Abel Pulido, a Latin radio host, and famed entertainer for nearly four decades, passed away November 17, 1992. He was 80. Mr. Pulido was best-known as the host for many Spanish-language music programs on several radio stations in the San Joaquin Valley. He also performed in vaudeville shows.
In addition, Mr. Pulido owned and operated Frank’s Marketon South Ninth Street in Modesto and helped with his wife’s restaurant business, Abel & Lupe’s Café, next door. The restaurant was well-known for its authentic Mexican dishes, and was popular with local patrons.
He began his broadcasting career in 1945, working for KCEY, Turlock, and continuing on KMOD, Modesto, which became KFIV, and KTRB, Modesto, for nearly 40 years. He retired in the mid-1980s due to ill health. As a young man, Mr. Pulido performed in vaudeville shows! He played with live mariachi bands, Mexican dance troupes, and big bands.
In addition to his wife Lupe, he is survived by his son, both of Modesto and two grandchildren.
He was a member of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and President of the Tuolumne School Parent-Teachers Association.
Remembrances were directed to Community Hospice, Visiting Nurses Association and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, all of Modesto.
Best known for his jazz program that ran on KUOP-FM radio for some 13 years, the famed Mel Williams died May 30, 1999 at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. His radio career began in 1974 with a one-hour program on KHOP in Modesto. He was 69.
Williams, a wise and well-respected member of the Modesto community, was familiar to radio audiences for nearly a quarter-century as a genial program host who offered up mellow sounds and insight commentary drawn from his encyclopedic knowledge of music. In addition, Mr. Williams was an accomplished musician.
He retired in 1992 from the city of Modesto, after having served mostly as a supervisor in office services. He is credited with establishing the Sickle Cell Anemia Program, which tested 11,000 people in 18 years and which was funded through jazz benefits. He also created the Mel Williams Physical Fitness Program, which began with a few persons in his back yard and later was offered at Modesto Junior College. The program grew from 10 youngsters to more than 100 of all nationalities
Every Friday evening for thirteen years, jazz listeners from throughout the valley would tune in at 6 o’clock to hear Williams open his KUOP-FM show with: “Good evening, my wonderful listening audience…this is the world of Mel Williams.” In a 1990 interview, he said: “Music is my first love, and it will probably be my last.
Mr. Williams is survived by his children: Monte Williams and Morris Williams, both of Modesto, Mel Williams of Ohio, Mike Williams of San Jose and Marcus Williams of Virginia. Marcus continued in his father’s footsteps and enjoyed success as an area radio personality. Mel also leaves behind nine grandchildren.
Russell Bryan Pope, a pioneer in radio and television, died on May 2, 2012 in Berry Creek, Calif., he was 95.
Mr. Pope was the long time Director of Engineering for Golden Empire Broadcasting Co., owned for several decades by the McClung family. The company owned KHSL-AM and TV in Chico. He retired in 1995 after 54 years with the company. He was the company’s President and Director of Engineering when he stepped down.
Even after his retirement, Russell continued to do consulting work for the company that purchased KHSL-TV in Chico. He was well known across the country in the industry as a top notch engineering mind. Mr. Pope served as an active member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the National Association of Broadcasters, having chaired the NAB conference committee four times; and the Satellite Frequency Coordination Committee.
The McClung family, at one time, owned or had part interest in several radio stations stringing from Longview, Washington to Redding, Chico, Watsonville and Merced in California. Russell Pope was head of engineering for all these stations.
The Merced station, KYOS, went on the air in 1936 and was owned by the McClung’s until 1953. Mr. Pope coordinated the effort to increase the power of KYOS to 5,000 watts and move to 1480 KCs in the late 40s. The station, up to that time, had been a low power 250 watt station on 1040 KHz. He designed the complex directional antenna system utilizing 3 towers that aimed KYOS’s night time power to the west protecting other radio stations on the same frequency to the east of California. The transmitter location remained at the same place some 9 miles north of Merced on Old Lake Rd. near Yosemite Lake until 2017 when the building was leveled and the station move to a new transmitting site.
The McClung’s decided in 1953, with Mr. Pope’s encouragement, to take the plunge into television by building KHSL-TV channel 12 in Chico. Mr. Pope completely rebuilt the transmitter plants and increased the power for two other McClung owned stations, KHSL-AM in Chico and KVCV-AM in Redding. He also built some of the first FM stations in California in the late 40s at Merced, Chico and Redding.
I worked under and with Russell Pope for over 30 years at KHSL-AM and KHSL-TV in Chico. He had a keen engineering mind and was a very kind and good man. Much of the information in this article came from my years of knowing and working with Russell and from his telling the many stories of his long and varied career.
He is survived by two sons, a daughter and by 7 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. He married Forest Helen Moore in 1941 in South Pasadena, CA. She died in 1997. He is survived by their children: Ron Pope of Normal, IL, Kathy Main of Chico, CA;…
His two sons followed their dad into the electrical engineering field.
Former Modesto Radio Museum Director, Robert “Bob” Mohr, passed away January 1, 2010 after a long fight with Lymphoma. Bob’s radio career spanned nearly 50 years beginning in Ventura in the 50’s and ending at Citadel’s KESP Modesto in 2008. Although he started as an announcer / DJ, his true talent was in radio sales. “He was an excellent salesperson, and the gift he gave was his integrity and total concern for the client,” said Jean Western, director of sales for Citadel Broadcasting. “He had an ability to make each and every individual he knew feel special. He was just a dear man who was beloved in the industry.”
Former co-worker Joel Shorr, who worked with Bob in the 60s at KBEE AM -FM in Modesto, remembers his true love was sports and his signature line, “you don’t have to be a sport to play one”. “He enjoyed broadcasting sports, and was a real pro at it” said Bob Neutzling who also worked with him at KBEE in the 80s. “He was the ultimate pro, a real gentleman, and about as honest as they came. He had a few years on many of us that worked with him, and he would often refer to himself as, “your old dad”. At KESP, and Citadel’s group of stations in Modesto, he was affectionately known by the younger generation as the “typewriter guy,” because he preferred a typewriter over computers or cell phones. His favorite mode of communication was with posted notes and typewriter messages which were punctuated with missing letters matching the keys missing from his trusty typewriter. His initial fame as “typewriter guy” came from his outrageous reading of a line from a popular song on-the-air every Tuesday morning. Callers would guess the name to win a prize.
He wrote and recorded most of the commercials for his clients which covered everything from jewelry stores to air conditioners to cars to restaurants to hardware companies. He also produced and hosted “Mohr on Sports” for many years. He particularly liked doing local play-by-play sports.
Bob’s career of nearly 50 years in broadcasting earned him recognition for the longest continuous tenure in radio broadcasting in this area.
Bob, a native of Lakewood, Ohio, attended high school in Cleveland. He moved to Ventura in the 50’s after serving in the Army. He came to Modesto in 1963 and joined the staff of KBEE in Modesto after brief stops at stations in Eureka, CA and Grants Pass, Or. Along the way, he had the opportunity to mentor future TV game-show star Bob Eubanks. He was a graduate College of the Pacific in Stockton.
Bob was a charter member and President of Chapter 33 of the Toastmasters; President of Quarterback Club and Exchange Club member. He also emceed the Oakland A’s press meetings at the Sportsmen of Stanislaus (SOS) club where he was an active member for years. Bob insisted both of his daughters join Toastmasters, and they each became talented public speakers, a nice testament to Bob. He also was an active member of the Valley Broadcast Legends. A grand party was his 80th birthday with family and friends at the SOS Club in 2008.
Bob ended his 50-plus years in radio more than a year ago, when he learned of his Lymphoma. He died on New Year’s Day (2010) He was 82.
Bob is survived by his wife, Marcia; daughters, Analisa Woodward of Fresno, and Jennifer Barrett; and two granddaughters.
Interment will be conducted at 10:30 AM at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, CA on January 22, 2010 followed by a reception at Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurant in Santa Nella.
Sad News: The email below was received today from Bob’s daughter, Analisa in Fresno, regarding her mother, Marcia. Our condolences have been sent to her and the family.
March 26, 2010
Please forgive the informality of this email, but I am having a hard time speaking on the phone with everyone. You are being contacted because I know that my mom meant something to you. On Wednesday she didn’t wake up. I believe that she died of a broken heart since my father’s recent passing. I just wanted to Let you all know. Again, forgive the method of my communication.
(Museum note: Special thanks to Kathi Gulley of the Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute at Fresno State University for asking about Arkie Stark. Bob Pinheiro, Webmaster Emeritus, searched a few hundred pages and found this biography, plus a rare find: A Letter from Arkie’s daughter!
It turns out Arkie was big time! He was friends with Roy Rogers, Smiley Burnett, and Tex Ritter. His close friend was Tennessee Ernie Ford, who spent many nights at Arkie’s Modesto home. Tex Ritter and Ernie Ford arranged for Arkie to take a Hollywood screen test, which he passed, but Arkie’s mother vetoed the lifestyle of “the Hollywood crowd,” so he declined on making movies. One of his biggest fans was California Governor Earl Warren, who had Arkie perform at his Inauguration in 1943! Earl Warren became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and we can only hope Arkie’s music was played in the judge’s chambers. And, thanks to Bob Pinheiro, you can read all about it:)
Arkie And His Hillbillies
Arkie Stark was one of the Country Music pioneers of the San Joaquin Valley. Born in Texas, he moved with his family at an early age to Arkansas and took the name ‘Arkie’ in the thirties when he began playing music for dances and on radio shows. In the thirties he had a program over stations KLOX radio in EI Centro, California, Station KEAA in Mexicali, Mexico, and on XEMO in Tijuana, Mexico.
Arkie appeared in and around Modesto from 1940 until he retired in 1954. He and his band broadcast six days a week over KTRB in Modesto, California, sponsored by Sunbeam Bread, Tasty Bakers, and Asbill’s Furniture. He commuted every day to additional programs on KYOS in Merced and KGDM out of Stockton. His favorite program was the ‘Amateur Hour’ from KTUR in Turlock, California, sponsored by Souza’s Furniture.
Arkie appeared often at the old California Ballroom, and Modesto’s Uptown Ballroom as well as Pacific Auditorium in Stockton. Many old timers will remember his favorite stomping grounds, the Riverbank Club House.
Music has been Arkie’s life, and he gave a helping hand to many deserving musicians and singers. Through the years Arkie performed at the Lodi Grape Festival and the Portuguese Festival in Turlock, and many more, too numerous to list them all. He appeared as a guest of Smiley Burnett, Ossie Waters and the Colorado Hillbillies at the San Jose Ballroom. While doing his show on KTRB he was fortunate enough to have the Sons of the Pioneers (Roy Rogers’ band) appear on his show.
Arkie was invited to Hollywood to be a regular, playing the banjo with Glen Strange and his Texas Longhorns (Glen Strange was the bartender on the TV Show,”Gunsmoke“),
Arkie declined because of family and other duties. Arkie not only excelled on the fiddle, his favorite instrument; he also played great banjo, guitar, mandolin, and ukulele.
Juanita (Stark) Coburn, his daughter, played with him for four years. She retired from music to devote her time to rearing her family. She is retired, and lives in Hughson, CA.
(Juanita (Stark) Coburn of Hughson was asked to tell of her life which was made joyful with hillbilly music. Her father, Louis Stark, a fiddle, guitar, banjo and stand-up bass player, organized his group, “Arkie and His Hillbillies” in the 30s.)
Here is her story:
Lewis Stark began his musical career performing with Lula Belle and Scotty, members of the Grand Ole Opry, when they lived in Calexico, across the border near EI Centro, California. Lewis played the 5-string banjo, his favorite instrument at that time, but he could play any stringed instrument, the mandolin, violin, guitar, steel guitar.
In 1938 “Arkie and his Hillbillies” started performing on KTRB, Modesto, in the central valley of California. The leader of the band was Louis Stark, a fiddle, guitar, banjo, stand-up bass player. His was the first western band that played on KTRB in the early days of western hillbilly music from the rural Modesto radio station, and his music roused the farmers and farm workers with his daily show at six am.
Many happy memories are associated with this band, recalls Juanita (Stark) Coburn of Hughson. Juanita was a young girl at that time, too young to be allowed to follow the band where her father played. He wouldn’t let her join the party audience “out front” and she followed Daddy’s orders to stay on stage behind the curtain during intermissions.
Juanita said, I wanted to play with my Daddy’s band, but he was against it, saying I was too young and should not be mixing with the people who came to hear the band. My Grandfather interceded and told my Dad that if the audience wasn’t right enough for me that it wasn’t right for my Dad either. So my Dad agreed to let me sing and play with the band; but I had to remain on stage, behind closed curtains at intermissions, and not mix with the crowd as I was only 14 years old. It was exciting and fun to hear the music and watch the performers.”
Louis Stark in 1938 started his band “Arkie and His Hillbillies.” This was before “Maddux Brothers and Rose” began. Later “The Happy Hayseeds” with Roy Sanderson, and other bands also played over KTRB radio in the early morning hours. Members of “Arkie and His Hillbillies” were Arkie Stark, (fiddle); R. A. Andrews (lead), Hoot Stark (bass), Uel Lloyd, rhythm guitar, Lois Stark, vocalist; and Juanita Stark, lead guitar and rhythm.
Juanita recalls, “I remember Dad saying that during the winter people would come to our house and play music all night.” In 1938 Daddy started playing on KTRB radio station where Bill Bates was owner and MC. I think KTRB was Modesto’s only radio station then. Bill Bates was not enthusiastic about hillbilly music, said he didn’t know anything about it; he played accordion. Bill allowed Daddy to play that first week if Dad would pay for the time. So Daddy paid the first week, then hustled around and found sponsors for his hillbilly band on KTRB Modesto.
“Dad got so many requests during that first week that he was able to find a few sponsors to help cover broadcast expenses,” Juanita recalls. Bill Bates told Dad, “Arkie,” I don’t care for Hillbilly music myself, but since you have so many people willing to sponsor you, you can keep playing on KTRB. You have a big following.” Some of the first sponsors were Asbill’s Appliance Company of Modesto, Tasty Bakers, Sunbeam Bread Company, and Souza’s Furniture of Turlock.
Juanita (Stark) Coburn, recalls: Dad played for the inauguration ceremony of Governor Earl Warren in Sacramento, January 4, 1943! Dad had a manager during the years he played at KTRB and he was contacted through KTRB in Modesto. Dad was a “cut up” and Earl Warren was a fan of his from hearing him over KTRB and he requested that Dad play at his inauguration. All went well and everyone including the Governor enjoyed the music. A funny incident occurred during the formal dinner when Lewis was thirsty and didn’t see any water so he drank from the finger bowl, much to the delight of his fellow musicians, except his little brother Hoot, who was the announcer of Dad’s radio show. Hoot got disgusted with his brother’s behavior in using the finger bowl as a drinking glass, and he left the party and wouldn’t come back to finish the program after the finger bowl incident. I played the guitar, Dad played the violin, Roy Honeycutt played steel guitar, brother Hoot played bass. Dad sent me to get Hoot, but he wouldn’t face the music, so we finished two more numbers in great style anyway as a three-piece band for the Governor.
Uncle Hoot was a serious man and unbending, whereas Dad’s sense of humor and joy kept his spirit ever fresh and welcome so that he inspired others around him with a zest for life. Dad was always generous, offering a helping hand to those in need. He was like a magnet, and our home was a refuge.
Dad and Tennessee Ernie Ford were good friends. Ernie had a radio program in San Francisco, and would come to Modesto KTRB Radio to visit, and he stayed overnight with us in our home and talked music and played; he sang and Dad played guitar. I was just a kid. He would pat me on the head as a “hello” and “goodbye,” and we all enjoyed his singing and kind personality. I loved hearing him sing gospel songs which he did so well; his beautiful bass voice still echoes in my ears even now.
Tennessee Ernie Ford and Tex Ritter came to our house and asked Dad to take a screen test for the movies. Tex Ritter and Tennessee Ernie Ford arranged the screen test for Dad. He passed the test, but Mother did not approve of the Hollywood crowd, so a movie career went by the wayside. His family came first even though music flowed in his veins.
Daddy knew Roy Rogers when he lived in Roswell, NewMexico.
Dad was also a friend of Tex Ritter. When Tex first started TV about 1937 or ’38 he played old songs, and his son John made movies and starred in a series on TV called “Three’s Company.” They were good friends.
Daddy had a guest, Dan Bonds, on his program, and said “he was a good little musician, and you can tell he’s from Arkansas because he just pulled a turnip out of his pocket.” Dan has been a true friend for so many years, it seems like we all grew together with music as the thread that held our generation together. Dan Bonds, now of Hilmar, California, played country music with his group, “Country Roads” band, and continues to this day (2005) He has been compiling his memoirs in a book about his experiences in valley music and tree farming for pioneer Dave Wilson Nursery, helping farmers along the way. Dan still has a western band with violin, bass fiddle, fiddle, banjo. His vocalist Pauline and he have been making music together for over 50 years, celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary a few years ago.
The Hillbilly tunes from recollections in Arkansas and the central valley of California heartland were favorites of many who came from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the dust bowl. Our music captured the hearts of farmers and the “salt-of-the-earth” folks in the valley. Juanita said, played guitar and sang with Daddy’s band during 1938 and 1939, and I married in 1940. The old tunes are loved and I still play with a little group for friends and folks at senior citizens’ rest homes and convalescent homes. ”
On his last day Daddy told the nurse who interrupted his nap to give him some medicine, “Girl, leave me alone, I want to rest.” It was shortly after that remark that Lewis Stark entered his final rest, with a song in his heart and ours.
The memory lingers of my Dad. As I recall another day just after Dad died while we were playing a hymn with Dan Bonds’ group, “Yesterday’s Country Roads,” the tears just flowed in bitter-sweet recollection. The music is and was part of the bond between us. Daddy was my “Rock of Gibraltar” and foundation for life, made sweet by his music and loving character.
I left My Heart in San Francisco, with KYA. But before that, my heart started pounding to the beat of radio at the age of eight when Cal Purviance (“Cal Your Birthday Pal” on KTRB) wished a Happy Birthday to little Ricky Myers of Manteca! (Wow, my name, on the air!) Cal later became a friend; we laughed that he had set me on my career path. Cal was a magician; in one sentence he turned me into a radio geek.
I was drawn to personalities who did far more than “play the hits.” To say something entertaining in short bursts of 3 to 17 seconds is an art form that intrigued me. These weren’t “Rock Jocks” they were entertainers. How could they be so bright and clever as they talked out of, or into so many songs? How could they do it every three minutes, hour after hour, day after day?
As a teenager, I discovered KYA-1260 AM, a station packed with high entertainment disc jockeys ’round the clock. A station after my own heart.
Gene Nelson, the morning guy, touched that heart. I remember how he could rotate being funny with being sincere, a true communicator. The day after Martin Luther King Jr died, Gene went on the air and gave America a pep talk; somehow we would rebound, things eventually would be better, but for right now, give yourselves time to process. His comments weren’t insensitive; what happened was horrible, the shock of it all had us back on our heels, but don’t give up on the resiliency of America.
I wrote Gene two fan letters. Each time he wrote back. I think he understood his abilities were a gift, and didn’t take them lightly. Over a period of 15 years, I never heard him tell the same story twice. I later learned how difficult it is to be creative on demand, but Gene always delivered.
In 1967, I was on the air at KSRT, Tracy–my first radio job–when my sister called, all excited. She had just won $100 listening to Gene’s show on KYA. I’m on the air and she’s listening to someone else!! Yes, blood is thicker than water, but Cash is King.
Johnny Holiday was a huge performer. He had been Number 1 in New York City. He started when Top-40 jocks were glib, hip, and talked jive. That fast-talking “I’m the geeter with the heater, playing stax of wax and mounds of sound, number one on the charts, number one in your hearts” stuff ended in May of 1965 when Bill Drake forced every jock to relate better. Quickly, it was showcase the music, not your DJ gimmickry! Johnny adjusted perfectly, but on occasion would throw in stuff like, ‘It’s five minutes on the Hello Side of Five o’clock.” (only disc jockeys talk like that.)
He bought a house in Sausalito for $45,000 that’s now worth two million (Of course it is). To this day, he does the pre-and post-game TV show for the Washington Nationals, and radio play-by-play for the University of Maryland. He wrote a great inside look at his life, “From Rock to Jock,” a book I recommend.
Johnny was also the PA Announcer for the Oakland Raiders, and was the announcer for the Roger Miller TV show. He would fly down to L.A. on a Tuesday, tape the TV show, and be back on the air Thursday. One Sunday he had to pull an air shift at KYA, forcing him to miss the Raider game. On the air he said this was all pretty simple: Roger Miller paid him enough to miss an occasional show; the Raiders did not.
Amazingly, Rick Barry of the Golden State Warriors idolized Johnny Holiday, maybe they idolized each other. Barry got his hair styled at same place Johnny did, and was delighted to be part of the KYA radio basketball team. I never saw the spelling, and always assumed the team was called the KYA Radio Wonders! It wasn’t until about 5 years ago I learned it was Radio Oneders (Radio One). Radio Wonders looks better.
Johnny brought Ed Hider with him to San Francisco. Hider was a one-liner machine, much like Dr. Don Rose at KFRC, but Hider didn’t laugh along with his punchlines. Dr. Don always seemed to enjoy being corny.
For years, every night at the stroke of midnight, KYA had a tradition: on came “Baby, What I’d Say” by Ray Charles. I like a station that doesn’t take itself seriously. The all-night guy was Russ “The Moose”Syracuse. He referred to KYA as an air liner, The Super-Freak 1260. If he was tired of a song, he’d drop the sound effect of a bomb on it. His “air liner” featured a bevy of stewardesses. If you wanted to be served some food, just ask for stewardess, Kay Ration, and when the Super-Freak landed and you needed transportation, talk to stewardess Lisa Carr, etc. The audience got it.
Mike Cleary and Sean O’Callahan came from KROY, Sacramento. Cleary also had a TV Dance Show (a la American Bandstand). I think his TV show was on Sundays, early afternoon. Tommy Saunders had great wit and was way too good for 9pm to midnight, but that shift allowed him to go to school and become a teacher (an honest job).
Years, later, in the 80’s, Gary Halladay, the General Manager of KFIV, Modesto, and I tried to hire Russ the Moose Syracuse to work mornings at K-5. We thought a great entertainer could slow down the onslaught of FM’s popularity. We couldn’t agree on price. Also, I recall that he was living in Sonora to be close to his daughter and her family, and I thought he would tire quickly of the commute. Russ was a pleasure as we tried to make it happen. I remember him telling me he wouldn’t be embarrassed to be working in a smaller market like Modesto, the drive down from Sonora would be easy, and he wouldn’t “phone it in” but would make it work.
It woulda been fun. He woulda been a Radio Oneder.
John Franklin Chappell, 71, died unexpectedly in his sleep June 20 of natural causes. He was born July 10, 1948, in Oakdale, Calif., the only child of George Franklin Chappell, born in Harrisville, Miss. and Helen Mae Wormington, born in Mo. They were married in 1937 in Yuma, Ariz.
John, a two-time cancer survivor, enjoyed life to the fullest, traveling and riding his GoldWing motorcycle. John attended both Thomas Downey and Modesto High Schools. He graduated from Modesto Junior College and Ogden’s Radio Operational Engineering School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree at San Francisco State University.
John’s radio career began at KSRT in Tracy. He then worked at KCEY in Turlock and was Program Director at KFIV in Modesto. John had a 36-year career at Modesto Junior College as Telecommunications Systems Manager and was a part-time radio instructor. He was instrumental in launching the radio careers for a number of radio personalities.
John loved all forms of transportation. He was an airplane pilot and owned a Grumman Tiger aircraft. John was one of the first in the United States to own a Mercedes Benz Smart car. In more recent years, he became an avid drone pilot and motorcycle enthusiast.
John enjoyed going on cruises and traveling with friends. He was a charter member and current president of the non-profit Modesto Radio Museum. John’s dream was to build a physical museum within the proposed Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum.
John was a caring individual who would do anything he could to help a friend in need, and everyone John met was a friend.
John was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by a nephew, Jerome Chappelle and his wife, Jeri of Granbury, Texas; cousin Charlene Green of Emeryville, Calif.; and cousin Phyllis Barnes of Albuquerque, N.M.
A Celebration of Life will be held in the future after it is deemed safe for gatherings. Those wishing to donate to the Modesto Radio Museum in John’s memory may send checks to: Modesto Radio Museum, P.O. Box 580452, Modesto, CA 95358.
It is with much sadness that we announce the passing of our dear friend John Chappell. John died June 20, 2020 at his home in Modesto, CA. He was the current President of the Modesto Radio Museum.
John attended Thomas Downey High School but transferred and graduated from Modesto High School in 1966. John is also a graduate of Modesto Junior College (MJC) and Ogdens Radio Operational Engineering School, Huntington Beach, CA. His radio career began at KSRT in Tracy, Ca. He worked at KCEY in Turlock, CA and was Program Director at KFIV in Modesto, CA.
Here’s a link to a brief aircheck of John from a show in 1971 at KFIV:
The major portion of John’s career (36 years) was spent working in Media Services at MJC. He retired from that position nearly ten years ago and devoted his life to travel and the Modesto Radio Museum. He was also an avid drone pilot and motorcycle enthusiast.
John was instrumental in kick starting a number of local radio personalities careers. He was a caring individual who would do anything he could to help a friend in need, and everyone John met was a friend. Our sincere condolences to John’s friends and family. He will most certainly be missed.
John’s friends and family would love to hear your thoughts, memories, and stories about John. Please share your comments below.
This is Rick Myers. Tim St. Martin (1945-2020) was our friend. It was my pleasure to compile these tributes. My comments appear in regular-face type. The rest of Tim’s friends’ comments are in bold-face type. Let us begin.
Tim hired me 52 years ago. I was crazy young, but so was Tim. I was 19; he was 23. Already he was Program Director of KFIV, a fun Top-40 radio station. We were both left handed, both born on September 1st, both had sisters named Jill. Those were good enough omens for Tim; I got the job. I wasn’t his best hire, but I was a good hire; I stayed 45 years. . . .
Another first-meeting memory comes from Greg Edwards:
The first time I met Tim he dragged me to Scenic Drive-in explaining I couldn’t be “A Modesto Person” until I ate at least one Knockout Burger including fries and a shake. A Knockout Burger is about the size of a manhole cover. It’s not “lunch for four,” it’s “lunch for four days!” It gave Tim time to tutor me about Modesto’s past. I learned that day about Graffiti Days, Cruising, and what it was like to grow up around here. If you’re on the air talking to the locals, you better sound local.
I belong to the Central Valley Broadcasters, and got to see Tim at our get togethers. In fact, I saw Tim for the last time just a couple of months ago at lunch. It had been years but some KFIV/KJSN staff got together with our old General Manager, Gary Halladay and his wife, Sharon. Yes, we all told the same stories for the hundredth time, and we agreed to get together and to do it again…..but for Tim, it was our last time. RIP, Tim.
There was a gentle helpfulness about Tim. Decades in radio produced a veteran’s perspective, and he had a sense about the right moments to share these well-learned insights to broadcasting. Kara Franklyn shared some of those insights:
Tim was my co worker, my mentor. 15 plus years. We weren’t social outside of work, but I spent many a day with him. I have so many great memories. I can still hear his laugh. When I got a genuine belly laugh, not the polite one, I felt like I won the lottery. Loud and infectious, it was like a warm blanket. When I was first hired at Sunny-102, I did overnights. I would run Tim’s board for his first newscast at 5:30. There were many a conversation with Tim guiding me on what to say, how to say it. He was very particular about not dropping your G’s when speaking. It stuck with me and even to this day when I hear someone do it on or off air, I think of him. He was grumpy in the best way—never at me—and he’d make me laugh when he talked about what was getting to him that day. Not once did I encounter an ego with Tim. He was solid, kind and willing to help me as I started my news career. A good guy does not seem to encompass Tim. Tim was fair: if you messed up, own it and then move along. Every office should have a Tim St Martin. He made me laugh, think, and I treasure the time spent with him and the knowledge I learned from him.
Tim loved telling stories full of warmth and with funny conclusions. We have a few “Timmy Stories” of our own. We’ll start with his close friend Dave Nelson:
Tim was a good friend of mine for over 40 years. We scuba dived together…did a radio show together…I lived with him and his late wife Kathy for over a year….rode motorcycles together…went to Mexico with some other guys and had one of the best times EVER…I doubt that Tim and I could have laughed or partied any harder …and for years Tim and I golfed with Gary Halladay and Mike Hogan just about every weekend …every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner you could find Tim seated with my family…Tim was probably the easiest person to spend time with…he expected nothing and liked to just chill…pretentiousness was an unappealing trait he found annoying…I have a lot of stories but one that I still laugh about concerned the Oakdale Rodeo…I had won the DJ calf-tying competition in La Grange…still have the belt buckle…now it was Oakdale’s turn. I was living with Tim and Kathy at the time and Tim decided I needed a hat…not just any hat but his $100+ straw cowboy hat…nice…that was a lot of money back in the late 70s. So with an admonishment not to wreck it, off I went…it went terribly wrong..FAST…as I was wrestling my calf to the ground a Rodeo Clown stole Tim’s very nice hat…walked over a few feet, put a cherry bomb under it and BLEW IT UP!! Never cared for clowns….It was a sad sad day when I gave THE BRIM OF THE HAT back to Tim! Damn, it sure was funny as I look back. RIP MY FRIEND, I’ll check in with Cari once in a while to see how that grandson is doing.
Bob Langwas Tim’s broadcast partner at KTRB. Bob and Tim had years of On-Air magic:
I spent the happiest professional years of my life as a member of the broadcast industry, especially those first years fresh out of college. I joined KTRB radio in Modesto as a fledgling disc jockey. A few months later in the fall of 1969, Tim, then employed by our competitor KFIV, was hired from “across the street” and became our News Director.
Tim St. Martin and I were in our early twenties and were teamed as on-air partners during what was called “morning drive.” One of the nice things about KTRB is that, as young out-of-the-box radio guys, we were allowed to make mistakes, and we made plenty. But we each had a lot of enthusiasm and always an abundance of creative energy. Our General Manager, Sam Horrel, would greet us each as “Tiger.” Tim and I took to calling each other “Timmy Tiger” and “Bobby Tiger.”
A Museum treat: A Tim St. Martin newscast from 1973:
The announce booth where I broadcast my shows was situated in the center of the building among large studios once used for live broadcasts. These studios had lots of dual-paned windows. My room was perhaps eight-feet square and equipped with the audio board, two turntables, a couple of Sparta cartridge machines, a reel-to-reel tape deck, a clock, a temperature gauge, and a Playboy calendar with a naked lady. At the other end of an oblong hallway was Tim’s news booth, next to his office and the AP machine teletype room. Tim was a self-described rip-and-read news guy and every morning on the half hour, he’d deliver the news. He was also in charge of a segment called Community Calendar which allowed us to banter back and forth about various timely topics.
In the pre-dawn hours, especially during winter months, the only illumination was from the two small rooms one or the other of us occupied. The rest of the building, including that hallway, was dark. One morning, Tim and I were in a casual on-air exchange and I happened to look down at my program log. It was at that moment when Tim bolted from his news booth and raced toward me through the darkened hallway. When I looked up to see what the commotion was about, all I saw was the light in his empty booth at the other end of the hall. Where was Tim?? Suddenly my studio door was thrown open and there was Tim all excited and in full ear-shot of our listening audience. He threw a cigar at me and just as quickly ran back in the other direction. His daughter, Amy, had been born the day before!
Tim and I shared a similar sense of humor—more important, we had an innate ability to amuse ourselves! We each had a knack for writing. I was the Production Manager and the two of us wrote commercials for local advertisers, many times creating spots that were two-voicers and in character. The ones that were most fun were those we attempted to ad lib—we’d decide on what the scene would be and would run through the important dialogue. One was for Fargo Distributing, a tire store that received co-op funding from Cooper Tires. Tim hit on the idea that we’d play the parts of a couple of old sod-busting cow pokes. He’d be Farley and I was Eugene—where the names came from, I’m not certain. We referred to the staff as the Fargo Boys—Dangerous Del, Steel-Eyed Stan, Bronco Bruce, and others—and said they were wanted for shootin’ down tire prices.
To replicate the horses’ hooves, we each took a pair of plastic coffee cup inserts and “galloped” across the desk in front of us toward the microphone. If the take wasn’t what we anticipated, we’d gallop away from the mic, regroup, and try it again! We’d add other sound effects like gunshots or the sound of spurs. But as much as these old cowboys thought the fictitious Fargo Boys offered great deals on Cooper Tires, Farley and Eugene themselves had no idea what tires were intended for. At one point, they tried putting a set of tires on a stagecoach. Farley got a tire close enough to install on the axle and told Eugene to hold up the stage. Eugene yelled, “Reach for the sky, you sidewinder!” They even tied a rope around a tire, hung it from a tree branch, and created the first tire swing!
Tim and I also played a couple of dogs named Spotty and Prince advertising a pet store. We were Fred and Bernie, two Christmas turkeys who hadn’t seen their pal Murray since Thanksgiving. We did a take-off on Edward G. Robinson and a bunch of thugs for Little Caesar’s Deli. We were Kirk and Spock, Dino and Jerry, and two Germans named Hans und Feetz.
In December 1970, Tim and I provided live color commentary from the Third Annual Riverbank Christmas parade—no doubt one of the last such broadcasts echoing a bygone era of radio. We described everything from the gown and tiara worn by Miss Riverbank to the dalmatian on top of the Riverbank hook and ladder and all marching bands in between. When I was in college, I drove a Model A, so I described the vintage cars in the parade while Tim described the horses.
After five years, I left KTRB just as it was moving from a music format to talk radio and I took another radio position in Sacramento. By now Tim was hosting a talk show and one afternoon it was Talent Day on his program where listeners would call in and display a particular expertise. So, I pranked him!
Tim and I had shared particularly filthy limericks in our various fits of juvenile diversion. On this day, I called the studio and told him I was “Fred” and that I wrote poetry. I asked if I could recite one of my recent creations and he said that I could. I began, “There was an old hermit named Dave…” and he quickly said, “You’re not gonna do that!” But he still hadn’t grasped the fact that I, not Fred, was on the other end of the line. When Tim finally got it, he collapsed in a fit of laughter on the air and yelled, “I’ve been had!”
Tim wrote letters to me while I was in the Air Force. He addressed my letters:
Major General Rick C. Myers Commandant, Minot Air Force Base General Delivery (What else for a General?) Minot AFB, North Dakota 58701 I was a sergeant. I was not impersonating a General. Honest. Somehow the letters always arrived. Is this a great country, or what?
After the military I returned to KFIV. Tim, in his office, instead of listening to my show would listen to Dan Sorkin on KSFO, San Francisco. He loved Sorkin who would ask listeners to phone in any question, and he would give a funny, instant reply (try doing that sometime). Tim called in a lot to “Ask Mr. Answer Person.” After a while, Sorkin started using Tim to set up questions. He’d say, “Hang on the line, and when the commercials end, ask THIS QUESTION…” Tim would hang on, then play the straight man. This merriment went on until management started noticing the long-distance phone bills.
Our last comments come from one of Tim’s closest friends, Ken McCall:
For the last 35 years, and probably more, Timmy and I talked on the phone at least every other day. Once a week he came to have dinner with Dina and me. There are a flood of memories and I can’t get him off my mind. Most recently he was helping me on a building project at the beach house. Finishing it without him will be emotionally difficult. He loved sitting and watching the waves roll in. Now he is gone. I don’t feel badly for him because he died peacefully in his sleep. It was his time to go………..and life for us goes on.
Each time he came to the house for dinner, we would go to the pool house and have a beer. As we would walk out the back door, I would always say “Timmy, walk this way” and he would always reply “if I could walk that way I wouldn’t need the talcum powder, I would still be a dance instructor” His health faded over the last year, but his sense of humor was always sharp. The night he died, he was talking on the phone to Warren Groschell, we were planning a golf trip for whenever Covid 19 ended. As Warren was talking to him, Timmy feel asleep and started snoring…..he never woke up.
In 1978 when Tim returned from Reno (and the rodeo circuit) to KFIV, he moved in with me for a while. As we have learned, when Dave Nelson needed a place to stay he moved in with Tim. Tim then spent the Holidays with the Nelsons, always welcomed. Over the last few years, he enjoyed weekly dinners with the McCalls. With Tim, social graces were automatic. Of course he could move in with you; of course he opened up his house to you; of course he was as welcomed as the closest relative.
Three weeks before he passed away, twelve of us radio guys had lunch. All retired, we hadn’t been together as a group in years. The memories were immediate, the stories non-stop. Tim, a master story teller, kept us in stitches. Reunions are like that; in an instant we were young again. Tim and I walked out together and had a manly goodbye hug. Maybe the clinch went a second or two too long, maybe not. We didn’t care; it was a 50-year hug. And then, he was gone.
These tributes and memories came in quickly after Tim’s passing. They were wonderful to read, genuine fondness was the resonance. It’s like we were nominating him to be canonized. No need for that; his name tells us he was a saint.
I suppose I first became interested in radio back in the late 50’s when I would visit KTRB and sing on the Tots ‘N Teens program with my cousins John and Cheryl Wylie. I recall how friendly Cal Purviance was and also remember Glenn Staley who played the piano. But most of all, I remember how much the studio intrigued me. This was show business! I often wish that I would have had the chance to be involved during radio’s heydays when major productions were done in the studios.
My desire to pursue radio also got a boost from the visits that I made to Bob Pinheiro’s home as a child. Bob who is now the Modesto Radio Museum Webmaster lived near me. He was, and still is, very much into Ham Radio and he happily shared his knowledge with me. Little did he know that he was lighting a fire that would lead me into broadcasting. I also recall riding the bus to school while attending La Loma Junior High School and listening to Bobby Barnett, Gary Culver, and Fred Green on KFIV. I thought, man this stinks; I have to go to school and these guys are having a blast talking and playing music on the radio.
I became seriously interested in the field of broadcasting as a profession while a student at Modesto Junior College (MJC). Originally I had planned to major in Journalism but happened to visit the MJC radio station one day. I was hooked! My professors during those early days had a big influence on me, Bill Hill, Sid Woodward, Max Sayre, Harley Lee, and Donald Rowe. They really laid down a good foundation for me.
While I was attending MJC I obtained my Radio Telephone Third Class license and worked at KSRT, Stereo 101, a small station in Tracy, CA. There was an older fellow at KSRT, Ken Hill, who took me under his wing and mentored me. I’ve always been thankful for the direction that Ken gave to me at a time that I was pretty green and didn’t really have a clue. After our stints on the air Ken and I would go fishing in the Delta Mendota canal and he would answer all my questions about radio. Ken, wherever you are, thanks. I don’t really know how many listeners I had while at KSRT. I do know that my mom loved my show!
After spending some time at KSRT I realized that if I wanted to have a career in radio, I needed to get my Radio Telephone First Class license. I traveled to Long Beach with Mike Novak another local guy who went into broadcasting. We attended William B. Ogden’s Radio Operational Engineering School in the summer of 1969. I watched the First Man on The Moon telecast from Ogden’s classroom. I have lots of good memories from my time at Ogden’s. I made some friends with whom I still have contact, Bob Lang and Mark Holste (Taylor).
After returning from Ogden’s in 1969 Bob De Leon, who was program director at KFIV (K-5), hired me.
I started on the all night shift but eventually worked all of the time slots. I had some great times at K-5 at a time that the station was the only Top 40 rocker in the area. Some of the individuals with whom I had the privilege of working were Bob De Leon, Johnny Walker (Bob Neutzling), Tony Townsend (Tony Flores), Roy Williams, John Huey, Mark Taylor (Mark Holste), Mike Shannon, and John Chappell. Bob Fenton was the owner of K-5 at that time and when he spoke to us we were always referred to as “Kid.”
My favorite times at K-5 were when I got to count down the weekly top 40. There are also some funny stories that I could never share in public. Bob De Leon and I left K-5 at about the same time and went to KTRB. I think this happened around 1972. KTRB was an adult contemporary format which allowed us to insert more of our personalities into our programs. Bob Lang was doing mid mornings at KTRB, Tim St. Martin was doing the news, Cal Purviance was doing early mornings, Bob De Leon did the afternoons, and I had the evening shift. Don Schneider was doing mobile news from his car we called the “porcupine” because of all of the antennas. We even had an occasional report from the air. These were really good times in radio. I felt that the station was part of the community and we were part of a broadcasting team. Sam Horrell was the program director at the time. Sam’s influence created an atmosphere of camaraderie at KTRB.
There are also many stories from my days at KTRB. One of the things that I remember well is that from the production booth across the hall from the on-air studio one could talk into the earphones.
I have fond memories of Bob Lang interviewing my daughter Kristy on the air. She was a toddler at the time. Not only were the on-air personalities close, there was a special relationship with the sales staff and the front office personnel. We were a family. Around this time I also worked weekends at KJOY in Stockton. I remember getting off the air at KTRB at 11:00 p.m. driving to Stockton and going on the air at 12:00 midnight at KJOY working until 7:00 in the morning. My drives home after getting off were quite interesting. I’m happy to still be here.
In the mid 70’s KTRB was sold and the program changes that were made had a “not so positive” impact on the image and the morale of those working at KTRB. The on-air personalities were made to change their names. Bob Lang became Big Ben Boulder, Bob De Leon became Johnny Gunn, and my new name was the Godfather. Radio had changed; it was becoming impersonal and moving further away from its local audience. I can’t say that these developments single handedly pointed me in a different direction as far as my career was concerned but they played a major role. I went back to college and followed a path that eventually led to being a college administrator. Along that path I did work as a part time disk jockey for top 40, country, and talk radio because radio was in my blood, and it still is after these many years.