KTRB’s First Superstars: Arkie and His Hillbillies

(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 and the Hillbillies in main studio of KTRB on McHenry Ave. Modesto, CA in 1939. Written on the back of the photo “Arky (sp) & Hillbillies received September 23, 1939 Ray Sander’s one of Gang” (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Robinson, Woodstock, Vermont.)

 

 

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“),

Glen Strange, second from left, played 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.

1938, Arkie’s first year on KTRB.

 

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.

Tasty Bakers was one of the first sponsors for Arkie’s six am show on KTRB

“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.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was a big fan of Arkie’s.

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.

Tennessee Ernie Ford

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.

John and Tex Ritter, Arkie’s good friends. Tex was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1964.

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.

Arkie Stark
A young Arkie. Courtesy of Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Radio of My Youth–KYA

By Radio Rick Myers

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 lifer.

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 Holliday and The Monkees.

 

Johnny Holliday 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

Johnny Holliday with The Four Seasons.

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.)   With great tongue-in-check bravado, he referred to himself as “Every Teen Queen’s Dream,” “The King of the Concrete Jungle,” and for San Franciscans, he was  “The Knight of Nob Hill,” and “The Baron of the Bay.” He bought a house in Tiburon for $50,000 that’s now worth 1.4 million (Of course it is).

Johnny Holliday, Sportscaster of the Year, 2022

He left for Washington DC, and switched to sports where to this day (53 years as of 2022) he is the radio voice for University of Maryland football and basketball.   For 14 years he hosted the pre- and post-game TV shows for Washington Nationals.   He wrote a great inside look at his life, “Johnny Holliday:  From Rock to Jock,” a book I recommend.

 

Johnny was also the PA Announcer for the Oakland Raiders, and was the national announcer for the Roger Miller and Hullabaloo TV shows.   He would fly down to L.A. on a Tuesday, tape a 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 Holliday, maybe they idolized each other.  In any event, they became close friends.   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.

The KYA Radio Oneders played school faculties and went 59-1 in 1967. Top row, 4th from left is Rick Barry. Front row far left is Sean O’Callahan, 4th is Johnny Holliday, next is Ed Hider.

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 at KROY. For the sake of publicity, disc jockeys have no shame.

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.

Russ The Moose Syracuse, KYA & KSFO Radio.

 

It woulda been fun.  He woulda been a Radio Oneder.

 

Ron Richards, Confessions of a K-5 DJ

Confessions are good for my rock ‘n roll soul

By “Rockin Ron” Richards

Meet Me At The Station KFIV (1975-77)

After “breaking the ice” with my first job in radio at KCEY,Turlock,  the late Larry Maher, KFIV Program Director, hired me on as a “weekender.”  So in February of 1975, I began my venture into TOP 40 radio.  The late Stuart Chase and I were the only ones working weekends until A.J. Roberts and Mike Green joined us as Weekend Warriors.

The first time I walked into the building was for my interview.   The business offices were to the left; DJ offices to the right.  The DJ office was one large room, and one entire wall had windows looking into the main on-air studio and the production room.    The only radio personalities with their own desk space were”Radio” Rick (Myers) and “Captain” Fred James (Music Director).  To the left of the main office were the offices of the late Robert Fenton (owner) and the salespeople.  Further down the hallway was the bathroom (on the left)..and the backroom, housing the Teletype, Coffee machines, and the 5000-watt daytime transmitter.  Later, the bathrooms were labeled “K-BOY” and “K-GAL.”   Radio people are nothing if not cute.

The KFIV studios were in a brick building that had a 1950’s “feel” to it.  Outside of the main office, the windows that decorated the front entrance and DJ office area were of a “Block Ice”/”Frosty” type,… you know… very heavy-looking and  you couldn’t really see through them.  In the studio, the on-air DJs sat facing the DJ room, which Radio Rick referred to as “the disc jockey lounge.”  Behind the disk jockey on-air chair was the 1000-watt transmitter (used for night times) and several racks that housed tape recorders and audio processors.  The reel-to-reel tape decks were used for playing Public Affairs Programs, which aired on Sundays, either in the early morning hours, or just before midnight.  KFIV was on the air 24 hours a day, but went off the air Sundays at midnight for regular, scheduled maintenance.

When you sat down at the console, you were mesmerized by the number of buttons and switches, and volume-control knobs. Those knobs were called “Pots,” which stood for “potentiometers.” It was surprising–and a relief–to learn that only a few of those buttons were essential.  As you sat at the microphone, to your right were three turntables, above them was a wooden cabinet with slots that housed the current Top 40 records.  There were three boxes which held the three main categories of songs:   A’s were the Power Hits, B’s were “not as popular” hits (played less often), and C’s which were brand new “hit bound” songs.  Right above the console, at eye level, sat the cart machines.   “Cart” was short for “cartridge.” The “Carts” themselves resembled 8-track tapes with one big difference.  Onto each cart was wound  40-seconds to 5-minutes of tape for the airing of one thirty-second commercial up to several minutes worth of commercials.   The station’s jingles were also placed onto cart.   While a record was playing, the DJ would “load” the cart machines with commercials, promos, jingles, and get ready to hit the “play” button  at the right time.   Stations had hundreds of carts. To the right and left sides of the console were “towers” (cart racks) where the carts  were numerically stored.

The PSA (Public Service Announcement) metal file box was placed just  to the left of the DJ’s left hand.   It  contained typewritten announcements to be read live concerning local events.  Above the window that looked out into the disc jockey lounge, were two infamous clocks (not real clocks, these were large pizza-sized circles.  They told the DJ what to do at :03, :07, :11, etc, hour after hour).  KFIV had a daytime clock, and a nighttime clock.  The nighttime clock allowed for a few more Album cuts.  The Daytime Clock was used between 6am and 4pm. To your left, as you sat at the console, was an area where brand new releases (LPs) were kept.  These were often called  “DJ Promotional Items” that record companies supplied to the station.  It was the duty of the Music Director to decide what album cuts were to be played, usually determined by Record Magazines, requests to the station, and recommendations by Billboard Magazine or other related periodicals.  The Music Library itself was located in the back, a small narrow room “dressed” with Oldies But Goodies.  The 45’s were “catalogued” by years, in bins, on your right and vintage LPs to your left.

As a “Weekender”…you usually had a second or third job to make ends meet!  At that time, I was working for Wherehouse Records (now known as F.Y.I.), when it was located next to the now-defunct Mervyn’s on McHenry.  My third job was working part-time at KTRB.  Let’s see…a full-time job and two part-timers..h-m-m..yes, I eventually “paid” the price for my health.

Now, that you have an idea of what the station looked like and what you had to do to survive, what follows next are little stories that came to be, while working at KFIV only.

The Rookie Behind The “Mic”

My inaugural “air time” on KFIV, came on a Saturday, for one hour of training!  The Program Director was the late Larry Maher.  Larry had stepped into John Chappell’s “shoes” as PD a few months earlier and guided me during the hour that I was on the air.   Larry was kind of a hyper-guy, and was more nervous than me.  I suppose just like any other person who smokes, Larry was doing his best for the tobacco company in that one hour.  As the moment of truth approached, Larry was showing me what to do and when to do it.  I think I got more of a “kick” watching him fumble through carts (spots), PSA’s, making sure that my music was lined up according to the format clock.  I think Larry got the message, as I was beginning to show signs of frustration, and left me alone (finally!) during the last twenty minutes of my debut.  A well done job by Larry, but disastrous results could have evolved into a nightmare!

The Chief Engineer

A “Weekender’s” schedule began by looking into the On-Air Studio during the week to find out the times for your weekend shifts.  Since I was the new kid, I basically worked the “All-Nighter,” from Saturday morning to Sunday night.  Remember back in those days, radio stations closed down for maintenance on Sunday nights.   This is where I met our Chief Engineer, Mel Freedman.  My first impression of Mel was that he was unique in character. Harsh, subtle, and yet professional, after all… keeping the station “on the air,” was his job.  Sometimes Mel could be overbearing and a bit much. He was constantly on you if you were headed towards potential violations that needed immediate attention.  Well enough was enough, as one afternoon I was filling in for Larry Maher and in came Mel, “barnstorming” through the studio.

Questions were asked, “Did you sign the transmitter log?”….”Did you hang the clipboard up and put it back where it belongs?”….Did you do this?.. do that?….finally I started raising my voice and told him everything was done, “go over there and check it yourself!”..Ready to put my boxing gloves on…my pilot light was lit!  Mel backed off, as my shift was over to make room for “Captain Fred James” who came on next at 4p.m.  Poor Fred, got into the line of fire, when he came in, I shook my head and left the control room.  After that incident, Mel and I became buddies, as I eventually understood where he was coming from.

Later in my career, I worked with Randy Hill (Chief Engineer at KYOS-Merced)..I began to realize what needed to be done to keep the station running and prevent a local disaster, if it went “down.” Although Mel was “hard” on us all and”ruffled” a few feathers we would be constantly on our toes. “Thumbs up!” Mr. Freedman, for a job well done!!  Throughout my tenure as a “weekender” at KFIV, I would anticipate and greet Mel, who came in shortly before sign-off on Sunday nights.  After the station was shut down for maintenance, I made it a point of saying good-bye as I was going out the door, and in reply..I got a hearty….. “Night, Night.”

The Turntables

There were 3 turntables (record players) at KFIV.  Each turntable had 3 speeds: 45..33 1/3…16 (rpms)!  As a general rule I would keep the front two turntables at 45 and the back one at 33 (for LPs).  Many of us, and I was no exception, would be caught sometimes playing the records at a wrong speed.  This was embarrassing at times, especially when working the prime shifts.  To hear somebody like Linda Ronstadt on Quaaludes was something else and if you played it that way at night,…everybody thought it might be a new Pink Floyd single?!!  Well you learned to live with it and have fun too!  One night, I remember playing an LP and the corner of my eye spotted dust collecting and building up on the needle.  I knew what was eventually going to happen, so I “opened” up the “mic” did a play by play description, explaining to listeners what was about to happen next.  Well, as expected the stylus collected too much dust and “skated” across the rest of the album.  I then picked up the stylus, cleaned off the dust with my thumb, making a wonderful scratch-like noise over the airwaves and promptly put the tone-arm down and resumed play.

The All Night Show

My all night show leaned more towards AOR (Album Oriented Rock) rather than Top 40.  At this time FM was still in its infancy and I patterned my style more or less after KSAN radio (San Francisco).  I believe I was the first one, locally, to do this…and had a great all night audience following.  I remember one night, some young caller kept pestering me to play “Deep Purple” (another rendition of this song from the 40’s, don’t you know?) this time by Donnie and Marie Osmond.  Well then, the “light bulb” went on and what I did was cue up the song on one turntable, grabbed a DJ copy of an artist that wasn’t going nowhere, and placed another LP on the back turntable.  What happened next, is I started up the Donnie & Marie song and after a few seconds “killed” it on the air, pretending that I had the “45”(rpm) in my hand (when it was actually the Promo copy)…I said something to the fact as..NO! NO!…this will never do, broke the “45” on the air…and then said, Now!…Here’s some real Deep Purple and I then played, “Smoke On The Water.”

Sometime later, I got a call from Larry Maher, wanting me to come to the office!  Oh! Oh!…I thought to myself, somebody must’ve registered a complaint…okay, Junior!…. time to eat your spinach!  Much to my surprise, Larry had found out what I was doing with the all night show from a letter written by a listener, who commended me for making the all night show at KFIV sound better than ever!  Whew!…not quite out of the “woods” yet, I explained to Larry what I was doing!  After going several rounds, Larry consented and gave me his blessing on keeping up with what I was doing, but to only play my AOR format between 1a.m. to 5a.m.  Agreed upon, from here on out, that’s the way it was during my time at KFIV.  I never again experienced the freedom of choice in music like I did during those years!

As my time with KFIV went further, I eventually became a full-timer!!  So what I did was take my AOR format to the next level.  I would track a whole LP during my show.  A Classic LP from the past on Tuesday and the rest of the week…all new releases!!  I was the first one to do this locally and it would eventually come around, in some form later, when FM finally took hold!!  During the LP tracking, I usually got caught up on “cutting” (or, recording) commercials (also known as “spots”) or taking “cat naps.”  For the most part I had an instinct of waking up at the right time, when one side was completed, I “back sold” the songs (or back announced the songs that had played), played a PSA while flipping the record onto  Side 2 and resumed airplay.  Well that backfired one night..as I was playing a then new LP by Stevie Wonder, “Songs In The Key Of Life,” a double album.  I started to doze off and lo and behold woke up to the sound of a needle (stylus) “hitting” the record label (Another Pink Floyd song?!) when I awoke and realized that the ABC News “feed” was already in progress I switched over!  Okay! nobody responded to it…except…Dave Bowling..who was on his way to do the morning shift at KJOY-Stockton.  Dave said he never laughed so hard!

 

After I went full time at the station, one of the things I did on the “all nighter” was to feature specials on certain groups.  It would be an anthology-like program with tidbits of history on bands like The Beatles, CCR, The Doors, and one of my most successful ones  was on The Rolling Stones!  The night I had featured the Stones, I had people knocking on the front door, mind you, and requesting songs from the group!  Needless to say it kept me on my “toes” that night..ah!…the power of Radio!!!  A couple more interesting things happened…Homegrown (Modesto’s local Folk/Rock group) had their first LP pressed and I was able to give them exposure by playing that vinyl in its entirety.  An interview with Modesto’s, Mike Allsup, lead guitarist for Three Dog Night, came “into the light” one evening too!  Although, this was “dropped”  into my lap at the last moment, I felt I didn’t have time enough to gather enough “info” about the band’s background and tried to make the most of it!

One thing I can say as far as lengthy album “cuts” or longer versions of “hit” songs by a group or an artist, is that it gave you a chance to stretch your legs, grab a cup of coffee, or..make a trip to the Powder Room!  Some examples were: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (Iron Butterfly), “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” (Elton John), “Get Ready” (Rare Earth) etc., all songs that were at least 17+ minutes or more.

The old skating rink on Tully (just a block from Modeto Junior College) was a haven for rock groups and artists during the 70’s!  Among them: Alvin Lee & Ten Years After, Pablo Cruise, Iron Butterfly, Gino Vannelli, and a group that was about to make a comeback….Fleetwood Mac! (this was before the “Rumors” LP was released!) Before the 70’s were over, the skating rink was torn down and made way for Roller King!

Night Crawlers

Back in 1975, for those who grew up in this area, you’ll remember that turning on E. Orangeburg and heading for the station, there was nothing but orchards!!  Thank heaven for the White Rail fence that graced the front of the station, because on nights where the Fog was so dense, this was the only way to recognize the studio’s location and your whereabouts!  Now because the station was located, at that time, surrounded by orchards, you had a feeling that you weren’t alone.  During the cold months of the year, the central heat was on, and once in a while you could smell the stench of some dead animal (mice).  One night when I was in the backroom (music library) searching for some albums, much to my surprise when I came back to the console, was a mouse standing on it’s hind legs!  As soon as the discovery was made, we both scattered in different directions!  I did the balance of my show that night sitting with my feet cross-legged and up on the chair!!  Inflection is inflection, but I didn’t need any surprises crawling up my pant legs!!

Oops!…Did I Say That?

Every radio broadcaster (DJ) has his or her moment(s) that involves the “slip” of the tongue.  Mine came one Sunday afternoon as I was pre-selling, “Some Kind Of Wonderful” by Grand Funk (Railroad)!!…Yeah!..I mispronounced the word Funk!!!  Okay, I thought to myself, just shut-up and close the “mic.” (microphone).   My brother had me tuned in that very day and asked if he heard right?….he did!!  Fortunately nobody else called and asked questions.

Deck The Log…Fa La La

Christmas time can be a wonderful time of the year..except commercial time on the radio!  Outside of BMI/ASCAP week, which was a pain because you had to write down every song you played on your shift, there was the Fa La La season.  The logs were extremely heavy during the Holiday Season, as we had perhaps, a 70% – commercial and a 30% music ratio.  Shall we just say the station was overloaded with ads??

I remember doing a 1 hour shift for Larry Maher, one afternoon, and because of the commercial time you had to keep the music under the 2:30 minute mark..otherwise it becomes a make-up and added to the already headache!  Anyway I kept it “tight” to say the least in that 1 hour and as “Captain” Fred James came into the studio to do his “Afternoon Drive” shift, I was just timing it out to make the ABC news feed at 5 minutes in front of the hour.  As Fred arrived, he realized that I was still in commercials, when the bewitching hour arrived.  I had just previously talked enough and got into my last set of “spots,” the last one being a 30 sec. one and as it finished, the ABC News Fanfare started up!  Wow!! Fred was impressed and a sigh of relief from me.

The other incident happened with Fred James, as he was reprimanded for something he said on the “air,” around the same time.  On top of the heavy load of ads during the Holiday Season, we also got “bogged down” with ticket giveaways!!  Oh yeah!..not only were you “fighting” the format clock, you had prizes to present also.  Well Fred got in trouble when he was heard saying over the “air,”…”I’ve got a pair of tickets to giveaway, if you can guess how much commercial time there is…this hour!”..Needless to say…that didn’t “set” well with the front office.

Dances, Remotes, & Parades…Oh My!

One of my favorite things to do was to broadcast live and take on High School dances, Haunted Houses (abandoned homes ready to be torn down), and special functions by local organizations.  KFIV had a console built with two turntables and in very primitive fashion, comparing it to today’s standards, a hook-up by means of a telephone line.  The line was “fed” through the console at the station…and you got a very hollow classic AM sound.  One remote I did along with “Radio” Rick Myers at the time, was promoting the grand opening of a new Radio Shack store in the same shopping center that introduced Modesto to the first Raley’s (Tully & Standiford).

Some of the most common things to give away at Remotes were free tickets, album/record giveaways, etc.  Promotional items were given away to bring in the customers to a local merchant.  Well as everything was loaded in the KFIV Van (Keep On Truckin’) and we were on our way, Rick and I discussed what we could “pull-off” to promote customers at Radio Shack.  Being a fan of Comedy, I came up with the idea of having listeners come by and throw a pie in my face.  “Great idea!..Let’s do it!!..Rick replied.  The response was overwhelming as I had everything from Chocolate and Strawberry creams to Berry, and even a Mud pie that I graciously accepted!  Luckily, I knew a family friend (pictured with me on The Radio Museum website) who was working at Raley’s at the time.  She led me to the large sink area in the produce dept., where I washed up!  The tee shirt I had worn, resembled a “Tie-Dye!”…and it was  retired afterwards.

The first and last time I got involved in the traditional Modesto Fourth of July parade, came in 1976.  With the KFIV van, supporting larger speakers affixed on top and the sounds of the Rock’n 136 (1360 AM) filling the morning air, there were also two cars riding in front of it.  On the cars we (KFIV DJ’s) sat on the hoods of the vehicles throwing or  handing out “45’s” to the hometown crowds.

KFIV Firsts

During the mid 70’s, KFIV had some firsts:  FM station KITA (the first station for the Spanish speaking residents)  “Flight To Soul” with Marcus Williams (Mel Williams’s son) the first program that catered to Soul/R&B enthusiasts.  “Flight To Soul” came on Sunday nights eventually replacing Steve Sprunger’s Public Service program.  The first female DJ (weekender)…Dorian McKenzie, who later departed for Sacramento radio…only to be replaced by Diane Cartwright!

Who Are You…Who?…Who?

The Radio Personalities at KFIV had unique nicknames during the 70’s. Notables such as Kevin Manna (“Your Manna In The Morning), “Skinny” Kenny Roberts, J. Michael “Bird” Stevens, “Radio” Rick Myers, “Captain” Fred James, “The Unreal” Don Shannon, “Rock’n” Ron Richards (me), John “Dyno” (Dynomite) Michaels, and A.J. “Koala Bear” Roberts.  A bunch of great guys to work with, some of us would get together during our time off the air by attending concerts (most notably a handful of us had dinner with the group Ambrosia (“Holdin’ On To Yesterday”) The group was on the same bill with The Kinks, Sutherland Brothers & Quiver and appeared at the Stockton Civic Auditorium that evening.

Other times there were the all-night “hangouts” at the now defunct Brawley’s Restaurant on McHenry, where Don Shannon and I were once pulled over in the parking lot by Modesto Policeman, Luther Williams, only because the ’69 Triumph Spitfire I was driving, resembled  one that had been stolen.  We became buddies after that and found out that Luther was from Detroit, where I have family roots.  Occasionally we would have other guests sit with us unto the wee hours of the morning..Air personalities like John Chappell, Ted “Cookie Man” Garrett (formerly of KFIV and working at KJOY), Dave Bowling (formerly of KFIV and working at KJOY too!), John “Dyno” Michaels (working weekends at KFIV at the time) and Mike Green (KFIV weekender who became the “afternoon drive” guy [4p-8p], when Fred James left for Sacramento radio).  There were also appearances on occasion at The Roller King, “spinning” records.

Eventually everyone went their separate ways, some of us keeping in contact over the years, some of us worked together again at other stations.  As of January of 1977, I left KFIV to do “Morning Drive” at KYOS in Merced.

PHOTOS

We will have to dig for them. Some may still be in the library.

 

By “Rockin Ron” Richards

“Rockin Ron” in KFIV’s master control room in 1975.

“Rockin Ron” in KFIV production room.

“Rockin Ron” with back to school promotions.

“Rockin Ron” 1969 Triumph spitfire.

“Rockin Ron” with helpful friend.

Former KFIV deejays L-R Kenny Roberts, “Rockin Ron ” and  Ron Posey in 2011 photo.

KFIV’s  master control room in the seventies.

KMOD was the original call sign of the station when it came on the air in 1950.  It was  later changed to KFIV.  The building and transmitting towers sat in a peach orchard on the north side of Orangeburg avenue a quarter of a mile east of  Old Oakdale Rd.  (as it was known then).

“Rockin Ron” in the KFIV music room.

John Chappell Obituary

 

From Modesto Bee Obituaries:
JOHN FRANKLIN CHAPPELL

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 was held at the State Theater on July 10, 2021.

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.

John Chappell, 71 – Mourning The Passing of The Museum’s President

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 Chappell, President
John Chappell, President

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.

 

Tim St. Martin, remembered by friends.

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. . . . 

K-5 Gang
1968, Tim and the K-5 Gang

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.


Tim in his office at KFIV

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:

Ron Posey and Dave Nelson, Graffiti Night, ’78. Al Golub Photography.

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 Lang was Tim’s broadcast partner at KTRB.  Bob and Tim had years of On-Air magic:
Bob Lang early into his radio days.

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.

Bob Lang at KTRB

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 at KTRB

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!

Bob Lang 2008
Bob Lang in 2008

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.

Four radio legends from KTRB: Bob Lang, Bob DeLeon, Tim St. Martin, and Derek Waring

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:

Great friends for decades, Tim and 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.

“Ride that microphone, Mr. Rodeo Announcer!”

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.

Many radio reunions!

Radio Reunion

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.

Tim, with Rick Myers and Bob Mohr. Combined, 130 years of broadcasting, all sharing the same birthday

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.

 

KFIV and KTRB Personality, Derek Waring

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.

College radio station KRJC, 1968

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 (K5), hired me.

Derek with Bob DeLeon, lifetime friends.

I started on the all night shift but eventually worked all of the time slots. I had some great times at K5 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 K5 at that time and when he spoke to us we were always referred to as “Kid.”

My favorite times at K5 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 K5 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 of the person on the air and it wouldn’t go out over the air. I was not aware of this as I was reading the news one day when Bob Lang and Tim St. Martin, in the middle of a news story, hit me with a string of expletives that would have made a sailor blush. I was quite flustered but as professional DJs often do I handled it in a mature fashion. I started laughing and could not stop.

Down through the decades, the voice stays young

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 ’70s 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 disc jockey for top 40, country, and talk radio because radio was in my blood, and it still is after these many years.

On The Air:

Derek Waring – Aircheck

     

Dwight Case, 90

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants: Remembering Dwight Case

By  Radio Ink

 

Dwight Case was born in Modesto June 29, 1929. His career began at KFIV, Modesto and from there he was destined to change the landscape of the broadcasting industry in America.

Among his many accomplishments Dwight was the President of RKO Radio,  was Publisher and Editor of Radio & Records magazine, and was the founder of TRANSTAR, the first 24-hour satellite entertainment provider.  It was Dwight who was the first in the industry to put women in major positions.

“Dwight Case was a true leader and visionary of the radio industry. He had a profound impact on my career and on my love of radio. He opened up many doors for me both professionally and personally for which I will always be grateful. He supported me as a female in the industry when it was not fashionable or commonplace and helped me to find my voice. I look back on the many spirited conversations we have had over the years and can only hope we provided him as much inspiration and thought as he provided us.”– Erica Farber, CEO RAB, The Radio Advertising Bureau.   (Courtesy Radio Ink)

Dwight at a K-5 remote, doing his show at Burge’s Drive In.
The Cruisers all came by to see Dwight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1971, Dwight the General Manager of KROY.
And, a memory from Modesto Radio Museum member, Rick Myers:
I met Dwight Case once. He had many fond memories of Modesto and KFIV. He was especially close to Mel Freedman, who became a broadcast engineer and a founding father of the Modesto Radio Museum. When I met Dwight, 40 years had passed since he left Modesto. He gave me an instruction: “When you get back to Modesto, tell Mel he is forever on my mind.” The poetry of that phrase resonates a life-long friendship.

At that same meeting, Dwight had a funny story. Right after leaving KROY, and before he went to RKO Radio, he owned a tiny radio station with many small-market problems. One day, while at lunch, his sales manager called with an urgent question. He said the station’s biggest client, a furniture store, was ready to sign an annual contract. “The owner wants to buy a thousand commercials, but refuses to pay the $2.25 per commercial rate. He won’t go any higher than two dollars a spot. What should I do?” Dwight told him to take the two-dollar rate. Dwight then hung up and called his radio broker, and ordered the broker to find a buyer and sell the station. Dwight said he told the broker, “I just can’t make any more twenty-five cent decisions.”


KMPH, 840 kHz History

KMPH A.M. 840 kHz Sold To Immaculate Heart Radio
August 1, 2014

Radio station KMPH, 840 KHz Modesto, California, was sold to Immaculate Heart Radio effective August 1, 2014 by owner Harry Pappas of Reno, NV. Pappas dropped their Graffiti Gold music format from the station with the consummation of the agreement and the new owners launched their Catholic talk radio format August 1, 2014. Immaculate Heart Radio stations broadcast authentic Catholic programming 24 hours a day over 31 group owned stations in six states including 15 translators. Stations including KWG, Stockton, KJOP, Lemoore, CA, KHOT, Madera, CA. and KJPG in Bakersfield, CA.

Meanwhile, the KTRB building and property on Norwegian Avenue is still for sale. There’ve been no no offers tendered for the property which was originally listed for sale over a year ago Harry Pappas, owner for $495,000. The price has been reduced $295,000 or best offer.

________________________
Vandals Attack KMPH
August 14, 2013
KMPH’s mobile office/studios located in the parking lot of the former KTRB on Norwegian Ave. in Modesto was struck sometime overnight Wednesday August 14, 2013 by vandals. The responsible’s cut a hole in the chain-link fence that surrounds the property to gain access the mobile office which sits in the parking lot of the former KTRB . They knocked the station off the air by cutting the power to the office and transmission wires connected to the building. No attempt was made to enter the alarmed mobile office itself. Initial damage estimates place a loss of around $500.

David Jackson, program director of the station, discovered the station off the air at 6 AM and contacted station engineer Paul Shinn who discovered the crime when he arrived at the station. The adjacent former KTRB building, which has been vacant for several years, has in the past been broken into several times mostly for copper wiring which was stripped from the interior. KMPH, owned by Harry Pappas of Reno, NV, plans to increase the security of the property. The incident was reported to the Modesto Police Department.

______________________________

KMPH Returns With Graffiti Gold

August 11, 2013

According to Manoli Pappas of the KMPH management team, KMPH has returned to the air with a “Graffiti Gold” music format.
______________________________
KMPH-AM Modesto Being Liquidated
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pappas Telecasting is liquidating its broadcast holdings, which include TV stations in California, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska and one radio station KMPH-AM (840) in Modesto, CA. KMPH was launched by Harry J. Pappas to replace KTRB-AM (860) which he moved to San Francisco in 2006. KTRB San Francisco is not part of this liquidation. KMPH AM went into receivership when Pappas failed to make a March 26, 2012 “discounted payoff ” which would have allow the stations involved to “re-vest” with him as the original owner. However, lender Comerica Bank failed to receive payment. Pappas had been the initial trustee, managing it on behalf of the creditors. Pappas’ own stock in the company is now being contributed to the Liquidating Trust run by Shubert, under direction of the Federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.

KMPH 840 KHz replaced the original KTRB 860 KHz on July 10, 2006 when the Pappas Company, headed by Harry Pappas, moved KTRB to San Francisco. KMPH failed on August 31, 2010 but returned to the air in August of 2011 carrying Mexican religious programming being fed to the transmitter by satellite from a Texas company. Other than the contract engineer and a maintenance man, there are no local employees. Harry Pappas’s nephew Jim Pappas, a company VP, managed KMPH during the year it was on the air and moved on to hold the same position with KTRB in San Francisco. He currently is an account representative for the Valley Yellow Pages.

( Radio-Info.Com contributed to this story)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pappas Telecasting is liquidating its broadcast holdings, which include TV stations in California, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska and one radio station KMPH-AM (840) in Modesto, CA. KMPH was launched by Harry J. Pappas to replace KTRB-AM (860) which he moved to San Francisco in 2006. KTRB San Francisco is not part of this liquidation. KMPH AM went into receivership when Pappas failed to make a March 26, 2012 “discounted payoff ” which would have allow the stations involved to “re-vest” with him as the original owner. However, lender Comerica Bank failed to receive payment. Pappas had been the initial trustee, managing it on behalf of the creditors. Pappas’ own stock in the company is now being contributed to the Liquidating Trust run by Shubert, under direction of the Federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.

KMPH 840 KHz replaced the original KTRB 860 KHz on July 10, 2006 when the Pappas Company, headed by Harry Pappas, moved KTRB to San Francisco. KMPH failed on August 31, 2010 but returned to the air in August of 2011 carrying Mexican religious programming being fed to the transmitter by satellite from a Texas company. Other than the contract engineer and a maintenance man, there are no local employees. Harry Pappas’s nephew Jim Pappas, a company VP, managed KMPH during the year it was on the air and moved on to hold the same position with KTRB in San Francisco. He currently is an account representative for the Valley Yellow Pages.

KMPH A.M. 840 kHz Sold To Immaculate Heart Radio
August 1, 2014

Radio station KMPH, 840 KHz Modesto, California, was sold to Immaculate Heart Radio effective August 1, 2014 by owner Harry Pappas of Reno, NV. Pappas dropped their Graffiti Gold music format from the station with the consummation of the agreement and the new owners launched their Catholic talk radio format August 1, 2014. Immaculate Heart Radio stations broadcast authentic Catholic programming 24 hours a day over 31 group owned stations in six states including 15 translators. Stations including KWG, Stockton, KJOP, Lemoore, CA, KHOT, Madera, CA. and KJPG in Bakersfield, CA.

Meanwhile, the KTRB building and property on Norwegian Avenue is still for sale. There’ve been no no offers tendered for the property which was originally listed for sale over a year ago Harry Pappas, owner for $495,000. The price has been reduced $295,000 or best offer.

________________________
Vandals Attack KMPH
August 14, 2013
KMPH’s mobile office/studios located in the parking lot of the former KTRB on Norwegian Ave. in Modesto was struck sometime overnight Wednesday August 14, 2013 by vandals. The responsible’s cut a hole in the chain-link fence that surrounds the property to gain access the mobile office which sits in the parking lot of the former KTRB . They knocked the station off the air by cutting the power to the office and transmission wires connected to the building. No attempt was made to enter the alarmed mobile office itself. Initial damage estimates place a loss of around $500.

David Jackson, program director of the station, discovered the station off the air at 6 AM and contacted station engineer Paul Shinn who discovered the crime when he arrived at the station. The adjacent former KTRB building, which has been vacant for several years, has in the past been broken into several times mostly for copper wiring which was stripped from the interior. KMPH, owned by Harry Pappas of Reno, NV, plans to increase the security of the property. The incident was reported to the Modesto Police Department.

______________________________

KMPH Returns With Graffiti Gold

August 11, 2013

According to Manoli Pappas of the KMPH management team, KMPH has returned to the air with a “Graffiti Gold” music format.
______________________________
KMPH-AM Modesto Being Liquidated
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pappas Telecasting is liquidating its broadcast holdings, which include TV stations in California, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska and one radio station KMPH-AM (840) in Modesto, CA. KMPH was launched by Harry J. Pappas to replace KTRB-AM (860) which he moved to San Francisco in 2006. KTRB San Francisco is not part of this liquidation. KMPH AM went into receivership when Pappas failed to make a March 26, 2012 “discounted payoff ” which would have allow the stations involved to “re-vest” with him as the original owner. However, lender Comerica Bank failed to receive payment. Pappas had been the initial trustee, managing it on behalf of the creditors. Pappas’ own stock in the company is now being contributed to the Liquidating Trust run by Shubert, under direction of the Federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.

KMPH 840 KHz replaced the original KTRB 860 KHz on July 10, 2006 when the Pappas Company, headed by Harry Pappas, moved KTRB to San Francisco. KMPH failed on August 31, 2010 but returned to the air in August of 2011 carrying Mexican religious programming being fed to the transmitter by satellite from a Texas company. Other than the contract engineer and a maintenance man, there are no local employees. Harry Pappas’s nephew Jim Pappas, a company VP, managed KMPH during the year it was on the air and moved on to hold the same position with KTRB in San Francisco. He currently is an account representative for the Valley Yellow Pages.

( Radio-Info.Com contributed to this story)

( Radio-Info.Com contributed to this story)

KFIV, KTRB, KMPH Personality Tim St. Martin

Long time Modesto area radio listeners have heard a familiar voice on the local airwaves for more than 30 years — 32 1/2 years to be exact. Tim St. Martin, who began his career at Modesto’s KFIV in the spring of 1967, is still going strong as a disc jockey and news broadcaster at KJSN Sunny 102.3 FM. He shares the morning mike with Gary Michaels and can be heard from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The 53-year-old DJ, who grew up in Southgate in Southern California and went to broadcasting school in Hollywood, got his first job at KTHO, in South Lake Tahoe.” It was a good learning experience and a lot of fun for a 20-year-old but after one year I was offered a spot at KFIV” St. Martin said.

And so began his local career that very few can match or top, in terms of longevity or hours on the air. By his own estimate, he’s put in “about 20 thousand hours, maybe more.”

Perhaps only the legendary Cal Purviance can claim a longer tenure as an on-air personality. Purviance worked as a newsman and program director at KTRB full-time from 1951 to 1982. Even after retiring, he stayed on part-time until 1990.

Ironically, it was Purviance, who hired St. Martin away from KFIV in 1969 as Tim became KTRB’s newscaster, replacing Art Baker.  Purviance recalls St. Martin as being a “sure-fire” radio man.

“l hired Tim because of his fine on air personality and his nose for news” Purviance said. “He was very articulate and worked well with others. He never insisted on doing things his way only. He was with us a number of years and was a heckuva team player.”

St. Martin left the radio scene for a brief time in the seventies to enter private business. He tried his hand as a professional rodeo announcer and also worked as a yacht salesman in the Delta. But he soon found out that he yearned to get back into radio.

“l loved broadcasting the rodeo events and even enjoyed selling yachts but it’s hard to sell enough yachts to make a living. I knew I could make money working for a radio station, so that’s why I returned. ”

St. Martin eventually returned to KFIV in 1978 and has been associated with that station ever since. Sunny 102.3 FM is owned by the Texas-based AM/FM lnc. that also controls KFIV, B-93, Mega 96.7 and KJAX in Stockton.

The company, according to St. Martin, is the biggest of its kind in the United States, operating hundreds of stations from coast to coast. It even owns the Texas Rangers baseball team and the Dallas Stars hockey club.

Over the years, he has gone from a traditional news broadcaster. The station caters to women in 29 to 45 year age group but he really doesn’t get involved in the selection of the format.

“l consider myself a ‘rip-and-read’ broadcaster but his three-minute reports are heard on the hour and in an upbeat style of delivery. His broadcasting idol during his early years was Gene D’Accardo, who worked locally during the ’60s, then went to KNBR in San Francisco for many years before returning to KTRB. “He had a natural presence on the air St. Martin added.

Four radio legends from KTRB: Bob Lang, Bob DeLeon, Tim St. Martin, and Derek Waring

St. Martin normally doesn’t do financial, crime or what he calls other depressing news. “If people want those bad things, they can go to another station. That’s just the way I am.”

He ends each newscast with “I’m Tim St. Martin with the information you need, now back to the music you love on Sunny 102.”   It no doubt serves as a wake-up call for thousands of listeners each morning.

The Modesto area, still considered a small market , has been a launching pad for many DJs and radio personalities. Some have gone on to successful careers in television and movies,. Among them are Don lmus, Les Keider and Stu Nahan.

St. Martin points out that the late Wolfman Jack, despite being featured in “American Graffiti”, never worked for a local station. “He was at XERB, which had it transmitter across the Mexican border and could be heard all over the West Coast and as far away as Alaska.

Tim, with Rick Myers and Bob Mohr. Combined, 130 years of broadcasting, all sharing the same birthday

 

The lure of big city lights and big city money never have appealed to the local radio man. “l like it here and wouldn’t want to a major market. Actually Modesto is getting too big. It’s a good place to raise a family., “Now divorced, he has a 28-year-old daughter Amy living in San Diego and 18 year old Cari, who recently graduated from Johansen High School.

Although he says he enjoys his job, there is one thing he has never got use to. It’s the hours. In order to get to work on time, he has to get up at 3:45 AM although he don’t get to bed before 11:00 PM. But he takes naps in the afternoon.

Following a few hours of morning production time, he usually out of the office by noon, “unless a golf match breaks out.” Then he tries to leave a bit early. Golf, which he plays about twice week, and tennis are among his favorite activities. He also plays senior league softball on Thursday nights.

“l am pretty much a home body but I don’t do any cooking. My weakness is fast food restaurants, although I try to stay active and watch my cholesterol.

St. Martin says he’s never given and serious thought to retiring. “I know the day will come but I’m not prepared for it now. Who knows? Maybe I’ll take up fishing.

(Courtesy of ZORCH magazine, Bill Slayter publisher)