I suppose I first became interested in radio back in the late 50’s when I would visit KTRB and sing on the Tots ‘N Teens program with my cousins John and Cheryl Wylie. I recall how friendly Cal Purviance was and also remember Glenn Staley who played the piano. But most of all, I remember how much the studio intrigued me. This was show business! I often wish that I would have had the chance to be involved during radio’s heydays when major productions were done in the studios.
My desire to pursue radio also got a boost from the visits that I made to Bob Pinheiro’s home as a child. Bob who is now the Modesto Radio Museum Webmaster lived near me. He was, and still is, very much into Ham Radio and he happily shared his knowledge with me. Little did he know that he was lighting a fire that would lead me into broadcasting. I also recall riding the bus to school while attending La Loma Junior High School and listening to Bobby Barnett, Gary Culver, and Fred Green on KFIV. I thought, man this stinks; I have to go to school and these guys are having a blast talking and playing music on the radio.
I became seriously interested in the field of broadcasting as a profession while a student at Modesto Junior College (MJC). Originally I had planned to major in Journalism but happened to visit the MJC radio station one day. I was hooked! My professors during those early days had a big influence on me, Bill Hill, Sid Woodward, Max Sayre, Harley Lee, and Donald Rowe. They really laid down a good foundation for me.
While I was attending MJC I obtained my Radio Telephone Third Class license and worked at KSRT, Stereo 101, a small station in Tracy, CA. There was an older fellow at KSRT, Ken Hill, who took me under his wing and mentored me. I’ve always been thankful for the direction that Ken gave to me at a time that I was pretty green and didn’t really have a clue. After our stints on the air Ken and I would go fishing in the Delta Mendota canal and he would answer all my questions about radio. Ken, wherever you are, thanks. I don’t really know how many listeners I had while at KSRT. I do know that my mom loved my show!
After returning from Ogden’s in 1969 Bob De Leon, who was program director at KFIV (K-5), hired me.
I started on the all night shift but eventually worked all of the time slots. I had some great times at K-5 at a time that the station was the only Top 40 rocker in the area. Some of the individuals with whom I had the privilege of working were Bob De Leon, Johnny Walker (Bob Neutzling), Tony Townsend (Tony Flores), Roy Williams, John Huey, Mark Taylor (Mark Holste), Mike Shannon, and John Chappell. Bob Fenton was the owner of K-5 at that time and when he spoke to us we were always referred to as “Kid.”
My favorite times at K-5 were when I got to count down the weekly top 40.
There are also some funny stories that I could never share in public. Bob De Leon and I left K-5 at about the same time and went to KTRB. I think this happened around 1972. KTRB was an adult contemporary format which allowed us to insert more of our personalities into our programs. Bob Lang was doing mid mornings at KTRB, Tim St. Martin was doing the news, Cal Purviance was doing early mornings, Bob De Leon did the afternoons, and I had the evening shift. Don Schneider was doing mobile news from his car we called the “porcupine” because of all of the antennas. We even had an occasional report from the air. These were really good times in radio. I felt that the station was part of the community and we were part of a broadcasting team. Sam Horrell was the program director at the time. Sam’s influence created an atmosphere of camaraderie at KTRB.
I have fond memories of Bob Lang interviewing my daughter Kristy on the air. She was a toddler at the time. Not only were the on-air personalities close, there was a special relationship with the sales staff and the front office personnel. We were a family. Around this time I also worked weekends at KJOY in Stockton. I remember getting off the air at KTRB at 11:00 p.m. driving to Stockton and going on the air at 12:00 midnight at KJOY working until 7:00 in the morning. My drives home after getting off were quite interesting. I’m happy to still be here.
In the mid 70’s KTRB was sold and the program changes that were made had a “not so positive” impact on the image and the morale of those working at KTRB. The on-air personalities were made to change their names. Bob Lang became Big Ben Boulder, Bob De Leon became Johnny Gunn, and my new name was the Godfather. Radio had changed; it was becoming impersonal and moving further away from its local audience. I can’t say that these developments single handedly pointed me in a different direction as far as my career was concerned but they played a major role. I went back to college and followed a path that eventually led to being a college administrator. Along that path I did work as a part time disk jockey for top 40, country, and talk radio because radio was in my blood, and it still is after these many years.
Here is a sample of Derek on the air: