If it wasn’t for Robin Williams – I wouldn’t be Joe Cronauer
My last name is CRONAUER. It’s certainly not a common name but more well known because of the talent of Robin Williams. You see, I am cousin to the REAL Adrian Cronauer. Adrian is a former United States Air Force Sergeant and radio personality whose experiences as an innovative disc jockey in Vietnam inspired the 1987 film, Good Morning, Vietnam. Back in 1987, I didn’t know I had a cousin named Adrian or that Robin Williams would share my name.
I’m from Northeast Ohio but in 1985, after graduating from Ohio University, I moved to Nashville TN, in hopes of getting my foot in the door of a smaller radio market. Over time I began working at a small AM radio station. I was the production director at the time and would fill in on air when needed. I didn’t have my own show and was far from an “on air personality” but it was a start. One night after work I was doing “the usual” - sitting alone in my tiny 2 room apartment in front of my black and white TV watching Entertainment Tonight. It was that night I finally saw my name in lights – sort of. Robin Williams was being interviewed on the set of his latest movie about the Vietnam War. He was in uniform (in wardrobe) talking about his role of a Disc Jockey on Armed Forces Radio. Then it happened. He leaned back in his chair and across his chest was the nameplate with my name on it…CRONAUER.
Now remember, this was long before the internet, so if you wanted to find out about anything you had to research it! After making phone calls, going to the library, finding magazines and articles, I found out about the movie while my mother traced our family tree. It turns out my Father and Adrian are cousins - both from Central Pennsylvania, both married to women named Jean. What’s really coincidental is the fact that I was following in my unknown cousin’s footsteps and pursuing a career in radio. By 1988, I was program director of the radio station and had worked myself into the morning drive slot running recorded programs and playing a little music. Although the success of the movie made the name CRONAUER more recognizable, no one knew mine. I needed a bigger platform. I had gone about as I far as I could at the station and I had been praying for an opportunity to take the next step. My talented long time friend Brian Fowler was working up the ranks at 97.5 WONE in Akron and was given the chance to be the next morning host. He needed a partner and I got the gig. (By the way, G-I-G not only means a “job” it also means God Is Good.)
Besides being a game changer, Radio stations have always been name changers. They want to make sure your “on air” name is easy to remember and easy for others to say. I always wanted to be an entertainer and knew that if I did make it in radio or television, my last name, CRONAUER probably wouldn’t survive. I would have to change my name to something that has a “ring’ to it. So there we were about to get our own show and the topic of what to call us comes up. I was definitely going to remain ‘JOE” as in “BRIAN AND JOE” but what about the name “Cronauer”? It’s tough to pronounce – just ask telemarketers. It’s tough to read - Three vowels together? Management decided that I should keep my last name “as is” for interviews and print just in case I could get more publicity from the name cousin Adrian made for himself. It worked. Articles were written, local television covered it and Brian and I began to make a name for ourselves.
In 1989, on a broadcast trip to Washington DC., I finally met my famous cousin, Adrian and his wife Jean. Adrian is not the zany, off the cuff character Robin Williams played him as, but he is friendly, funnytand engaging. (Hey, he’s a CRONAUER right?) In fact, in 1990, Adrian and Jean attended my wedding. (I married a Gina!) I had many interviews with Adrian on the air throughout my career. I think it’s safe to say that Adrian Cronauer would not be as well known without Robin Williams bringing him to life on the big screen. I’m also convinced that if it wasn’t for the movie, Good Morning, Vietnam. and Robin Williams giving the character Adrian depth, warmth and humor, I would not be “Joe Cronauer “ on Radio or TV. I’m sure I would of been “Joe Somebody” but not known by my God given name. I’m proud of my last name. It’s my Father’s, my Cousin’s, and countless other Cronauers including my wife and our four sons. It’s been around for generations before me and I’ve been blessed to use it on the air for over 25 years. The truth is, if it wasn’t for a gifted man named Robin Williams, God rest his soul, I wouldn’t be the Joe CRONAUER I am today. Not that I’m a name dropper.