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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Shotgun Tom Kelly – Broadcasting From The Sturgeon

In June of 2022 Modesto recognized  one of the “Power House” radio stations of the ’60s and ’70s. To many back then KFRC, The Big 610 was pumping out the hits for us from San Francisco because, truth be known, even though we were loyal to our local radio stations we would sneak over to 610 on the dial for our regular dose of Dr. Don Rose, Mike Novak, Bob Malik, Terry Nelson etc. After all some of these personalities were local guys and we had to support them, right?

Shotgun Tom Kelly is also a part of KFRC history and even though he is not a Modesto native he has strong ties to our community. Shotgun is best friends with KFIV’s Johnny Walker (Bob Neutzling) who was an on air personality at KFIV (K5) in the late ’60s, early ’70s. It was this connection that resulted in Shotgun Tom voicing the intros for the K5 disc jockies. Remember?

Shotgun Tom Kelly K5 Intro

Shotgun Tom is also connected to a number of Modesto DJs through Ogden’s Radio Operational Engineering School because they attended radio school together in the late ’60s. Through the years Shotgun has remained a good friend of ours and we are proud to say that he is a member of the Modesto Radio Museum.

Shotgun Tom and Modesto friends

We were excited to hear that Shotgun Tom Kelly was to be a part of the Modesto, 610 Day and that he was scheduled to broadcast from the historic KFRC, 610 Mobile Studio, the Sturgeon (it looks like a fish).

The Sturgeon in June 2022 during Graffiti Days celebration at the Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum
Shotgun Tom Kelly during Graffiti Days celebration at the Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum

Enjoy this video of Shotgun Tom broadcasting from The Sturgeon from Modesto in June of 2022. If you look closely you will see some of his biggest fans peering at him through the window.

Shotgun Tom Kelly – From the KFRC Sturgeon
video by Wes Page

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John Huey – How I Was Convinced To Go Into Radio

The “Midnight Honker” John Huey. He’s the KFIV on air personality that kept Modesto company through those long nights back in the late ’60s. John always boasts that he had better listener numbers from midnight till 6:00 AM than any other radio DJ in Modesto. He will also laughingly point out that  KFIV was the only station broadcasting from midnight to 6am back then.

We ran into John during the Graffiti Days celebration at the Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum in June of 2022. He took the mic as if he’d been doing it all of his life and proceeded to tell us the story of how he was convinced to go into radio by another well known Modesto radio personality.  Enjoy this video from the “Midnight Honker.”

Here’s the raw version of the KFIV jingle John Huey used:

 

JOHN HUEY – HOW I WAS CONVINCED TO GO INTO RADIO
video by Wes Page

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Mike Novak – How It All Began

Mike Novak at Modesto Junior College circa 1968

Mike Novak is hometown boy; he attended Thomas Downey High School class of 1967 and Modesto Junior College (MJC). It was at MJC  where Mike got an early taste of radio while participating  in radio broadcasting classes. Initially radio was not on the radar for Mike. He started out as an Agronomy major but tried radio at the suggestion of a friend. Not only did he like radio, he was good at it! In this video Mike will tell you first hand how it all began and where that first encounter with a radio microphone took him.

Mike Novak – How It All Began
(video by Wes Page)

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Ramona Rae Hansen-Saben (Salty’s Record Attic)

Ramona amongst her vinyl collection at Salty’s Record Attic

On Sunday morning December 1, 2013  Ramona passed away peacefully at home after a very courageous battle with cancer with her husband Craig and daughter Kathy by her side.

Born in Red Bluff, CA and raised in Sacramento she graduated from Grant Union High School.  Ramona became a business woman at a very young age, purchasing a small swimming school in Sacramento in 1961 and growing the business to be one of the largest swimming and diving schools and shops in Northern California.  She decided to semi-retire and sold the business, moving to Modesto in 1973.  Not one to do nothing, Ramona opened Salty’s Tropical Fish and Bird Store on 9th Street in Modesto in 1976.   She was always interested in music and movies, her father having worked for Columbia Studios for 37-years, so the store slowly morphed into what became Salty’s Record Attic.  Once again, she took the business from its early beginnings to being one of the largest collectable record and memorabilia stores in California.

Ramona worked with many people in music over the years including Wayne Newton which garnered her backstage and front row passes at many of his concerts and even a little walk aboard his plane.  She was thrilled.

Kathy Schroeder- Hansen (Daughter), Wayne Newton, Ramona and Craig . Photo courtesy of Kathy Schroeder-Hansen

Ramona’s daughter, Kathy Schroeder-Hansen loves to share the story of Ramona meeting Jerry Lee Lewis during his  Graffiti Days performance  years ago in Modesto. Kathy was working backstage doing interviews and although Ramona/Salty’s Record Attic was a sponsor Ramona did not have a backstage pass. Kathy “ducked her under the tape.” Jerry Lee Lewis was due to come out of his trailer any minute and there stood Ramona proudly clutching on to Jerry Lee’s very first picture sleeve. What better item to get a signature on?  My mom was not shy but when Jerry Lee came out of his trailer she froze, says Kathy. “I literally had to push her toward him.” Kathy said to Jerry Lee, “look what my mom has to show you.” Jerry Lee looked at the picture sleeve with a huge grin on his face and said, “Girl, where the hell did you get that?”  It was a priceless moment; one that Kathy says she will never forget.

Ramona Saben of Salty’s Record Attic with Jerry Lee Lewis at a Modesto Graffiti Days concert. Photo courtesy of Kathy Schroeder-Hansen

Kathy shares that there are many people to thank for the support that Ramona received over the last few years of her life – all the numerous friends who were right there, co-workers, the amazing people with Hospice both at Hospice House and the in-home nurses and caregivers who made her so comfortable in her last days at home.   Most importantly, Craig Saben her husband of 40-years, who should have been given the caregiver of the year award.  He was absolutely incredible in his care and compassion for Ramona. Craig passed away in August of 2016.

Maxon (Max) Sayre

Maxon (Max) Sayre

Max was born in 1919. He grew up in Waterford, California. He was bitten with the radio bug in 1933 when he was a Sophomore in high school. Max built his own radio set and the very first radio station he listened too was KTRB which, incidently, had just gone on the air in 1933.

After high school Max joined the Army Signal Corps and received what he described as a college equivalent education in radio. His education and experience prepared him for the Federal Communications Commission First Class Radio Telephone exam which he subsequently took and passed. After the Army he was hired by Bill Bates at KTRB. In addition to the engineering expertise that Max provided to KTRB, he built KTUR in Turlock and designed KROG in Sonora as well as numerous other radio stations up and down the valley.

Max is known to many local individuals who went into broadcasting because he was a mentor and radio instructor for fifteen years at Modesto Junior College. He retired from MJC in 1983.

Max and his bride Virginia were married for 30 years and made their home in Waterford. Virginia passed away in 2012, Max in 2004.

Max Sayre and Cal Purviance Interview

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Max Sayre and Cal Purviance Interview

Max Sayre and Cal Purviance had similar experiences which lead them both to careers in radio. In this video Max and Cal share those experiences with us. Both Max and Cal are gone now, Max died in 2004 and Cal in 2011 making this video one of the Radio Musemum’s  treasured “Solid Gold” memories.

Max Sayre and Cal Purviance Interview
video by Wes Page

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George Stevans Interview

George Stevans was a charter member of the Modesto Radio Museum Foundation. He worked for several radio stations including KTUR Turlock, KTRB Modesto, and was a News Director at KBOX in Modesto. George was also a freelance photographer for the Modesto Bee. Other employment included working for the General Electric 2 way radio dealer Mobile Communications owned by a friend and Ham operator Max Sayre call sign W6GYN.

George and Max formed West Side Radio and applied to the FCC for a Construction permit to build and AM radio station in Tracy, CA. Max was the Engineer and George was handling the FCC application and process. After nearly a 20-year effort they sold the application to the grandson of Boeing Aircraft for a radio station in the Sacramento area.

George had a talent for special projects ranging from legal document research, to assisting the well-known radio pioneer engineer Cecil Lynch. George finished out his working career as Administrative Assistant for his close friend Allen Woods call sign WA6OYF, 2nd generation owner of Al’s Certified Safe & Lock.

George passed away on August 6, 2019. He was 91 years old.

George Stevans Interview
video by Wes Page

 

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