F. Robert Fenton, 66

F. Robert “Bob” Fenton, former owner of KFIV in Modesto and several other radio stations in the state, passed away November 22, 1991 at the age of 66.  He bought KFIV in 1966 and created its sister Station K102-FM six years later.
KFIV Radio Station, Orangeburg Ave.

Mr. Fenton also owned other broadcast properties in the West,  including KMIX-KCEY in Turlock, KTOM-KWYT in the Monterey-Salinas area and a radio station in Oregon. Once known as one of the largest small-market owners in the Western States, Mr. Fenton sold his Modesto station in 1982, but remained active in the industry for many years.

He was a member of many organizations, including the California and National Associations of Broadcasters, the Modesto Rotary Club and the Del Rio Golf & Country Club.

Clifford Price, 69

Clifford (Cliff) Lloyd Price, a 29 year veteran broadcast engineer for KTRB Radio, died October 7, 1983 at a Modesto hospital following a short illness.  He was 69 years old.    Cliff was a native of Turlock and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.  He was KTRB’s chief technician from 1947 to 1968.  He lived in Modesto since 1956 and retired from broadcasting in 1968.
Cliff Price working on KTRB antenna.
Cliff was an avid amateur radio operator holding the call sign W6ERE.  He was also past president of the Stanislaus Amateur Radio Association.

Glenn Stepp

Glenn Stepp and his Western Swingsters were regulars on the California Hayride in the 1950s and were heard on KBOX, Modesto, CA. KFIV Modesto, CA. KLOC, CERES, CA (Glenn Stepp was also an on air personality on Chester Smith’s KLOC radio station playing the latest country and western records).
Glenn Stepp
Glenn Stepp, according to a 1954 article, was born and raised in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He came from a large family; he had 3 brothers and two sisters.
He got the musical bug at an early age, forming his first band called the Oklahoma Music Makers while in high school. The group played venues such as school dances, halls, rodeos. Speaking of rodeos, he also rode Brahma bulls and bare backed broncos as well.

Glenn entered the military service in June of 1948. He served with the Paratroopers of the 187th Regiment that was operating in Hikkido, Japan. While he was stationed at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, Glenn became one of the stars of the WKDA Hayloft Jamboree in Nashville, Tennessee.
He received his discharge from the military service after two years and went back home to Tahlequah. He decided to hitch up with the Oklahoma National Guard, 45th Division. This time is tour of duty took him to Japan and Korea. While stationed overseas, in addition to his regular military duties, he also had a group called the “Oklahoma Swingsters” that performed for the troops. He was also heard over AFRS out of Sapporo, Japan. When he received his discharge from the military service, this time he returned to Modesto, California to be near his folks.

In the middle 1950s, folks in the central valley of California near Modesto were said to have heard “Keep in step with Stepp” over the airwaves three times a day on radio station KBOX. In August of 1953, an ad we found shows that Glenn and his group was playing at the Oakdale Beer Garden in Oakdale, California. The ad also mentions that the steel guitar player for the band, Lemon Davis(sp?), who was formerly with T. Texas Tyler.
Glenn Stepp and his band were regulars at the Oakdale Beer Garden
Around the time the 1954 article ran, Glenn Stepp and the Western Swingsters were working regularly at the Fun Center in Riverbank, California, just up the road from Modesto. Glenn remained popular in the central valley. By 1957, he was a part of the cast of the television program, “Country-Western Time” that aired on Monday nights for 90 minutes over KOVR-TV, channel 13 in Stockton, California. Bill Ring, formerly of KWTO, Springfield, Missouri and Ozark Jubilee fame, was the show’s emcee. The station also featured other country and western themed shows such as the California Hayride and “Corral 13”, a sort of talent contest type show where the winner won a spot on the California Hayride. The grand prize winner was to receive a six-month engagement on the Hayride show and a weekend appearance at Riverside Rancho with Tex Williams and his band.

Roaming around the internet, we found the names of a couple of former members of Glenn Stepp’s band. One was Elmer Whittle, who was also from Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He was said to play guitar and did the lead vocals for Glenn’s group. According to the Western Swing Society’s write-up, this appears to be about the time they both returned from the military service the first time around. Elmer continued his career and was inducted into the Pioneers of Western Swing in 1999. Another member at one time or perhaps just appearing with Glenn’s band, during Glenn’s career in the central valley was Smokey Silver, born in Beggs, Oklahoma and later his family moved to Stockton, California 1942. He was also inducted into the Pioneers of Western Swing in 2006.

Credits and Sources:
Country Song Roundup; No. 34; September 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.

Country Song Roundup; No. 50; June 1957; American Folk Publications, Inc.
HillBilly-music.com

Heil Microphones

Bob Heil was an early pioneer in developing sound systems for the emerging rock music era back in the early 60s. This lead to starting his own company creating their own audio products including microphones.

Today Heil microphones are used in every kind of application from ham radio to top quality units for professional sound systems and pod-casters to commercial radio broadcast units. Since this is the Modesto Radio Museum site we will concentrate on Heil’s broadcast mics.


The two top-of-the-line broadcast mics are the PR 30 and PR 40…both are cardioid models that have found use in some top radio stations like KMOX in St. Louis among others.
The Heil PR 30 is slightly smaller than the PR 40 but is also an excellent broadcast quality unit. This one features a black finish with a red front screen.
Heil PR 40 in black mounted on it’s matching shock mount.
The Heil PR 40 is Heil’s deluxe broadcast model.

Heil also offers a mic in the style of the RCA 77D & DX that they have named the Heil 77D! It is not a ribbon mic but a high quality unidirectional dynamic unit.

The Heil “RCA” style called the 77D. It’s a dynamic rather than ribbon like the real RCA model 77s.
Heil designed his cardioid mics to be different than other manufacturers. He claims his unidirectional patterns reject off-axis sounds by up to 40 db. He also insists on a mid-high boost of around 4 db to give increased voice articulation for better speech intelligibility.
This model PR 781G has now been discontinued by Heil. It’s also a fine quality unit for broadcast or podcast or streaming use.
Below you can hear a demonstration of the Heil PR 781 microphone.
By the way, not many know that Bob Heil was an accomplished pipe organ player! He started doing this decades ago as a young man by playing movie theater pipe organs.

So we add Heil microphones to our Modesto lineup of high quality broadcast units.
Editor’s Note: Shortly after posting this article we learned of the passing of Robert “Bob” Heil founder of Heil Sound.  Bob passed away on Feb. 28, 2024 at age 84.   We send our condolences to the family and employees of Heil Sound.  Bob certainly had a great influence on the professional audio industry.

Wolfman Jack; Did He Work In Modesto?

Did Wolfman Jack work in Modesto? Did he work at KFIV?  These are questions that we are frequently asked at the Modesto Radio Museum. The answer to both is… no. The misconception that he was once a DJ in this area may stem in part from the George Lucas blockbuster film American Graffiti in which  Wolfman Jack’s voice is heard throughout as part of the film’s fabulous soundtrack. The fact that George Lucas singled out Wolfman Jack to also star in his movie gives us a clue as to who George may have listened to during his youthful days of cruising in California’s Central Valley. There is a scene in the film in which the Richard Dreyfus character, Curt Henderson, visits a radio station that closely resembled KFIV in those days; here Curt meets the man behind the voice, although he doesn’t realize who it is at the time.  Perhaps this scene also led people to believe that Wolfman Jack worked at KFIV in Modesto.

Wolfman Jack in the 1973 George Lucas film American Graffiti

It’s more likely however that folks tended to believe over the years that Wolfman Jack is from this area because he was on our radios a whole bunch in the ‘60s. We cruised to his voice and the music he played, laughed at his antics; We loved him, we imitated him, we accepted him as one of us, a seemingly local guy who knew how to tickle our wacky entertainment buttons. What we didn’t realize is that this scenario was unfolding in thousands of towns across the nation and around the world.

Wolfman Jack is not a stranger to Modesto. He made a few visits here to host Graffiti Fest concerts at Modesto Junior College stadium and was even seen at a movie premiere in our town, more on his visits shortly. In 1972 the owners of KTRB decided that on air personality Derek Waring would be called “The  “Godfather” during his show. Wolfman Jack was asked to do a drop-in voicer for the Godfather and he obliged. Derek has always regretted that the Wolfman didn’t say “Derek Waring…The Godfather” to make it a little more personal, given the thousands of Godfathers out there, but that’s show biz. One of Modesto’s former local talents,  Mr. Wonderful, Dave Holmes was once a producer for the Wolfman Jack Show in Southern California.

The Wolfman Jack Drop-in for Derek Waring, The Godfather on KTRB

Graffiti Fest ’88 at Modesto Junior College Stadium hosted by Wolfman Jack. (courtesy of Derek Waring)
Dave Holmes producing the Wolfman Jack Show.

Modesto Radio Museum member Greg Edwards who is a retired on air personality and former adjunct professor of broadcasting at Modesto Junior College remembers as a child scanning the radio dial and listening to distant radio stations. It was at this time in his life that he first heard what he describes as, “A wild DJ” named Wolfman Jack. He was broadcasting from Rosarito Beach, Mexico over station XERB and playing music that Greg had never heard before. In between records he would call listeners and ask them questions such as, “Are you naked?” XERB’s program listing showed Wolfman Jack filling the 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM slot and promoted him as, “The most unbelievable thing you have ever heard on the airwaves. It’s so different that word spreads like wildfire and people can’t help but listen to Wolfman Jack and his Wolfpack. The most talked about personality in America, both out in the audience and on other radio stations too.”

Wolfman on XERB, 1090 (courtesy of Greg Edwards)

Throughout his years in broadcasting Greg has met many VIPs but he says that meeting Wolfman Jack for the first time left an indelible impression on him. He remembers that it was in the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Wolfman was working for the Nashville Network on radio with an all-night country show that was broadcast across America. Greg walked past the Opryland Hotel studio window and… there he was! Greg was able to spend nearly an hour with the Wolfman watching the, “genius at work.” He was impressed with how “high energy” the Wolfman was while the microphone was open but how “laid back” he was when off the air. Wolfman’s approach to doing his show was, “If you ain’t sweatin’, you ain’t workin’.”

In the late ’80s and early ’90s Modesto held annual Graffiti Fest celebrations which included musical concerts and cruising. Greg tells us that although Wolfman Jack didn’t actually work at a radio station in Modesto, he did make some personal appearances during which he guest starred on Modesto’s air waves. On one occasion in 1990 he joined a remote broadcast over KOOK AM-970 which originated at Northern Tire and Wheel on McHenry Ave.

KOOK, 970 was formerly KHYV and KBEE in Modesto.

During his first encounter with Wolfman Jack in Nashville Greg couldn’t have imagined that they would meet again, but it happened. They met when the Wolfman was in Modesto in 1990 to emcee a Graffiti Fest concert. In 1993 and again in 1994 Greg was working for KAT Country 103 doing Graffiti Fest remote broadcasts from Save Mart Supermarkets;  The Wolfman showed up to visit with Greg on the air! He graciously answered questions and greeted the public. During one visit while introducing the Wolfman Greg recalls that he conjured up his best Wolfman impression which many of us have, some much better than others. Greg proceeded with his introduction by growling out, “How is your Boogaloo situation?” It was apparent from Wolfman’s facial response that he was not amused. Greg remained in good standing though; He even went on to work in the Wolfman’s personal security detail while he visited Modesto. Fortunately, according to Greg there were no situations that threatened Wolfman Jack’s security and Greg says that his job was pretty much to make sure that our esteemed guest got his favorite meals, greasy cheeseburgers.

Wolfman Jack and Greg Edwards doing a KAT Country live remote from Save Mart in 1994 (courtesy of Greg Edwards)
Greg Edwards with Wolfman Jack,1993 (courtesy of Greg Edwards)

Ok, so who was Wolfman Jack and where did he come from? Let us shed some light on these questions. The Wolfman will assist us at the end of this story by also responding to these questions, in his own words. He even throws out some mentions of Modesto in the process!

The person who was to become Wolfman Jack was born Robert Weston Smith in Brooklyn, New York January 21, 1938. As a young man he was a Rhythm and Blues music kind of guy; He listened very closely to the radio announcers of the day making note of the music they played and their particular gimmicks and deliveries on the air. The ear catching names that made them unique in the field of early radio entertainment were not lost on this fledgling radio announcer. It’s conceivable that at this point Robert Westin Smith gave some thought to what name he would use if he were a DJ.

It was in the late ‘50s that Robert Smith made the move toward a career in broadcasting when he enrolled in the National Academy of Broadcasting (NAB) in Washington D.C. He graduated in 1960 and went to work for WYOU in Virginia using the name “Daddy Jules.” When WYOU changed formats he changed his name to “Roger Gordon and Music in Good Taste.”

In 1962 it was on to country music in Shreveport, Louisiana at station KCIJ where Robert Smith became “Big Smith with the Records.” It was at KCIJ that the Wolfman Jack moniker was first heard by radio listeners. Robert “Big” Smith, soon to become Wolfman Jack especially liked DJ Alan Freed who called himself “Moon Dog.” Freed would use a recording of a howling dog during his broadcasts and this left quite an impression on the budding radio star. Big Smith began calling himself Wolfman Jack and created his own unique library of sound effects to bolster his new radio identity. Sound effects that eventually would forever be associated with the Wolfman Jack character. Incidentally the name “Wolfman” came from a love of horror movies and “Jack” came from the lingo of the day where people would refer to each other as “Jack,” for example, hit the road Jack.

The Wolfman Howl (courtesy of Greg Edwards)

Wolfman Jack grew from local recognition to national prominence in 1963 when he became involved with a radio station XERF just across the border in Mexico. Radio transmitters in Mexico didn’t have the power limitations of U.S. stations and could operate at many times the power. The Wolfman Jack show was introduced to people all over the continental United States and even some foreign countries. In the mid 1960s Wolfman Jack would tape his shows in Hollywood and then ship the tapes across the border to be broadcast on radio station XERB.

Wolfman Jack Show Opener (courtesy of Greg Edwards)

In August, 1973 Wolfman Jack began working at WNBC in New York; That was the same month that American  Graffiti premiered. He worked there for a year before returning to California in 1974 to work on his syndicated radio shows. In 1989 Wolfman Jack moved to Belvidere, North Carolina to be nearer his family.

Greg Edward’s American Graffiti poster signed by the Wolfman, 1993 (courtesy of Greg Edwards)

At the height of his popularity Wolfman Jack was heard on more than 2,000 radio stations in 53 countries. On July 1, 1995 the world lost Wolfman Jack   when he suffered a heart attack; He was 57 years old. Robert Weston Smith, the Wolfman was laid to rest in the family cemetery in Belvidere. His headstone reads, “One more time,” “Clap for the Wolfman,” and “ooOOOWWWW.”

Picture to Greg Edwards from Wolfman Jack, 1993 with little Wolfies drawn by the Wolfman (courtesy of Greg Edwards)

Wolfman Jack Closing A Show (courtesy of Greg Edwards)


In His Own Words

Here’s a 1990 interview with Wolfman Jack at Canadian Music Week in Toronto, Canada in which he describes in his own words how he became  the Wolfman.

(The above Wolfman clip was edited for this article but is available in it’s entire one hour format by clicking here. )

– The Modesto Radio Museum has drawn on information from Wikipedia and from the Wolfman Jack 1990 interview at Canadian Music Week to compile this article. Many thanks to our friend Greg Edwards for his recollections, pictures, and audio contributions.  If you have memories of  Wolfman Jack that you would like to share please leave them in the comments section below.

– Derek Waring

Remembering KDHS – Kenn Shearer, Student

 

Steve Falconer (standing) & Kenn Shearer at the controls of KDHS.

KDHS was an enigma to the general listening audience when it emerged on the Modesto airwaves on September 5, 1969. The station was licensed by the FCC to the Associated Students of Thomas Downey High School. The offices, studios & transmitter were located between rooms 50 & 51 at the high school. KDHS had the distinction of being the only high school radio station in the Modesto area, as well as one of the few high school radio stations in the entire country.

With Ron Underwood as the faculty advisor, KDHS was entirely student owned & student run. The radio broadcasting class was worth 1 credit as a vocational art. Its non-commercial, educational programming consisted of campus news, Downey High School Sports (especially football & basketball), special informational features, and a wide variety of popular music ranging from Rock & Roll to Jazz to Contemporary Christian.

 

KDHS student Carlene Scimeca
Rick Maze at the KDHS radio board

The original 4.5 watt transmitter served the station and the Modesto area quite well. In December of 1969, the station acquired a new 10 watt Sparta transmitter which enabled KDHS to be heard as far away as Riverbank, Empire, & Ceres. In 1972, Ron Underwood left Downey and took a teaching position at Beyer High School. There, he launched KBHI 88.9 FM, the second high school station in Modesto. Burt Vasche’ became the new faculty advisor at KDHS.

Since its inception, the student council had agreed to fund the radio station at a cost of $2,500 per year. This took care of most of the operating and repair costs. The students also sold local area businesses a “Booster Package” which consisted of a KDHS window sticker, and a “mention” on the air. Since the station was non-commercial, it could not run paid-for ads. Rather, it would mention a business in the same manner that most PBS stations do, (“Funding for this program provided by …”).

Bill Hines cues up a record at KDHS
KDHS student Sherry Corbin

Life went on at the little high school station until 1978. It was that year that 3 separate events signaled the start-of-the- end for KDHS:

Event #1…It was decided by the school district that the 1 credit radio broadcasting class would be discontinued at the end of the school year. Students would be allowed to continue broadcasting as an extra-curricular activity, but would not receive any class credit for their efforts. Graciously, Burt Vasche’ remained the faculty advisor for anyone who wanted to participate. It is believed that he did this without any pay or compensation from the school or district.

Event #2…The passage of Proposition 13, the Jarvis-Gann initiative, affected property taxes throughout the state, and in turn, dramatically reduced school funding. Athletic programs, the Arts, and extra-curricular activities took the biggest hit. In lieu of this shortfall, it was decided by the student council that they could no longer afford to continue to fund the station. The yearly stipend was immediately eliminated; however, the school continued to pay for the basic electricity used to keep the station on-the-air.

Event #3…While the station & students were reeling from the loss of funds, the FCC delivered the biggest blow by deciding to abolish all Class “D” FM stations (specifically, those operating at 10 watts). An overabundance of these low-powered, mainly high school & college radio stations were cluttering up the FM band, particularly in the 88-92 MHz range. An ultimatum was issued by the FCC; either increase your power to 100 watts, or leave the air. KBHI decided to do the latter. With no money for a new transmitter, no funding from the school, and a sharp decline in booster participation, KDHS was prepared to sign off for the final time. Instead, the station looked at a third option…one the FCC overlooked. KDHS decided to emulate KRJC, the AM station at Modesto Junior College. The transmitter was output reduced to 1 watt, and KDHS became a “Campus Carrier”. The signal could barely reach the outer edges of Downey Park to the north, and if you were more than 100 feet off campus, the signal was entirely lost. Furthermore, this meant that there was no protection by the FCC if a more powerful station petitioned to operate at the 90.5 FM frequency. Literally, on life support, the station remained on-the-air. The staff knew there was absolutely no money for repairs.

With the loss of the “1 credit class”, student participation had dwindled to a handful of believers. The listening audience at one time probably consisted of only one listener…the DJ on-air.

KDHS remained on the air until the spring of 1983. The once powerful 10 watt transmitter fell into severe disrepair and was unable to even crank out the single watt needed to remain on the air. The staff numbered less than 10, and the school insisted on reclaiming the office & studio space for a teacher preparation area. KDHS was officially gone.

When the license was allowed to expire, the Seventh Day Adventist Academy in Ceres petitioned the FCC in 1987 to acquire the 90.5 FM frequency. KADV, Your Christian ADVantage was launched in 1989. However, the call letters would not fade into obscurity. They were later claimed by Delta High School in Delta Junction, Alaska. In June of 2002, the FCC granted a license to KDHS-LP, a 100 watt high school station, which broadcasts at 95.5 FM, and on the internet.

Editor’s note: Kenn Shearer now lives in Tulsa, OK.

Remembering KDHS – Ron Underwood, Speech Instructor/Advisor

Remembering KDHS – Jeff Cree, Student

Remembering KDHS – Angie Decker Allen

Remembering KDHS – Mike Green, Student

Remembering KDHS – Les Simar, Student

Remembering KDHS – Ross Rumsey, Student

The Fillmore Auditorium

Memorabilia and Memories
of The Fillmore Auditorium
by Kathy Hansen

Museum Note:   Kathy Hansen, a member of the Modesto Radio Museum, has a lifelong connection to music. Her mother, Ramona Rae Hansen-Saben, owned Salty’s Record Attic in Modesto.  The cards shared in this article are from Kathy’s private collection.

The Fillmore, 1968
The Fillmore’s last show, 1968

The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco played host to some of the most iconic bands and performers of the60’s. The Fillmore was built in 1912, at the corner of Geary & Fillmore, and was originally the home of the Majestic Hall and Academy of Dance. In 1936, it became the Ambassador Dance Hall. Then, in 1939, the name again was changed to the Ambassador Roller Skating Rink. In 1954, a successful business man by the name of Charles Sullivan began booking bands and the name became The Fillmore Auditorium.

In 1965, Sullivan let Bill Graham use his dance hall permit to book a benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troop and that is were the Fillmore history began

Jefferson Airplane performed the first nonbenefit concert at the Fillmore, playing February 4,5 & 6 1966. They would follow up that concert two weeks later, by playing with Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin. They headlined several more times at the Fillmore.
Jefferson Airplane was the first non-benefit concert held at the Fillmore

But a lot more than music came out of the walls of the Fillmore. There were the posters. If you are lucky enough to still have an original poster from those days, you have something really special.

Yards Birds – Doors,  James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens 1967 Artist – Bonnie MacLean #75 Postcard
Not only are the posters collector items because of the artists who appeared on them but also, in some cases, because of the artists who designed them. The artist who designed most of the psychedelic posters from February 1966 until May of 1967 was Wes Wilson. He geared the art toward the audience who would be attending. Some posters were inspired by his own experiences with LSD. He had a loosely exclusive arrangement with Bill Graham during that time but money disputes apparently caused them to part ways.
Paul Butterfield Blues Band, CREAM, South Side Sound System 1967 Artist—Bonnie MacLean #79
American Flag, American Music Band (Mike Bloomfield Guitar and Buddy Miles on drums), Moby Grape, Steve Miller Blues Band, South Side Blues Band 1967 Artist—Bonnie McLean #77

Wes Wilson (July 15, 1937 – January 24, 2020) was the father of the 60’s rock concert psychedelic posters. Between 1966 and 1968, Wes would complete 56 posters for Bill Graham. There is a popular story that Graham liked Wess first poster but he couldnt use it because the text was not legible and supposedly Wes replied, Theyll stop to read it because they cant read it.There began his stint with Graham.

The Mystery Trend, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Family Tree, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Gentlemen’s Band, Great Society, The Skins March 18 – 19 – 20, 1966.  Artist Wes Wilson BG-2
Grateful Dead, Big Mama Mae Thornton, Tim Rose, Country Joe Dec 9 – 10 – 11, 1966. Artist  Wes Wilson BG – 41
The posters also took on other forms. When you walked into a show, you were not only greeted with Welcome to the Fillmore but were given either a miniature 5 x 7 Play Card of the poster or a post card.

Jefferson Airplane Sept 14 – 15 1970 Fillmore West.  Artist – Pat Hanks Play Card
In 1968, due to the deterioration of the surrounding neighborhood, Bill Graham abandoned the Fillmore Auditorium.   In July of that year, Graham took ownership of the Carousel Ballroom on South Van Ness Ave.
It operated under the name the Fillmore West. He also had Fillmore East in New York Citys East Village. Both venues were closed in July of 1971 as the use of larger arenas grew in popularity.

The Fillmore continued on with a few different names: The New Old Fillmore, The Elite Club which became a venue for punk rock shows. It was reopened in the mid-‘80s under Bill Grahams management but closed again in October of 1989 after the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the building. After Graham was killed in the helicopter crash in 1981, it was reopened in 1994 after a Retrofit with The Smashing Pumpkins playing a surprise show. It is now leased and operated by Live Nation, a subsidiary of iHeart Media.


* Do you have memories of The Fillmore?  Please feel free to share them in the following comments section.


Top 40 Radio Northern California

Dan Adams of KXTV 10 produced this story of Stockton and Sacramento Top 40 radio stations from days gone by; a time before corporate programmers dictated what to play and when to play it; a time when DJs had control and could make or break a record. Then things began to change. In 1966 there was a monumental shift and radio would never be the same again.

Top 40 Radio Northern California
Video by Dan Adams

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Kent Whitt and the Downbeats


Kent Whitt and the Downbeats was the first Modesto area rock ‘n’ roll band. Members of the band included Kent Whitt on drums, Bob DeLeon on Keyboard, Danny Toledo on Sax, Bill Gross on Bass, and Connie Hightman on Guitar. Kent Whitt and the Downbeats first formed to play school dances at Modesto High  and then became a popular draw in the area, playing the California Ballroom and the Fable Room as well as high school gyms.

Kent Whitt and the Downbeats played the California Ballroom, the Fable Room as well as many high school gyms.

The band developed quite a name for itself and in December of 1963 was invited to participate in a USO tour to entertain troops in Alaska, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, and  Vietnam. It was a five month tour which lasted until May, 1964.  While in Vietnam three members of the band got notice that he had been drafted.

In 2021 during an open house at the Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum Kent Whitt agreed to an interview with the Modesto Radio Museum.  Enjoy as he shares his memories with you.

Interview with Kent Whitt
video by Wes Page

Memories of Terry Nelson – Constance Nelson and Tricia Nelson-Milburn

Terry Nelson’s radio career began at KFIV in Modesto and from there he made stops at numerous radio stations across the country sharing his lovable sense of humor and his sharp wit. His laugh was infectious; he was the kind of guy that people wanted to hear everyday so they could get their Terry Nelson “Fix.”

The KFIV crew during Terry’s early days of radio.

The Modesto Radio Museum’s Derek Waring has been working closely with Constance Nelson, Terry’s wife and his daughter Tricia Nelson-Milburn to digitize many of Terry’s old airchecks and preserve these memories within The Modesto Radio Museum Website. Many thanks to Constance and Tricia for allowing us the opportunity to share samples of Terry Nelson’s radio career with our Modesto Radio Museum visitors.

Derek Waring with Constance Nelson, Tricia Nelson-Milburn and “cardboard Terry”

Constance and Tricia attended the Modesto Graffiti Days celebration in June of 2022 along with what they lovingly refer to as “cardboard Terry” which is a cardboard picture of Terry Nelson that was used to fill a seat at the Oakland A’s games during the COVID 19 shutdown. Terry was a big A’s fan. Cardboard Terry is now frequently seen beside Constance and Tricia at special events.

Terry Nelson

Terry passed away peacefully at home on May 26, 2020. There are many wonderful stories about Terry Nelson; Derek had the pleasure of asking Constance and Tricia to each share a personal favorite of theirs with us.

Memories of Terry Nelson – Constance Nelson and Tricia Nelson-Milburn
video by Wes Page

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