On the air in Manteca, AM 1700

On the air in Manteca, AM 1700 - - April 3, 2004

He isn't the sort of person you'd anticipate launching a community radio station.

The new Manteca resident travels back and forth across the Altamont daily to work in the Bay Area -- and has a job that most would consider stressful to say the least.

the station owner, who moved to Manteca from Memphis to take a job as the Vice President of a dot-com shortly before it folded, took his love for music, and his enjoyment of his new surroundings, out onto the airwaves -- literally.

Inside of the garage of his Northeast Manteca home, the station operator spins records and breaks out tracks that people haven't heard in decades.

He just hope that his newfound hobby, Part 15 radio station AM 1700, is something that the whole community can enjoy with him.

"I was thumbing around on-online on pirate radio newsgroups, and found a link that showed me how to do it legally," said the station owner. "I couldn't believe it -- I knew this was something that I had to do."

Sitting behind the microphone wasn't something new for the Unix Systems Manager and father of two. He started out working as a Disc Jockey early on -- working weddings and parties, and eventually at radio stations.

Little did he know that at one time he would have his own Pop 80's station in a small family town in California.

"Music is something that I've always been interested in," the station owner said. "I really don't listen to what I play now -- my taste is very quite different."

Under FCC regulations, people can broadcast on their own as long as the transmissions don't exceed 100 mega-watts of power. (EDITOR'S NOTE - That should have been 100 MICRO-watts, not 100 MEGA-watts of power)

While it sounds like a lot, stations like KGO of San Francisco broadcast at around 50,000 mega-watts, and border blasters -- international radio stations aimed towards the US -- double that amount.

the station owner claims that it's the grounding that allows his station to broadcast up to four-miles away -- reaching almost every corner of Manteca.

"We have the best grounding on the planet here," said the station owner of what anchors his antennae. "That's why it's able to get to the entire city -- it's really great.

While he occasionally gets behind the microphone to talk to his listeners or put together some of his favorite songs, don't expect to find a political agenda.

The closest he gets to politics is the sticker he has in the studio that says "Speak the Truth" -- something he feels rules out politics altogether.

"The rule here is that if you're going to speak, you're going to speak the truth," the station owner said. "This station definitely isn't politically motivated -- this town is too diverse to have an agenda.

"We're not here to offend anyone."

One of the only other requirements is that anybody who gets behind the microphone has to keep things clean -- the station owner wants to know that his children can tune it at any time during the day, and be comfortable about what's being talked about.

Because of that, he's hoping to take his newfound discovery to the people of Manteca.

"I just hope that somebody out there who has a little extra space would be kind enough to let us use some of it," the station owner said. "That way we could get this thing into it's own quarters so it can officially be it's own station."

Since the station is in the station owner's garage, running a show in the hot valley summer is all but out of the question.

Also, liability issues around having people coming in and out of his garage all day make it somewhat unnerving to think about.

Until the station owner gets everything officially squared away, he's sticking with the mainly automated format ran though a computer system.

"We're hoping that somebody has some extra space that they'll be able to loan to us," the station owner said. "That would make the idea to have different people doing different sorts of shows -- it would change the landscape of music."

Even though the automated 80's hits remain as the music programmed for the station, the station owner still likes to break out and dust off his old vinyl to take him back to time that was so much simpler.

"When I was a teenager and living in Newark, New Jersey, I was a 40-minute train ride from CBGB's," said the station owner of the famed punk-rock club in New York City that helped launch the bands responsible for the movement. "It was amazing."

Sitting underneath his turntable is his record collection which ranges from traditional 80's bands like The Cars to the controversial KISS -- but he still likes listening to a lot of the cutting edge music being produced today.

It's the commercialism that sometimes throws him off.

In a day and age when in order to make it big you have to me MTV friendly, and underground bands are turning faster than the hands on a clock, it's sometimes hard to find something unique.

"It's all going commercial so fast," said the station owner. "But the thing is that music is music -- it's all either going to be rooted in jazz or the blues."

Regardless of the music industry, the station owner still plans on cranking out his tunes -- which were recently brought to the streaming internet medium -- to the people of a city he has grown to love.

"This is all about the community -- I'd like to see churches come in here, and people who want to plan an hour of music that they absolutely love," the station owner said. "This is more of an expression of music, and that's a great thing."

For more information about the station, visit www.am1700.org (Internet Archive copy of a long gone site).

By JASON CAMPBELL, Staff reporter of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin