Working at 95/KDJK radio was probably the best years of my life. It not only gave me the freedom to do on the air whatever my creative heart desired. It also helped introduce me to the woman I would marry and gave me a lifetime of memories in such a short period. I would never have imagined all the things that happened to me would begin on a ride home from an Oakland’s A’s game.What would your reaction be to waking up at 3:45 AM, Monday through Friday, five days a week to go to work? The vast majority of people would hate it, but I loved it and I would go back to doing it again if I had the chance. The alarm would go off and I would get ready. On the way in I would stop at the Oakdale 7-11 for coffee and newspapers and be at the KDJK studios usually around 4:45 to 5 AM.
After perusing the papers for anything interesting to talk about that day I would get to work. I normally made my riff for “Name that Riff” at that time if we were playing that day. Put together any sound effects or something to enhance a bit I had in mind. The overnight guy would sign off at 5:45 AM and I would take the seat in the control room segueing out his last songs. At 6 AM I would hit the cart with the prerecorded intro, that music and the voice of Don Pardo started each show. When Don was finished the music began and it was time for another edition of the Beaver Brown and Richard Perry show.
You never knew what you were going to hear, literally. Besides playing the best music Richard and I had very few restrictions on the subject matter we put on the air. We had four breaks an hour for talk, news, and commercials. I would play parody songs and comedy bits between regular songs. This was morning radio as we knew it. Not the chuckle bunch club like other morning shows at the time. It was raw, hilarious, and yes sometimes way over the line of good taste. It was a radio show that couldn’t air in today’s politically correct world. But man I miss it.
So let’s go back to how I got on KDJK’s airwaves. It actually started before that fateful trip home from a baseball game. You see a couple of years earlier I was working at KYOS in Merced. I got to know some of the jocks at KKDJ in Fresno and secured a weekend show down there. Talk going round the station was there was going to be a new rock station going on the air in Modesto. I asked a lot of questions and told the person who was going to be the program director of the new station to call me when it was going on the air. He assured me that I would be contacted about a job. Well that never happened.
The supposed PD didn’t take the job; I left KKDJ, and continued working at KYOS. One of the jocks at KYOS came in to work buzzing about the new rock station in Oakdale around March of 1985. It was KDJK, the station I was supposed to have been called about a job. I began to listen to 95 and heard a few familiar voices. Mark Davis who I knew from KKDJ was there. So I threw an air check together but never sent it to KDJK. Why, I don’t know. That Sunday afternoon when I was driving back from Oakland I flipped on 95 and Mark (who was 95’s Music Director) was on the air.
When I got home to Merced I called the request line and talked to him about the station, was there any jobs open, etc. He told me to get a tape up to the PD Jerry Longden because they needed weekend jocks. I drove the tape to KDJK the next day (Monday), was interviewed by Longden on Wednesday, and was on the air that Saturday. I was on the air for two weekends when I was asked by Longden, “Have you ever thought about doing a morning show?” I said yes, he asked if I wanted to go full time doing the morning show 6 to 10 am. I said yes again and that’s how it happened. I told KYOS I was quitting, moved to Oakdale and was the new morning guy at 95/KDJK.
When I say I was the Morning Guy at KDJK that’s it, I worked alone. No news person, no AP wire for news, just me. I got my news from the four papers I received every morning. I prerecorded bits in the production room while I was on the air. This was also the time when all the music was on vinyl. KDJK had only two turntables in the control room. If I wanted to play a comedy bit from an LP I would have to start it, take off the other album, cue up the next song and have it ready to go before the bit was finished.
There were some close calls, especially when I played Name That Riff or the other games. I had borrowed all my parents Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass albums to use as theme music on the air. The first character I came up with on the show was Saul Goldrushstein. He was a very bad standup comedian with a heavy Jewish accent and no self confidence. His name came from our company’s name Goldrush Broadcasting. Saul’s constant gig was at the Hickman Howdy Club, which was a real bar in Hickman. It’s not there anymore. Rocko Rizzo the sports guy came next. Every morning at 7:45 am Rocko would talk sports in a very thick Brooklyn accent. Most days he would be joined by Don Miller who was the GM of the Stockton Ports. Rocko and Don would talk about the Ports, sports and Don’s beloved Philadelphia Flyers. The mornings would go fast because I had to do everything alone.
It wasn’t until Richard Perry was hired that the show hit its stride. Richard and I had worked together at KYOS and I had tried several times to get him on at KDJK. When Jerry Longden was fired as PD at 95 (Maybe I‘ll write that whole story at a later date)
Richard came on board as Production Director and morning show co host/news guy. I then became Music Director and Mark Davis was elevated to PD. It’s hard to explain but Richard and I had this natural chemistry. It was almost like we could read each other’s minds. If one of us brought up a subject the other always seemed to have a good line to finish it. Unlike other morning show people we each knew when the best line had been used and it was time to shut up. I would turn off the mic after a talk set and howl with laughter hoping our listeners were doing the same. We really didn’t want to sit there and laugh like idiots on the air. Thus the term we used for most of our competitors, “The Chuckle Bunch Club”. To this day I still think Richard is one of the funniest people I have ever known.
I did leave KDJK for a time in 1988. I took the job as Music Director at a weekly rock trade paper called “The Hard Report.” It was based in Medford Lakes, New Jersey about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia and run by a man named Bill Hard. There I worked 4 days a week 10 to 12 hours a day putting out this weekly tip sheet for radio. I left after four months, promises had been made, not kept, and well Jersey ain’t no place for a California Boy. Since they hadn’t replaced me at KDJK I came back to my old slot. No fan fare or hoopla on my return it was just like I hadn’t been gone.
In 1990 I was nominated and won the Billboard Magazine Rock Radio Air Personality of the Year Award for small market rock stations. How I got nominated is still a mystery to me. Probably because of my time at The Hard Report and all the radio and record folk I had come in contact with. It was cool, got my face in the paper, got to go to Boston and pick up the award. I was just happy that the station was getting free publicity.
One of the things I loved about our station was the freedom to be creative. Richard and I would write parody songs and our biggest hit was “though the smell isn’t there anymore the memory lingers on. The station got more free pub from this take off of Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” than any of us ever expected. The front pages of The Modesto Bee and Stockton record plus stories on two different Sacramento TV stations. We even made a music video thanks to the Modesto Cable company, Post-Newsweek Cable at the time. Even the other radio stations in town were getting calls for it after that. Our version of “Welcome to McDonalds”, a parody of Guns and Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle” was played nationally thanks to a syndicated comedy service. I will be sending the Museum a lot of the parody songs and comedy bits in the future.
Paradise can’t last forever and for 95/KDJK and its staff that was the case. When the station went into receivership and was then sold a Modesto Radio era ended. The child Joe and Anne Gross had birthed in 1985 was ripped from their bosom and sold to the highest bidder. The format was changed and that was that. I hung on until August of 1995 when I was fired. The article on the front page of the Modesto Bee business section told my tale. It also told some untruths about me for which I was later compensated.
Since the demise of the original 95/KDJK there has never been and probably never will be another radio station like it in Modesto or the area. We were proud to introduce new bands and artis ts to the Valley. Proud to be original and different. KDJK raised the bar for radio in this area when it came on the air. That makes me proud to have been part of that. I will long remember names like, Ron Garrett “The California Fun Boy”, Smudge, Spot the Dog, The Mason Man, Mark Davis, Matt Price, Joni Green, ”The Big Man” Tony Chastain, Fast Lane Clark, Randy Maranz, and Richard Perry. Thanks to anyone and everyone who listened and enjoyed what we did.