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.
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.
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)
The Modesto Area Music Association super MAMA 2011 lifetime achievement award was presented to former Modesto DJ, musician and Modesto Radio Museum board member Bob De Leon. The presentation was made at ceremonies held at the DoubleTree hotel ballroom on October 13, 2011.
The award was presented by KFIV’s Rick Myers. Among his remarks he said De Leon could have been one of the characters in the American Graffiti film created by Modesto native George Lucas in 1962. The film was inspired by groups of young people, like De Leon and Lucas, who cruised 10th and 11th streets in downtown Modesto in the fifties and sixties.
De Leon began his career in 1959 playing keyboard with the Kent Whitt and the Downbeats band, all fellow students at Modesto high school. The band a stopped performing in 1963, but not until they had performed in a USO tour for troops in Alaska and Asia. The band spent 3 1/2 months touring Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines before the breakup started with De Leon and other members of the band being drafted into military service.
De Leon, in his remarks, said he made numerous friends while playing with the band, one in particular, a young lady named Roni, who eventually became his wife.
De Leon fondly remembers the fifties and sixties and enjoying cruising up and down 10 and 11th streets in downtown Modesto with his friends. After finishing his military commitment, De Leon became interested in the broadcasting business.
After obtaining a broadcast/operator license in Los Angeles, he returned to Modesto in 1963 and started working at KLOC radio station in Ceres, which had just been put on the air by country musician and media mogul Chester Smith. A few months later, he landed a position at KFIV as an on-the-air personality staying until 1972.
De Leon moved on to KTRB before eventually making his way into the real estate business working his way up to Vice President of sales and training for Century 21 M&M and Associates Realty in Modesto.
In 2004 De Leon, and several other veteran radio personalities in the Modesto area, formed the Modesto Radio Museum group dedicated to preserving the history of local radio broadcasting.
Editor’s Note: Bob lived in Modesto his entire life. He and wife Roni were one day shy of their 55th wedding anniversary when she lost the love of her life and we lost our dear friend and Modesto Radio Museum member. Bob De Leon died on December 19, 2020 from complications of COVID-19. He is in our hearts.
Tom was born and raised in Modesto, California. He is a 1965 graduate of Downey High School during which time he formed and played in a popular local band, Eisage. He continued to play in rock bands after high school with his love of music leading him into radio as a DJ: First in Modesto at KFIV and KTRB, then in Sacramento at KCRA, KWOD and KXOA.
Tom was hired at KCRA to do mid-days with his “Italian Love” radio show. He also produced jingles and sound tracks for KCRA TV programming. During that time Tom was involved in some of the first music videos with a group called Biplane. He also managed the Moon Recording Studios.
In 1988 Tom was hired by San Francisco’s KNBR 680, radio home of the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors as an air talent and Director of Creative Services. In 1997 Tom joined KFBK, KGBY, and KHYL as Director of Creative Services and fill-in air talent. Most recently Tom was added to the air staff of Classic 93.1. Tom said “I am very happy to be back on the air playing the Classic hits of the ’70s and ’80s. Great station, great people!”
Tom’s Favorite hobbies: Playing guitar, sailing his Hobie Cat catamaran, going to Huey Lewis, Eagle’s and Fleetwood Mac concerts, Sacramento Kings basketball games, and hanging out with his beautiful wife Stephanie and two great daughters Sara and Amanda. He has also been a synchronized swimming judge and the voice of the Cordova Cordettes every summer for the past .
Bob Malik is a former Modesto resident and KFIV radio personality. After leaving Modesto Bob had a successful major market radio career. He now lives with his family in Southern California. For years, Bob was the host of THE BEATLE YEARS, a weekly program that aired nationwide, including locally on KRVR, 105.5.
Bob was asked to provide his autobiography for the Modesto, CA Central Catholic High School (CCHS) Alumni Magazine. He has graciously given us permission to share his story here at The Modesto Radio Museum.
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
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!)
Anyone who worked in radio or TV stations prior to the computer and satellite era, which began in the early ’80s, will remember how the news they delivered on-the-air reached them. The gathering and reporting of the news by radio has come a long ways since the beginning of broadcasting.
In the “old days” the news, supplied by reporters around the world, was fed to radio stations around the country primarily by telephone data and voice lines (teletype machines and voice networks.). Many stations were affiliated with a major network like NBC, CBS, ABC, & Mutual, to name a few, which was delivered by a newsreaders over network lines.
Additionally, stations received news via teletype networks including United Press and Associated Press and local news copy which was prepared and delivered from local stations as depicted in the photos below of the KTRB newsroom in the 60’s.
Today, satellites have become the transport method and computers greatly assist the newsreaders delivering the news on-the-air.
After four years of college, it was time to leave the scholastic existence where your reward was your grade and your entitlement was time off at the end of the semester. Things were about to get tough. The expectation was now to become a productive member of society. All I ever wanted was to become a radio disc jockey; not much of an ambition for a college grad. I also didn’t have much of a plan on how to get there.
My friend and media classmate, Tony Rossi, was making arrangements to attend William B. Ogden’s Radio Operational Engineering School, or R.O.E.S., to get his first class Radiotelephone Operators License, a requirement at the time for entering the broadcast profession. He suggested we could attend together. Suddenly, quite suddenly as I recall, I had more than the formal education and the creative desire, I had direction. I discussed my extended education with my folks and got their financial support.
Actually, there were three of us. Tony had made the same suggestion to a neighborhood chum from his Marin County home in Kentfield. Bruce Badaracco had less direction and ambition than I, but worse, practically no support or encouragement. He’d been part of the local drug scene and had a young man’s aimless existence until Tony set the spark. Bruce wasn’t necessarily interested in a radio career, but saw this as an opportunity to receive a license that might lead to a position with a utility company or a railroad. Tony saw it as an opportunity for Bruce to get some respect from his family and some much-needed self-esteem.
So, that spring after a few months of downtime, I loaded up my Volkswagen bus with my summer clothes, a 12-string guitar, and a tin of Grandma Hood’s chocolate chip cookies. I drove south to Huntington Beach on the Southern California coast and to 5075 Warner Avenue.
Radio Operational Engineering School
R.O.E.S. was a two story building just inland from a main drag called Bolsa Chica. It had classrooms and offices on the first floor and three large dormitory rooms upstairs with bunk-beds and armoire-type closets that would become our home for the summer weeks to come. The organization was family-run. It was Bill Ogden’s business, but he confined his role to that of instructor. His wife Tally was the office manager and registrar, assisted by her sister Thora McDonald. As tough as Bill seemed, the ladies were sweet and attentive, even motherly.
Tony, Bruce, and I registered with about 45 others, all male, on April Fools Day in 1969. We attended school in the large open downstairs classroom led by Bill, a gruff old guy with a raspy voice who taught us from 8:00 to 5:00 every weekday. Following dinner, we were back in the classroom for three hours of lots and lots of math taught by Thora’s son, Jim, another relative who worked there in the evenings. Then we were off to independent or group study in one of the smaller rooms around the inner edge of the building. We had Sunday nights off and used it to relax and to catch up on our laundry.
The length of time spent at Ogden’s would depend on the individual student. We would study, learn, and test at our own pace specifically in preparation for the series of Federal Communications Commission licenses. Some of us already had our third class tickets which we received, for example, to work on our college radio stations (I’d even applied for and received a fourth class license when I was in high school which was more like the equivalent of passing a written DMV exam; it got me a wallet card and a bit of cachet with my weekend dates). The biggest hurdle we faced would be acquiring the second class license, the one requiring all the math and electrical theory. But the payoff was in the golden “first phone,” the one with the professional prestige. The first was anticlimactic –
much easier to achieve than the second – and, when asked why we couldn’t just stop there and go find a job, Bill would grumble, “Nothing is lower than a second class operator.”
I had purchased a spiral notebook for taking notes. It had a three-month calendar in the inside front cover. The class notes are long gone, but I kept the cardboard cover as a souvenir because I’d made an entry on nearly every date related to something that happened that day. The meaning of many of the notes have become obscure over time, such as “how to sharpen pencils” or “birds nest soup.” Others made reference to what we learned that day, including two consecutive days on electrical resistance, or dates that tests were scheduled to be given.
The calendar supports my recollection that on the second full day of class, Bill spent much of the day warning us about two inept FCC honcho’s in Los Angeles, J. Lee Smith and Walter Looney. Looney was aptly named and, according to Bill, “didn’t have the brains God gave a tennis ball.”
As soon as that night, I was amazed to find myself studying, and even grasping, calculus. It didn’t take long for any of to realize that Bill was mining each of our potentials to a point where no other instructor had gone before. To many of us, he became “Mr. Ogden.” To others he was the best teacher ever encountered. A sign on the wall behind his desk stated, “In ‘Ogd’ We Trust.” And, very quickly, we did.
Smokers were on one side of the room, non-smokers on the other as if the smoke was actually going to stay in the air on its own side. The school provided black ashtrays with bowls that could be raised to allow butts and ash to fall inside and smother. Bill was a chain smoker and he sat in front of the room behind a desk on an elevated platform. He’d light one Salem with the last before snuffing it out. His short-sleeved shirts all had tiny burn holes down the front.
I sat in the back row next to Dirk Raaphorst. Dirk had what we all admired as a great set of pipes. He possessed a natural, deep, booming, rock ‘n’ roll voice and was clearly bound to become a terrific Top 40 jock. Dirk had chosen the air name “Dirk Donovan” and was always talking up imaginary record introductions in his announcer’s snappy patter. One day Dirk brought the class to hysterics with, “Tune in again next week, boys and girls, when the Safety Story Lady takes a Pepsi-Cola douche!”
On the bulletin board at the front of the classroom was a crest, undoubtedly made and presented as a gift to Bill by a former student, bearing the initials “O.I.C.” We were fairly certain it stood for Ogden’s something or another, but could only speculate as to what it might actually mean, and Bill wasn’t letting on. During one particularly frustrating explanation of Ohm’s Law, some poor moax struggling with the concept had – no pun intended – a light bulb moment. He’d gotten it and blurted out, “Oh, I see!” Bill jumped from behind his desk and pointed to the crest on the wall!
Someone would invariably ask Bill what he thought were the most important things to remember in preparing for an FCC exam. “If you must remember it,” he’d say, “forget it.” He would also admonish us not to become “dirty memorizers,” memorizing, for example, the order of test answers rather than learning the material. When taking a test, he would tell us to answer all of the questions where we knew the answer cold and to skip the ones we weren’t sure of. Then he’d tell us to go back and count the questions we had left over. Out of 100 questions, if we hadn’t answered 20, all we now had was a short, manageable 20-question test. If I remember correctly, the FCC required a score of 90. Bill wouldn’t allow us to take their exam until we could pass his with a score of 95.
In explaining the dynamics of electricity, invariably a student would confuse current and voltage. He would innocently ask what might happen if the voltage were to go in this direction or that way. Bill would stop him cold. “Voltage goes nowhere,” he’d bellow! I’ve heard that same story so often that the incident must have repeated itself in every session.
Every so often, a student would remark that the complexity of the material was driving him crazy. “With you,” Bill would respond, “it’ll be a short putt!” When a student got an answer to a question regarding electrical current wrong, he’d say, “You’ve just blown hell out of another $500 tube.” When someone made a disparaging remark about the FCC, Bill’s response would be, “There’s another fascinating word they’re going to make you eat!” And when we became anxious to make the drive to Los Angeles to take the exam, but he didn’t think we were ready, Bill would discourage us with, “When I yell ‘frog,’ you jump!”
In the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, Bill’s wife Tally would stand at the classroom door with a notepad and wait for Bill to take refreshment orders. She and Thora would brew coffee and tea and prepare the cart. Bill would call a brief halt while we made our choices. “Coffees – get’ em high” he’d bark in his raspy voice, and Tally would count those of us with our hands raised, then he’d follow with hot tea and iced tea. The other anticipated event of the day was mail call when he’d pass out letters from home. Most of us had gotten so good at mimicking his voice that on at least one occasion someone yelled “mail call” from the lobby and the entire student body marched out of their study rooms.
Warner Avenue was a good-sized boulevard in the late ‘60s, but still had a rural, open feel. To the east of the school was Meadowlark Field, a private airfield from which novice pilots would infrequently taxi toward the school, but lift off a bit late, roaring over the building and sending Bill’s students to the floor. Bill would sit undaunted, however, used to this occasional commotion. The airport also had a breakfast and lunch counter and a short order cook who whipped up some dandy ham and eggs whenever we wanted something substantial to begin our day. Across the street was a liquor store where we all bought our cigarettes.
To the west at the corner of a strip shopping area was Jam’s Doughnuts. Jam was an Asian lady who owned the place and hired local high school girls to work the counter. One pretty waitress would save a custard-filled chocolate doughnut bar for me in case I’d go in. When I found that out, I went in more often. The girls were all friends with one another and spent their off hours at Jam’s too, maybe because there were lots of single guys from our school two buildings away. All of the surfer girls in the area seemed to drive 1962 Chevy Impalas and, being close to the Southern California coast and the Pacific Ocean, they all had blonde hair, bronze skin, bare feet, and beautiful reveals.
Between the school and Jam’s was an evening hangout for those requiring a more manly diversion. The Maple Room was a dark rustic saloon with an L-shaped bar and three or four pool tables under rectangular faux stained glass light fixtures. From the previous class was a hold-over; a young, thin, handsome lad with an Elvis-type mane known only as “Star” who clearly was the pool champ of the establishment. No doubt he was a hold-over from the previous class because he spent more time behind a cue than he did behind a school desk. The girls in the Maple Room were unlike those at Jam’s. They wore denim, had short, mousy hair, thin lips, and smelled like a Coors. A more sophisticated array of females could be found around the corner at the Roman Scandals, a classier watering hole, but with a brighter, more open ambiance and slightly less personality.
Among the several other interesting personalities at R.O.E.S. were two of my favorites: Tom Irwin and Tom Lowe. Tom Irwin was arguably Ogden’s most successful graduate and went on to have probably the longest radio industry tenure of all. He became Shotgun Tom Kelly, a popular rock jock in the Drake Chenault mold and a mainstay at KCBQ in San Diego where he’s occupied the time slot once held by the Real Don Steele for several years and presently at K-Earth radio in Los Angeles. Tom was, and is, easily among the most energetic and captivating of all radio guys I ever encountered.
Bill Ogden had the habit of standing in front of you with his legs slightly spread and his hands behind his back. As he conversed with you, he’d sway from side to side. Tom picked up the habit and I have a vivid memory of watching the two of them standing out in the parking lot behind the school having a discussion. They stood face-to-face and had become so engrossed in their conversation that neither realized that the dance had begun and that they were swaying in unison.
Tom Lowe, on the other hand, was interested in becoming a technical engineer. An engaging character and tremendously likeable, Tom had a learning disability and was having trouble getting through the Ogden sessions. He was from Ridgecrest and had spent more time at Ogden’s than anyone, something like four class sessions. I’m not entirely sure when he might have made it out, but Bill guaranteed that he’d work with anyone who enrolled at the same initial price for as long as it took.
Tom was part classmate, part mascot, and part unofficial employee (as so often happens, Tom became comfortable in the “home” he’d found at Ogden’s and came to regard his existence there as a job). Bill had given him the keys to the various rooms with the assignment to see that the place was locked up and secure each evening.
Tom was so playful and off-the-wall that it would have been difficult not to find him appealing. A few of us, including Jack Combs, another colorful character that I spent much time with, would take a willing Tom next door to the Maple Room where we shared pitchers of beer until Tom was loosened up. Jack would eventually begin to question him about his experiences with girls, but Tom would have none of that. “Frequency modulated broads,” according to Tom, were too much of a distraction.
As immersed as we were in our studies, we were mostly 20-somethings with an additional need to kick back. Occasionally, some of us would drive down to the beach at dusk with our guitars to make a bit of music or share radio dreams as we enjoyed the sunset and the phosphorescent waves breaking on the sand. For others, a trip to Tijuana across the Mexican border for some well-planned over-consumption usually resulted in a visit to more than just one strip club and perhaps, as in Larry McLeod’s case, a tattoo parlor. He remembered little of the actual experience, but seemed to walk quite slowly for the following two or three days.
The first of us, Rich Corgiat who had left his wife at home and was much more focused, successfully reached his goal within a mere four weeks. A few more were out after five or six. Pretty soon we were dwindling at the rate of three or four each week. I managed to keep up despite my struggles with math, but seemed to plateau before I was able to take the test for my second class license. While I was stalled, others were preparing for their first class exam. I watched Tony, then Bruce, and the others I’d shared a classroom with launch their careers and I began to feel anxious and inadequate.
My trip to the FCC to take my second class test occurred later than most of the others. Bill’s ritual was to meet with those who would be driving to Los Angeles early the following morning and give them parting instructions. We would be given scratch paper for our calculations, he’d tell us, but we were expected to turn those notes in with the tests themselves. We were to make sure they were neat, precise, and indicated that the answers were well thought out. We then lined up and Bill would present each of us with a gold pencil for taking the test and a final word of encouragement. In my case it was simply, “Give ‘em hell!” Bruce’s goal was to complete the exam with his pencil, but without having a need to use the eraser. I recall that he did. kept that gold pencil for several years and I would bet that there are some that exist even today.
Within a few days I received notification that I had passed my second class FCC exam. The big hurdle was behind me, but I had a deadline looming that I wasn’t sure I’d make. In mid-summer, I was to be best man at the wedding of one of my oldest friends, an event I simply couldn’t and wouldn’t refuse. I discussed my options with Bill who was not comfortable that I’d pass my first class exam in the short time remaining. He wasn’t yelling “frog,” and I’d learned very well not to jump until he did. Bill convinced me to hold off until after the wedding, then come back and join the following class session to finish up. I certainly didn’t want to be a hold-over, but fortunately the delay would only be a couple of weeks.
Jack had been struggling hard with his second class test scores and would also be returning following the brief hiatus. Bill wasn’t letting him loose until he felt Jack was ready. Somehow I made it down to meet him at his brother’s place and the two of us hitch-hiked the rest of the way to Huntington Beach. Tom Lowe was back too, with his keys to the building. But this was a new class session with new students in the classroom, again with the smokers on one side and the non-smokers on the other. One of them was Derek Waring, perhaps the most naturally talented radio guy I’ve ever met. He wasn’t a rock jock in the style of Shotgun Tom, but had an easy, natural style that I admired and hoped to develop.
I took my final test right around the time Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. That was on July 20th, the day before my 23rd birthday. That next evening, I stood alone near the cinder block wall that separated Ogden’s from the Maple Room parking lot and stared up at the near-full moon. It was a stunning moment for me to realize that, although I couldn’t actually see them, there were two men walking around on the moon’s surface. I was witnessing an historic event that I sensed was ushering in a new era and realized that I was about to enter my own new age of existence. A few days later, I would be headed home with my first class ticket to begin looking for work.
Much of the information herein was contributed by many of the students from across the country who know they were lucky to be a student of William B. Ogden. We are particularly pleased to locate and contact Bill’s niece Patty Porter and nephew Jim McDonald who contributed information and photo’s of Bill, Tally and Thora. Thank you very much.
Compiled by Bob Pinheiro
By Jim McDonald, Huntington Beach, CA. Bill Ogden’s Nephew.
The FCC First Class Radio Telephone (First Phone) examination was a very difficult test and required many hours of study to pass. The William B. Ogden Radio Operational Engineering School (ROES) was established in 1946 in Burbank, CA. offering a standard course of study lasting over a period of several months. However, at the request of broadcasters, and to meet the high demand for first class licensed operators, owner Bill Ogden converted his standard course in 1949 to a concentrated course (cram course) of 6- 8 weeks, 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Bill was the main instructor, his wife Tally and her sister Thora ran the office and Major (the collie) offered encouragement.
In 1966 the school moved to Huntington Beach, CA with the first class being held in the summer of that year. The school continued to operate until 1973 or 1974 when the FCC deregulated license requirements and Bill announced his retirement.
If you are an Ogden grad, please read and sign our guestbook and relive those memorable days at the William B. Ogden Radio Engineering School.
Much of the information here was contributed by many of the students from across the country who know they were lucky to be a student of William B. Ogden. We are particularly pleased to locate and contact Bill’s niece Patty Porter and nephew Jim McDonald who contributed information and photo’s of Bill, Tally and Thora. Thank you very much.
Now sit back and enjoy this trip and memories of the William B. Ogden Radio Operational school.
Thomas Joseph Irwin was a young man from San Diego. It wasn’t easy for Tom to pass the test for the FCC First Class License. He attended the William B. Ogden Radio school in Huntington Beach, CA. With help and encouragement from his classmates he completed the course and passed the exam in 1969. He went on to be one of the most successful Disc Jockeys in the Los Angeles and San Diego radio markets. He developed an on- the- air personality known as ShotGun Tom Kelly. Tom Kelly was
born on August 8, 1949 in San Diego and is a two-time Emmy award winner, Billboard Air Personality of the Year winnerand recipient of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Born in San Diego as Thomas Joseph Irwin, Kelly worked for several area radio stations including KDEO, KPRI, KGB, KCBQ, KOGO, KBZS and KFMB-FM before replacing the late Don Steele in the afternoon slot at Los Angeles oldies station KRTH-FM, K-Earth 101. In August 2015, Kelly was taken off the air and became KRTH’s “Ambassador,” doing personal appearances throughout Southern California.
He eventually returned to the air as a weekend host. Kelly exited KRTH in November 2016. In September 2018, Kelly debuted on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s ’60s On 6 channel. ShotGun and fellow graduate Neil Ross have become two of the most successful radio personalities whose careers were launched at Ogden’s Radio School.
In this video Shot Gun has some fun impersonating Bill Ogden with his “Pimple” parody.
As an A immigrant to this country, from Germany , I became a US citizen, in part, to someday try to fulfill a long held dream to own and operate a radio station. And in 1976, along with my wife, Anne, we decided to go ahead and file an application with the Federal Communications Commission to build and operate a new FM station that could serve the Modesto Market. Initially planning was to apply for a new Class-A FM frequency that was available in Manteca , CA.
However, while preparing the application we had the good fortune of contacting local Broadcast Consulting Engineer, Cecil Lynch, who made us aware of the potential of a better opportunity for a new station that would be licensed to Oakdale, CA. as a Full Power Class B FM station.
However this was the last available frequency and came with certain restrictive technical rule requirements that had to be met. Although meeting these conditions would shift and thus waste some of the potential coverage area it still would be capable of reaching the Modesto/Stockton and Merced Markets.
In 1979 Goldrush Broadcasting, Inc. was granted a Construction Permit by The Federal Communications Commission for a new FM station to be licensed to Oakdale , CA .
In 1984, Wally Heusser, who owned KKDJ in Fresno , CA was brought in as a partner. Together with his help we were able to finish construction in time to begin broadcasting equipment tests by spring of 1985.
KDJK 95.1 FM, Oakdale , CA officially hit the air March 11, 1985, programming from Studios/Offices located in Oakdale, and broadcasting from its site located up in the foothills west of Oakdale, with 30kw ERP from an antenna that is 1400′ above the valley. Listener response was immediate and positive. When the next market audience research surveys came out, KDJK was rated the new No.1 station in the market with the most listeners, adults 12+ (Arbitron Spr.’85).
For KDJK to debut at No.1 was unexpected. Competing stations were saying it’s a fluke, potential advertisers were being told to wait and see what the next ratings would show. In the meantime KDJK’s balance sheet continued to flow lots of red ink. Station operating costs were always a challenge and had to be met thru our own boot straps.
But after the initial ratings we knew we had a winner and things were going to turn around.
There was a lot more excitement when the next book came out and reaffirmed the new kid on the block was here to stay. For the next seven years business was good. By not having any major debt to service, revenues generated were able to be put right back into the station.
Investing in the latest state of the art technical equipment and providing competitive compensation with full benefits including profit sharing. Everyone at KDJK, whether in the sales, engineering, or programming always seemed to work well together as a motivated team that really cared about the success of the station. Occasionally the station would host out of town trips and activities for the entire staff. I think most would say it was a fun time to be working there.
In the meantime, Wally became associated with a new partner, together they wanted to put together and operate a group of radio stations. They went on to acquire several more stations, and incurred millions of dollars of debt in the process. Later this would lead to financial problems that would also come to affect KDJK. In 1990 we were compelled to buying out his interest in KDJK, in order to do so we had to assume a portion of the debt from his lenders.
Unfortunately it wasn’t long before KDJK faced a much more competitive market situation when two other stations in the market were programmed to go directly after our listening audience. This along with a deepening overall economic recession left us unable to service the loans under the repayment terms of the debt we assumed.
Over the next couple of years expensive litigation over FCC licensee rights and foreclosure proceedings followed. These legal battles were lost when a Federal District Court ordered the sale of KDJK and appointed a trustee to carry it out. The station was sold and transferred to new owners, Photosphere Broadcasting Limited in Dec.1994. About a year later it was sold again to Citadel Broadcasting.
Listener response was immediate and positive. When the next market audience research surveys came out, KDJK was rated the new No.1 station in the market with the most listeners, adults 12+ (Arbitron Spr.’85).
Other Stories and Features
KDJK, a dream come true
Aroma from Manstinka
Beaver Brown remembers KDJK
Fast Lane Clark & Mark Davis (1986)
Joe Gross obituary
What is payola? In the American music industry, it is the illegal practice of payment or other inducement by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on music radio, in which the song is presented as being part of the normal day’s broadcast. A radio station can play a specific song in exchange for money, but this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that playing of the song should not be counted as a “regular play.” The number of times the songs are played can influence the perceived popularity of a song.
The term Payola is a play on the words “pay” and “Victrola”, meaning to bribe to play on the radio Victrola was a phonograph made in the early 1920s by the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey, and became a word used for radio-phonograph combinations of all types with an enclosed listening horn or speaker in the cabinet, just as Kleenex is used for all facial tissue paper in a box. Payola means a bribe to influence the programming content of a broadcast radio, television or cable television program and is a federal misdemeanor.
HOW DID THE PAYOLA SCANDAL BEGIN?
It actually began in 1958, with the infamous “game show” scandals, in which federal investigators revealed that the wildly popular NBC- TV show “Twenty-One” and “$64,000 Question” were rigged. That scandal led to the investigation of similar practices in radio.
On January 25, 1960…the National Association of Broadcasters proposed that radio disc jockeys accepting payment from record labels for broadcasting particular songs would be charged a $500 fine and spend a year in prison. The practice, known as payola, had provoked an extensive investigation by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) .
In May 1960, disc jockey and TV personality Alan Freed, who coined the term “rock ‘n’ roll,” was arrested along with seven other people on suspicion of commercial bribery. Freed had refused to sign an affidavit in 1959, denying that he had accepted payola, which was not against the law at that time. He said he would accept a gift if he had helped someone, but he would not take a bribe to play a record. He was charged with 26 counts of commercial bribery, but got off with a fine.
Radio disc jockey Dick Clark, in testimony before a House subcommittee, denied involvement in the payola radio scandal of 1959 and 1960. Clark, one of the top two deejays in the country had much to lose, and quickly gave up all his musical interests when ordered to do so by ABC-TV. In testimony, statistician Bernard Goldsmith…brought in by Clark…stated that Clark had a 27% interest in records played in the past 28 months and those records had a 23% popularity rating. The committee was stunned as they wondered what came first the chicken or the egg.
Clark testified that the only reason he had gotten involved with those businesses were for the tax advantages. He admitted a $125 investment in Jamie records returned a profit of $11,900 and of the 163 songs he had rights to, 143 were given to him. When questioned about Jamie Records, it was discovered that Jamie paid out $15,000 in payola, but Clark denied ever accepting any. The committee clearly did not believe Clark…but he received a slap on the wrist. In fact, committee chairman Orin Hatch called Clark “a fine young man.”
THE SORDID HISTORY OF PAYOLA
In 2003, Cliff Doerksen of the Washington City Paper, wrote that payola isn’t really back – just back in the news. Payola has been a constant universal part of the economy of popular music for about 125 years, and the likelihood that legislators will be able to do anything constructive about it is about a high as the odds of winning the war on drugs. It was old when ragtime was new, and it still will be going strong long after rock ‘n’ roll has died. Generations of reformers have gone up against payola – and those few who have accomplished anything lasting have succeeded only in making things worse.
Turning a song into money requires repetitive exposure. No matter how infectious a tune might be, it won’t go anywhere with the masses until they get to hear it…a lot. Accordingly, a firm with a promising new number on its hands was obliged to prime the pump by paying to have the song performed until such time as popular demand for it became self sustaining and the bucks began rolling in a process known as “putting a song over.”
Prior to the advent of radio, song-plugging campaigns entailed the orchestrated outlay of cash bribes and/or other emoluments – a new suit or dress, some luggage, a case of liquor, a piece of the song royalties, the services of a prostitute – to flesh-and-blood performers. By far the most important of these were itinerant vaudevillians, who, once paid…would carry a publisher’s song clear across the continent, exposing it one performance at a time from the stages of hundreds of theaters to a cumulative audience of millions. The bigger the star, the more valuable were his or her services as a song promoter. Headliners working the big-time circuits stood to make as much or more from his song plugging as they did from their theatrical salaries. But smaller performers were also in line to receive their share of the graft. This was true even of performers whose talents were not primarily musical. Dancers, jugglers and conjurers, for example, worked to music…and music publishers found it worthwhile to assist them in selecting appropriate accompaniment for their acts.
On the local level, practically anyone involved in mediating between the music industry and the public stood to benefit from the largess of the publishers. Cabaret singers and dance bands were all on the take. But, so was the blind busker whose one talent was winding the crank of a wheezing curbside barrel organ; ditto the guy in charge of stocking the rolls in the coin-operated player piano in saloons and penny arcades.
There were a million other angles to the song-plugging racket, but the point stands: Payola was already a ubiquitous feature of urban life. It was also legal…although interpreted even then as a symptom of the ethical bankruptcy of those in control of the music industry.
THE PAYOLA SCANDAL AND RADIO STATIONS
Paying somebody to place a song before the public dates to the early days of the modern popular music industry. At the height of the scandal, Billboard magazine claimed that payola in various forms had been common during the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s and in the vaudeville business in the 20s. Be that as it may, payola on the scale that became apparent during the 50s was the product of a unique conjunction of circumstances – the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll, the introduction of the inexpensive 45 RPM single, radio’s shift to Top 40 music once television commandeered drama, postwar prosperity, and the arrival of teenagers as an economic force. In the 50s, records were taking over from live performance as the principle way to hear…and sell…music. Record industry moguls were well aware that teenagers had cash, loved rock ‘n’ roll, listened to the radio, and were easily stampeded into buying hit records by popular deejays.
The question was how best to exploit that fickle market. At the time, a major record company might release upwards of a hundred singles a week. Then, as now, maybe 10 percent of those would become hits, or at least make a profit for the label. Radio air play was the easiest way for an artist to get exposure and sell records, but with singles pouring into the stations at such a fast clip, labels needed a way to distinguish their songs from those of their competitors. Since this was before the era of MTV and slick promotions, bribery seemed the way to go. Record labels hired promoters who paid deejays to feature songs by favored artists.
Will the practice of payola continue? It’s debatable. It’s not common now, and with so many radio stations owned by conglomerates, there’s less opportunity for the local market deal making that was so prevalent in payola’s heyday.