(Oh, to be in radio and then to count Ringo Starr among your friends. It was a FUN journey for this Modesto boy.)
By Bob Malik
It was tough trying to condense a 47 year career into a page. But, here goes.
I began my career in radio shortly after graduating from Central Catholic High School in 1971— It was Central’s 2nd graduating class.
During my senior year I had garnered enough school credits to earn a half day school schedule. I would leave Central around noon, and drive to Modesto Junior College, where I was taking Radio classes.
In the summer of 1971, I went to a broadcasting prep school in Huntington Beach, Ca. Shortly after returning to Modesto in the fall, I got my 1st radio job. I was hired by Program Director John Chappell to be the weekend DJ at KFIV.
It proved to be a critically important opportunity. The supportive staff at the station included my Central Catholic High School classmate and friend, Chet Haberle. That positive environment only served to inspire me to pursue this path.
From there, I worked at radio stations in Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco, where I was fortunate enough to become Program Director at K-101. I found myself in the unlikely situation of advising the people I grew up listening to how to do their jobs. That was something I really hadn’t anticipated. But, it turned out to be a winning team. We were able to take the station to #1.
I also spent a few years at the radio station many of us listened to in high school— KFRC.
In 2001, I was offered a job as News Director at CBS Radio’s flagship station in Los Angeles— one year after I had retired from radio. And, that offer came from someone I had hired— 20 years earlier. I would end up staying at K-EARTH for a dozen years.
In 2004, I began hosting a nationally syndicated radio program called The Beatle Years. Which would eventually lead to an interview with Ringo Starr.
In 2015, I got a phone call from Capitol Records. Ringo Starr was about to release his new album, “Postcards From Paradise”. His rep said Ringo had heard The Beatle Years, and they wanted to know if I would be interested in doing an interview. I told him- I would think about it….Just kidding!
After I got up off the floor, I said “Are you serious?” “Of course I want to interview Ringo!”. I met the drummer inside the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Was it all a bit surreal? Yes, it sure was!
The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964. Less than 80 days after the assassination of President Kennedy. That performance was a pivotal moment in American pop culture. It pulled this nation out of a deep depression. We went from black and white—to color. Overnight.
Even though Ringo Starr was one of those 4 guys who changed the world—he was very kind, unassuming —and, well… shorter than I expected. He wanted to talk more about his new album instead of The Beatles. However, I did get a few questions answered about the band. And, I sure didn’t expect to ever see him again.
But, last summer they called again —with an invitation to Ringo’s 77th birthday party on July 7th. Yes, he turned 77 on 7/7. I was able to sit down for another one-on-one with him. This time, he answered all of the Beatle questions I wanted to ask. My final question: “How would you like to be remembered, Ringo?”—-His answer? “I’d like to be remembered .… as being taller”
When the interview was over—he said, “Come here, brother” and gave me a hug. It was an unforgettable day.
My advice to current CCHS students: Discover what you truly love. Then, pursue your dream. It will make your career so much easier—and, more meaningful. And, pass along the inspiration you’ve received from others. (Who knows– you may run into someone you haven’t heard from…in 20 years!)
Bill Bates was born October 18, 1900 in Whiskey Hill, California (near Watsonville) where he attended elementary school. He was stricken with polio at the age of 10, which left him strapped to a board for 6 months and his right leg crippled for life.
His father was a major in the US Army who moved his family from the Bay area to Delhi. Growing up included picking prunes and chopping wood, which led Bill to the conclusion he must work with his head. In 1916 at the age of 16 Bill took up radio as a hobby. He became a licensed amateur radio “ham” operator with the call sign of 6KL, which was one of the first licenses issued in California. It was later changed to 6CF and then W6CF which he held until his death in 1969.
At the age of 17 he joined the US Merchant Marines as a radio operator. After his tour of duty he went to work for RCA in Southern California. RCA sent him to Mexico to work on President Alvaro Obregon’s ship. He helped install radio equipment on Mexican navy ships.
In 1925 he came to Modesto and operated a radio store inside the Hotel Covell building until 1928. That year he moved to Los Angeles where he took a job with KGFH as an announcer/engineer. A few months later he took a similar position at KNX in Los Angeles where he later became chief engineer. In 1931 Bill, wanting to further his education, returned to the Modesto area and enrolled at UC Berkeley in physics classes. While there he worked as an announcer /engineer at KWBS, later KLS in Oakland.
He and local businessman Thomas R. Mc Tammany, formed a
verbal partnership to start a radio station in Modesto. After much planning, haggling and appearances before the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, KTRB was granted a license to begin broadcasting on June 18, 1933.
The station’s call letters came from the initials of the partners. “T” and “R” from T.R. McTammany, and “B” from Bill Bates. The FCC assigned the letter K that designated a station West of the Mississippi river. KTRB went on the air June 18, 1933 from studios behind the Sylvan Clubhouse on the northeast corner of Sylvan and McHenry Ave.
in Modesto. Bill and fellow engineer C.E. Peack built the first transmitter in Oakland by modifying an old ham radio transmitter.
KTRB went on the air with 250 watts on 740 KCs limited to daytime hours of operation. The frequency was changed in 1942 to 860 KCs when the station moved to Norwegian Ave. and power was increased to 1,000 watts. Over the years the power was increased a number of times finally ending up with 50,000 watts in the ’90’s. KTRB was the only broadcast station in Modesto until 1948 when KBEE FM signed on the air.
KTRB FM became Modesto’s second FM station and Modesto’s third broadcast station signing on the air in 1949. KBEE-FM owned by the McClatchy newspapers became the second commercial broadcast station (first FM station) on the air in the market. KTRB-FM simulcast the programming from KTRB-AM for many years thus the station identification of “This is KTRB AM and FM, Modesto”
As 1940 was fast approaching…RCA needed a more modern dynamic microphone design to keep up with their main competitor….Western Electric. As we saw in previous articles, Western Electric had the jump on RCA with their very state-of-the-art models 630 “Eightball” and the 633 “Saltshaker”. The RCA model 50A “inductor” dynamic was becoming outdated.
RCA 88-A (Vintage)
RCA engineers came up with an excellent design to compete directly with Western’s “Saltshaker”…it was dubbed the 88A. The 88A utilized the same “moving-coil” dynamic principle as Western Electric used in their dynamic designs which meant that RCA probably had to get licensing for it from Western Electric! This mic was non-directional and had kind of a “saltshaker” look to it as well using a rounded chrome perforated screen on the front.
The 88A was “pill” shaped with quite a different mounting arrangement than previous mics. Rather than having the stand mounting on one end of the mic they used a side mount location just back of the front screen that normally had the mic in a horizontal position…although it could be tilted to any position with its ball socket-type swivel. As with most of RCA broadcast mics the stand mount used a half-inch pipe thread. RCA thought that this made it easier for stations to make up their own mic booms using readily available half-inch pipe. Most other mic manufacturers used a 5/8th inch size mounting which continues down to the present.
RCA showcased this new mic at the national political conventions in 1940. All of the floor mics…one for each state delegation were RCA 88As. Russell Pope, the chief engineer for McClung Broadcasting was able to purchase all of the RCA mics used in the Republican Convention in 1940. These mics were mostly 88As…but probably included a few RCA ribbon mics that were used on the podium and other places during the convention. Russ portioned out the mics to the various McClung stations…including: KYOS, Merced; KHSL, Chico; and KVCV, Redding. I worked at both KYOS and KHSL and I know each station had several of these RCA 88A mics that were used mostly on remote broadcasts away from the station…but also studio use, as well.
The 88A was a very rugged, high quality mic that was used at hundreds of radio and TV stations clear up into the 60s. It was great for interviews and news broadcasting. As a teenager in the 4-H Club I did my very first radio interview on KGIL, San Fernando from the San Fernando Valley Fair in the early 50s. The announcer and an engineer were touring the fair getting interviews on reel to reel tape and the microphone used was an 88A. I never did get to hear the interview but one of the 4-H parents said she had heard it!
The NBC network and many local stations fitted the 88A mic with a unique “handle” to make it easier for an announcer to handle the mic in interview situations. A short length of half-inch pipe was threaded into the mic swivel attachment and over this pipe was fitted a motorcycle rubber handlebar grip.
The venerable 88A served the industry for many years…even well into the TV era. As 1952 arrived…RCA decided it was time for an update and the 88A was replaced with a modernistic looking mic called “the Commentator” with the model number as BK-1A. ` The BK-1A was a cone-shaped mic that earned the nickname “Ice cream cone”. This mic looked similar to some of the modern lighting fixtures of the 50s. The specs for this new mic were similar to the 88A…non-directional with similar frequency response…60-10,000 cycles per second or “Hertz” in the modern designation.
RCA again supplied all the microphones used for the sound systems at the two national political conventions in 1952…and the new model BK-1A was the most used mic at these conventions.
The BK-1A was also much used in TV….NBC, of course, used this mic for news programs like “Meet the Press”,where each participant had a mic, and the Today show as well as the Tonight show. NBC Radio used the BK-1A on “Monitor” as well.
RCA Type BK-1A semi-directional pressure microphone
And as they say: “That’s a wrap for this time” Enjoy the photos.
In my mind there are about three microphone designs that most people would recognize as iconic. The RCA 44, which we covered in the first of this series, the RCA 77 and the Shure Unidyne model 55. This session we will take a look at the RCA 77 series of ribbon mics starting with the very first model, the 77A.
Dr. Harry Olson was RCA Labs expert audio designer. Dr. Olson was responsible for developing the ribbon microphone . The basic ribbon mic has a bidirectional pick up pattern, that is it picks up sound from front and back and is relatively “dead” to sound arriving from the sides. On May 1, 1931 Dr. Olson delivered a paper entitled “A Unidirectional Ribbon Microphone” at the meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Cleveland, Ohio. The unidirectional microphone, as described in this abstract, consisted of the combination of velocity and pressure ribbon microphones which produced a heart shaped, or “cardioid” directional pattern. Simply stated, the mic picks up sounds from the front side and rejects sound from the rear. This microphone was commercialized in late 1933 as the RCA 77A Unidirectional Microphone. The microphone was an instant success. The RCA 77A was followed by the RCA 77B, 77C, 77D and finally the 77DX. The 77A was a huge mic which had a rounded top and a flat bottom. The 77B and the following models were much reduced in size due to stronger magnetic material available at the time. All of the 77 models used a rubber shock absorber in the stand mounting connector.
The internal workings of the mic consisted of a straight bidirectional ribbon unit in series with a pressure ribbon unit (omnidirectional). In the straight ribbon mic the ribbon is open to the atmosphere on both sides resulting in a bidirectional pickup. The pressure ribbon mic is achieved by leaving the front of the ribbon open to the atmosphere but closing off the rear side of the ribbon by a tube connected to an acoustical space within the mic body that is filled with sound absorbing material. This results in the nondirectional or omnidirectional pattern. Connect the output of the two-mics-in- one in series and the geometric result is the unidirectional pick up pattern.
The first two mics in the series, the 77A and 77B, had a fixed unidirectional pattern. The 77C gave the three basic patterns: unidirectional, bidirectional and omnidirectional selected by a screwdriver switch on the bottom of the mic which electrically selected the mic elements singly or in combination for the uni pattern. All three of these mics used a double ribbon element.
The last two models in this series the 77D and 77DX were called “polydirectional” due to a more effective means to adjust the pickup pattern. A screwdriver adjustment on the back of the upper screened part of these mics let you choose unidirectional, bidirectional, omnidirectional and also three additional variations of the unidirectional pattern. This selection was not electrical but by a shutter mechanism that was mounted in back of the ribbon element. The shutter adjusted a single ribbon in relation to the acoustic tube and damping system to achieve the variable patterns. This gave great versatility to these instruments for the audio engineer depending on the type of sound pickup problem encountered. There was another screwdriver switch on the very bottom of the mic body that selected low frequency or “bass” equalization. This allowed the mic to be used for close talking without a “muddy” or “boomy” effect for a cleaner sound transmission. All ribbon mics tend to emphasize the bass when used close up. This was a huge revolution in mic design and made it possible to overcome many microphone sound pick up problems like imperfect acoustics causing too much reverberation and noise in rooms and studios. It is also a great help in public address systems by reducing the tendency to “feed back” or “howl.”
In TV production the RCA 77 with it’s broad front side pickup pattern was perfect for overhead boom use; it rejected studio noises from the back of the mic like camera and other background noises. In radio and TV the RCA 77 series, especially the later models, 77D and 77DX, were very popular. RCA had a beautifully designed art deco style table stand for these mics. They were also used on Floor stands in radio and TV studios. If you watch the reruns of the old Lawrence Welk TV shows from the ’50s you’ll notice that ABC used the RCA 77D mics, usually two in front of the sax section and two more in back to pick up the trumpets and trombones. Later in the ’60s ABC audio engineers changed to the Electro-Voice model 666 cardioid dynamics for the Welk orchestra pickup.
The 77D and DX series units were used on TV overhead mic booms in the days when TV producers tried their best to hide the microphones whenever possible! The 77 was a popular radio control room mic too, usually hanging from a fixed or flexible boom. KYOS in Merced used a 77D in the control room. KYOS also had an RCA 77C model from the early ’40s. I visited the old KTUR, Turlock studios just after they had changed call letters to KCEY in the early ’60s and I saw more than one RCA 77D mic in their studio and control room. KBEE, Modesto was another station that used the RCA 77 as well as KRJC, the Modesto Jr. College station, as you can see in some of the photos on this web site for those stations. Other stations in the area including KSTN, Stockton used the 77 as well as TV stations KCRA and KOVR, Sacramento back in the day.
I worked in Chico most of my career in broadcasting at KHSL-AM and KHSL-TV. Both these stations used the RCA 77D mics. The TV station had one on their main studio boom as well as in the announce booth. KHSL radio used this type mic in the master control room as well as in the production studio for many years, clear up into the ’80s.
Remembering back to the “golden age” of TV…all three major networks used the RCA 77D and DX models in all phases of production. NBC was owned by RCA back in that time and they would only use RCA mics and other equipment made by RCA. The long succession of Tonight Show hosts had an RCA 77DX on the desk for years even to the early years of Johnny Carson.
If you search “RCA microphones” on Ebay you often see several 77s up for auction and they fetch up into the one thousand dollar and more range! There are several ribbon mic repair experts who will install a new ribbon in these old mics and make them like new again. One of these guy’s father used to work for RCA and has the original equipment used to repair these mics. The old RCA company ceased operations back in the 1980s; the RCA name is still around on consumer electronics but nothing is made in the USA like it was back in the glory days!
The RCA 77 series of ribbon microphones had an incredible impact on the audio industry and even today, in this digital age, are in demand by recording studios for their versatility as well as their smooth wide range sound quality.
Last time we featured the RCA 44 series of high fidelity ribbon microphones
which were the “top of the line” in their day. Radio Corporation of America was in the business of making money…so the audio division decided to design a less expensive version of their very successful model 44 that would appeal to a wider segment of the audio industry.
Somewhere around the middle 1930s RCA came out with the model 74 ribbon mike (microphone) …it was nicknamed the “Junior Velocity” Velocity is another term used to describe a ribbon microphone. This refers to the way in which a ribbon mike picks up sound…by the velocity or speed of air particles pushed by sound waves toward the mike.
The Jr. Velocity was a junior in size compared to it’s big brother. It was about half the size as well as being much lighter weight. The model 74 did not have quite the extended frequency response…or fidelity of the model 44 series….but it still was a very good sounding mike. It also did not have the rubber shock absorber or forked mounting of the 44. It had a unique ball and socket type stand mounting that allowed the mike to be tilted up or down toward the sound being picked up.
RCA’s Model 74B came out somewhere in the late 30s and was very popular. It was manufactured until, I believe, about 1950. The first 74B’s had a shiny chrome windscreen with a black bottom and then in the 1940s RCA changed the wind screen to a brushed chrome and the color of the bottom part to what they called “umber gray”. Umber gray looked more like brown to most people! The change in color scheme was necessary for television as they didn’t want shiny parts becoming a “glint” in the camera’s eye.
The model 74B cost less than half of it’s big brother the model 44. This mike was very popular with smaller radio stations, but even many larger stations used them especially for announcing and for indoor remote broadcasts because of their small size and light weight. The 74 was very much used on PA systems, too, due to it’s lower cost. Even though the quality of sound did not quite match the model 44…the Junior ribbon still had the smooth, clean sound typical of a ribbon mike.
Radio stations in the local area that used the RCA Junior Velocity included KBEE, KFIV, Modesto Jr. College radio and KYOS. The McClatchy stations like KFBK, Sacramento and KMJ, Fresno also used the 74B.
Around 1950 RCA replaced the 74B with the KB2 “Bantam Velocity”. This mike was much smaller than any previous ribbon mike. The Bantam used much stronger magnet material that came out of WWII…this allowed the smaller size. The actual case of the mike was part of the pole piece of the ribbon magnet. Another name for the KB2 was “paint brush” because it had a built-in handle that made it look very much like a small paint brush. Inside the handle, under a cover piece, was an “XL” type connector. The “XL” connector was made by Cannon Electric Co. of Los Angeles which would later bring out the “XLR” connector that everyone knows today. RCA claimed that they commissioned Cannon to make the “XL” connector especially for the KB2 series of mikes.
In about 1954 RCA replaced the KB2 with the SK-46…this also was a relatively small size ribbon microphone that RCA continued to manufacture until they stopped making mikes. For more information on these mikes go to “www.coutant.org”,
RCA brought out one more bi-directional ribbon mike before they went out of the broadcast audio business. Actually this mike, the BK-11, was to replace the 44BX. It is about the same size as the Junior Velocity but with a more curved, modernistic shape, it also has a swivel mounting on the bottom. The BK-11 is an excellent quality mike like the 44BX. This mike is still seen once in a while on Ebay but I don’t think RCA sold as many of the BK-11 as compared to the model 44s and 74bs…which are seen all the time on Ebay. Until next time…this is Mr. Microphone signing off for now!
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.