads would cut the blades off and use them to mark the tomato plants," he says.
Aiello studied to be a teacher at the University of Winnipeg, but his heart was always in radio.
"I remember as a kid, basically using a wooden spoon or some other facility to pretend talking into. It was something I was fixated on, just listening to voices on radio," he says.
Aiello volunteered at the U of W's campus station, CKUW, and his lack of formal broadcast training didn't hold him back much. He camped out in the lobby of 58 CKY every second day for two months, demanding to be interviewed. …