SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE BUSINESS, January 22, 1999
By Frank Green
Talk about a blast from the past.
Steve Jay's voice came booming out of the speakers, sounding just like it did 30 years ago when he was a so-called "Boss Jock" on the now-defunct KGB-AM.
"That's a former No. 1 hit here in San Diego, now hanging on at number 16, by the mighty Supremes," Jay said in rat-a-tat style.
Then it was on to vintage spots by such former rock announcers as Les Turpin and Bill Wade.
At California Aircheck, radio's brightest, hippest air personalities from the 1960s to the modern era can be heard, via cassette tape, perennially spinning the hits.
"We have hundreds and hundreds of hours of current and classic radio segments" in the vault, says George Junak, owner of the firm in Lemon Grove.
How about radio legend Humble Harve, circa 1968, on "Boss Radio" KHJ-AM in Los Angeles? Or The Real Don Steele on L.A.'s KTNQ-AM in 1976? Or a 1969 date with Happy Hare on KCBQ-AM in San Diego?
They're all on California Aircheck's 60-and 90-minute tapes, priced at $11 apiece.
One tape, devoted solely to rock powerhouse KGB-AM, covers the late-1960s when the station was locked in a battle with KCBQ for ratings supremacy in San Diego.
The company's catalog, which is tailored primarily for radio professionals, includes thousands of tape samples of the latest programming trends at dozens of U.S. stations, plus many videos of current disc jockeys, such as Paul "Cubby" Bryant at Z100 in New York City and John Potter at WODS in Boston, working in the booth.
Like other branches of the entertainment industry, radio has its own roster of stars (Wolfman Jack, B. Mitchell Reed) known in the business for distinct on-air patter and flawless execution.
So who better for program directors, up-and-coming disc jockeys and broadcast-school students to absorb and emulate than the masters, then and now, of the Top 40 genre?
California Aircheck's service "is very important, because radio's history has not been documented," says Johnny Hayes, a former disc jockey at KGB who now works the afternoon shift at oldies station KRTH-FM in Los Angeles. "Tapes of airchecks can be very beneficial to young people in the business."
Radio enthusiasts who tap into California Aircheck's deep audio repository "get lots of ideas . . . They hear something important they can use later on the air," notes Junak, who has worked at 91-X and several other California stations.
Junak promotes his enterprise through ads in trade journals such as Radio and Records and at a Web site.
He notes that a small percentage of his customers are radio fans who grew up, like him, with an ear stuck to a radio speaker tuned to rock outlets such as KRLA-AM and KFWB-AM.
Junak, who runs his business out of his house with the assistance of his wife, started selling radio tapes in 1980.
Many of the tapes were compiled from recordings he made off the radio as a teen-ager while living in Los Angeles in the 1960s -- a time many in the industry believe was a golden age for on-air creativity. Other tapes were derived from collections of acquaintances of his in the business.
Junak obtains material for his vast tape library by traveling every three months or so to one of the 25 top radio markets in the country to record programming from six to eight stations.
"I love good radio," Junak says in explaining his offbeat, time-consuming and marginally-profitable pursuit. California Aircheck grossed but $50,000 last year.
Junak nevertheless turns out about 600 tape copies a month for 400 subscribers on a bank of 15 cassette recorders in his home office.
Most music on the tapes is edited out, leaving just the verbal thunder of premier disc jockeys at the height of their powers.
"Right now, I think Z100 (in New York) is one of the most innovative stations in the United States," he says.
Junak says business at California Aircheck reached a plateau last year as consolidation in the radio industry cut into demand for his product. It seems executives at conglomerates like Jacor have begun recording and exchanging broadcast tapes from within their own networks.
Junak, however, says there will always be a market for the classic radio broadcasts from the days when the Beatles, the Four Seasons and the Temptations sat atop KGB-AM's "Boss 30."
"I've got dozens of boxes of tapes I haven't even started editing yet," he says.
©1999 San Diego Union Tribune
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