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 continued as a traditional news broadcaster. The station caters to women in the 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 used to. It’s the hours. In order to get to work on time, he has to get up at 3:45 AM although he doesn’t get to bed before 11:00 PM. Afternoon naps are a wonderful thing.
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 a 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, 1999. Bill Slayter publisher)