At exactly 9:33 a.m. on July 4, long-time Sacramento radio station KZAP, which has been off the air for 23 years, will return as K-ZAP at 93.3 on the FM dial.
On Dec. 5, 1980, the Octagon published this profile (entitled “DJ has ‘Zapramento’ laughing”) of KZAP DJs Tom Cale and Tim Bedore, both of whom will be back on the air on the new station. The reporter, then-junior Tim Grieve, admits that he doesn’t remember writing it. However, he does recall that “a group of us thought KZAP DJs were real arbiters of cool at the time. And if cool is Loverboy and Foreigner and Led Zeppelin, I guess they were.”
When asked what the station meant to him and his friends in high school, Grieve (now editor-in-chief of the National Review in Washington, D.C.) said in an email: “It’s less about memories and more about a sense of loss. Radio was such a binding force for us. A huge majority of us listened to KZAP, so we were together even when we were apart – listening to the same DJs, discovering the same songs, all to be shared and debated with one another when we met up again in real life.
“I don’t think it’s like that now, and I miss it. Music is so Balkanized, and the truly local radio station has all but disappeared. Yeah, with Spotify and Deezer, I can listen to exactly what I want to hear exactly when I want to hear it. But I’m essentially creating a radio station for myself, a station no one else will ever hear.
“It doesn’t bring us together. It makes us more alone.”
Every weekday morning, just before six, a 28-year-old native Sacramentan drives to one of the worst sections of the city, climbs to the top floor of a crumbling, decrepit building and at 6 a.m. starts performing for an audience of thousands of Northern Californians.
When most of them would rather still be in bed, KZAP’s Tom Cale has a multitude of Sacramentans listening and laughing.
With features like “Tabloid Trash,” “Animals In The News,” and the “Morning Moochers,” as well as a constant stream of sexually-oriented jokes, Cale and his newest morning sidekick Allen Elvin make mornings tolerable for many who would otherwise rather die than get out of bed.
However, Cale insists that he “doesn’t set out to be funny.
“I grew up weaned on top-40, and after listening to the radio for eight or nine years with dopes on there screaming and sounding wonderful, I thought, ‘This is a crock.’ I have fun, and what amuses me I do.”
Cale’s style can be surprising for those not accustomed to it. Even head of the Middle School Dean Sexton was shocked when one morning his clock radio, tuned to KZAP, came on to wake him with Cale shouting, “It’s six o’clock. Get your butts out of bed!”
Cale plans nothing beforehand: “The stuff that happens, happens,” he explained.
Even the “Dreaded Morning Oldie,” Cale’s name for the record from the past or, in his terms, “the bowser,” that he plays each morning, is selected only minutes beforehand.
‘A minute to six’
Cale admits that he arrives at work only “a minute to six.” The “Prince of Darkness,” all-night DJ Scott Elliot, and Cale have a system to prevent Cale’s occasional tardiness.
“I call Scott every morning at 20 to six, to tell him that I’m alive and coming to work. If he doesn’t hear from me then, he calls me to make sure I’m awake,” Cale said.
Cale’s career at KZAP started when he was fired from KSFM (currently FM-102). He had heard the station was going to start disco programming and decided that he would like to work elsewhere. He called the manager of KZAP and told him he would like to work there.
“He asked me when I could start. I told him I could start as soon as I got fired at KSFM. So I went back and squawked and squealed until they had to fire me. I got a ton of severance pay.”
Tim, ‘The Blaze’ Bedore
While Cale and Elvin’s morning show is the most comic in nature, the other KZAP people are equally entertaining. Tim “The Blaze” Bedore explained, jokingly, that he got his nickname when “we were freebasing cocaine in here one night and I caught on fire. But I wouldn’t stop broadcasting.”
Cale added that “The Blaze” just “hasn’t been the same since his brains sizzled.”
Having just returned from the Bruce Springsteen concert in Oakland the night before, Bedore explained the action at his seat – right behind Springsteen’s mother.
“She tried to figure out how to make her lighter shoot out flames for Bruce’s encore. I just knew she could have gone backstage and said, ‘Brucie, those people paid good money to see you, so go out there and play some more.’ But instead, she just tried to use her lighter like everybody else.”
WKRP vs. KZAP
Cale admitted that television’s “WKRP in Cincinnati” is very close to the truth about life at a radio station. He wouldn’t say which staff members were like which television characters.
However, when asked if any of the staff were like Jennifer (blonde Loni Anderson – the show’s sex symbol) he said there were “a couple up in the office.”
Tom Cale Complex
But unlike WKRP’s glamorous, modern settings, KZAP is housed in an aging building, unofficially named (by Tom Cale) the “Tom Cale Broadcasting Complex,” at Ninth and J Streets, high above the now famous “Gallo Park.” Although the main offices and production and broadcast rooms are properly furnished, Cale’s office one floor down is a disaster.
Hidden behind a large room that appears to be a radio station junkyard, his office bears a striking resemblance to the SCDS Upper School faculty room. Walls covered with posters from movies and obscure albums, Cale’s office includes a crumbling sofa, a few old chairs and a metal desk buried under with huge stereo speakers. On another wall is a set of bookshelves filled with Cale’s personal records that will never be heard on KZAP (Earth, Wind, and Fire albums, for example).
Cale sat back in his chair and talked about his life as a teenager in Sacramento, when he lived in an apartment building not far from KZAP.
“I was just a street kid, bumming around, going to school. If I didn’t have a radio, I would have gone crazy. You are crazy until you’re 18. Everyone has some device to keep from going crazy. Some guys do weightlifting or arm-wrestling; mine was always music.”
‘Just a street kid’
Cale likes the fact that he grew up nearby. “I walked down the same old damn streets. It’s a neat feeling, staying in the same place. It’s a neat feeling.”
Cale has advanced quickly in the year he has been at the station. He is now Music Director, and, although it took him a few moments to remember the title, Program Manager.
Cale loves his work. “We were out at a mooch last week. (Cale’s Morning Moochers concept is one in which listeners send in menu ideas, and Cale and Elvin select one and do their morning show from that listener’s house, while the listener serves them breakfast), and the people said, ‘You get paid for this?’ They couldn’t believe it.”
Cale thinks KZAP is responsive to its audience. “It’s fun. It’s fun to listen to. I only work here because it’s fun. Nobody stays in (the radio business) for the money. You gotta find where you’re happy, and those places are getting fewer and farther between.”
He also believes KZAP has “The best DJ talent in this town, because you can’t beat rock and roll. It’s a good partyin’ bunch of people.”
Cale enjoys the freedom of his job. “I can do anything I want, with the possible exception of offending people. It’s just me and Allen up here. It’s not really work. It’s fantasy time. It’s fun.”