The last FM broadcast radio channel license in Modesto was issued by the FCC in January 1995 and as a result KEJC 93.9 MHz was born. Principles were Edward J. Cardoza and Smokey Silver. Cardoza, a Manteca businessman and Silver, an area disc jockey for over 50 years.
Once KEJC decided on a vintage country music format the job of gathering the music to be played would be relatively easy thanks to Smokey who had been collecting country music for over 50 years. All he had to do was to look in his Manteca home where more than 60,000 records filled several rooms from the floor to the ceiling. Included in his collection were 78s, 45s, 33 1/3 rpm albums and cassette tapes. The only problem, todayís modern technology has made the recordings obsolete.
Rather than turntables and cassette players, deejays today are surrounded by computers that store and play thousands of digitized songs from massive hard drives in digital format. The songs can be digitally recorded, cataloged and programmed on the air for days and weeks on-end. The same computers are also used to edit flaws in the original recordings including clicks and scratches common with the older recording technology. "KEJCís computer hard drives could hold up to 4,000 digital recordings in mp3 format per drive" Cardoza said.
It took months for Smokey and others at KEJC to convert songs from his record collection into the computers. The result allowed the station to broadcast vintage country tunes that had not been heard on the airways for many years.
"I would love to see this music preserved for the future," said Smokey now in his 70s. His real name is Elmer Gunkel, but he said no one calls him that. Since starting his deejay career in 1950, Smokey has watched radio's technological evolution. "In the old days, we did everything live on the air. It was labor intensive, he said, because deejays picked their own play lists, retrieved and refiled each record, read all the advertisements and spun the records.
"Back then, we didn't have any extra time because records only lasted two or three minutes, if you had to go to the bathroom, you were in a world of hurt. I always thought that was why Marty Robbinsí 'El Paso' was such a big hit. It was 6 minutes long." With the computers bathroom breaks no longer are a problem for deejays.
Modern radio stations are so automated that the computers literally pick the songs, play them, plug in the pre-recorded commercials and announcer voice tracks and log exactly what was played and when. The computers can be programmed to select songs by decade, by artist, by tempo, by title or by other categories. "We can program the station for a week at a time if we want," Cardoza said. "Then we can just shut the door and go home." In fact at KEJC, we locked the doors at 5 pm each day and the computer runs the station overnight until we come in the next day around 9 am.
"Iíve worried what would happen to my collection as time went on" Smokey said. "Now, I know it will be preserved for the future thanks to computers".
KEJC 385 ft. tower and studio on Reno Ave. in Modesto, CA