KBEE-FM a New Age In Modesto Radio

Researched & written by Bob Neira

Living in a time when any listening spectacle imaginable can be found, it's hard to believe that the advent of FM radio had such an impact on Valley listeners.

But, such was the case back in the afternoon of April 3, 1948 when KBEE-FM began broadcasting. It was not heard in stereo back then, since that mode of broadcasting was virtually unknown at the time. Modesto pioneer broadcaster George Stevens tells us that KBEE was not even the first FM station to broadcast in this area; that honor went to KGDM in Stockton.

However, KBEE was the first FM station in Modesto. It was located in the newly- remodeled former Capitol School site at 14th and I Streets, adjacent to the old Modesto Bee newspaper plant.

During that memorable day, dozens of radio enthusiasts and just plain curious folks attended the official "sign-on" ceremonies at the station at 2 PM. Local luminaries included Modesto Mayor Carl Shannon, Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Chairman Leo Hammett and Harry Marks, President of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.

At exactly 2 o'clock, listeners both in the audience and on the air heard: "This is KBEE, the Modesto Bee station...broadcasting at 103.3 megacycles or channel 277. KBEE is owned and operated by the McClatchy Broadcasting Company." The opening remarks were preceded by a catered luncheon for invited guests and a prayer by Joe Tomes, of the McClatchy Broadcasting programming division.

The broadcast culminated months of frantic preparation by McClatchy Broadcast engineers and technicians from Sacramento. Stevens stated that when KBEE originally went on the air, it was staffed by only two people---chief engineer- announcer Bart Hancock and announcer-technician Granville Each. Bill Endicott was named the station manager. The station was on the air only from 3 to 9 Pm daily, but later expanded the operation. Steven further said that the first newscast on KBEE-FM was at 6 PM, written by a reporter from the Modesto Bee copy department and delivered to the station at 5:45 PM.

Under McClatchy Broadcasting ownership, KBEE-FM was most successful in the late 70s and early 80s with its "Beautiful Music" format. The easy listening music was one of the consistently-top leaders in the Arbitron ratings for many years.

McClatchy sold KBEE-FM, along with its sister station KBEE-AM to Price Broadcasting in Utah in 1983. Both stations were again sold in 1992 to Citadel Broadcasting.

KBEE- FM Celebrates 25 years on the air.

1- Levaun Stratas, 2 -Joly Boynton,  3- Bob Mohr, 4- Fred Schoonmaker,  5- Stan Aronson  6 - Gary Gibson  7- Jack Stevenson  8- Charlotte Keller 9- Jerold Rosenthal 10- Bob Neira 11. Dottie Bittick 12- Maryco McGrane.

1973 Photo of KBEE AM and FM  master control room at newly renovated studios next to the Modesto Bee in downtown Modesto. L-R  Joel Shorr announcer-technician,  Fred Schoomaker announcer-technician, Chief Engineer Jack Stevenson and announcer-technician Dick Dickman.  

(Story and Photos courtesy of the BeeLines Magazine May 1973)

KBEE-FM control room in studios in downtown Modesto in the mid 1950's.  

Courtesy of Bob Pinheiro
Announcer/engineer Chet Jensen in the  KBEE AM and FM  control room on I Street circa 1973.

Courtesy of Chet Jensen
Courtesy of Chet Jensen
Courtesy of Bill Slayter
Courtesy of Bob Mohr
Bob Neira, Announcer/Engineer

Bob Mohr,  Sales
(Courtesy of Analisa & Marcia Mohr)