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1930 - 1940                            back to history

Voice of Radio Modesto, KTRB
swanee cow
The Swanee Cowboys at KTRB

There is a scene in that great movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?" when the central four grifters pull up to a lone, isolated radio station and talk there way into cutting a live recording at what was a modern broadcast studio of the day. The song would catapult the "Soggy Bottom Boys" to fame. Although this is a fictional account, it does portray the early days of radio with some detail and how quickly the use of this new medium could make overnight stars and dramatically expand the enjoyment of music all acrossktrb engineer this country. This scene depiction is not much of a stretch to the actual beginnings of Modesto's earliest radio station, KTRB 860. Once the lone red wooden Sylvan Club House, it was located way, way north of town. KTRB established itself by transmitting the first live honky tonk acts of the day. Roving bands of musicians and players would pay homage to the station to broadcast their music far and wide. Americana made its way west of the Mississppi with bands like Arkie and the Hillbillies, The Swanee Cowboys, musical legends as Chester Smith and Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys, and most notably, Modesto's own The Maddox Brothers and Rose. Sponsored by the old Rice Furniture Store, they all filled KTRB airwaves with a vibrant new country music that was gaining wide popularity throughout rural America. See Modesto Radio Museum

In 1937 these sounds were broadcast live for the world to hear on our own KTRB 860 Radio by Fred and Clay Maddox and their 11 year old sister Rose playing as the Alabama Outlaws. This radio station at the corner of Sylvan and McHenry had a transmitter built by Modesto’s own Cecil Lynch. There are many roots of rock and roll, but the root that made Rock and Roll “ROCK” came from Modesto USA.
This rockin’ stand up bass sound that was so exciting was the “clickity-clackity” of the big fat strings being slapped against the finger board.  The strings were plucked so hard that the string back slap made a percussion sound and Fred Maddox would even just beat on the strings to make it clack even more.  This boogie bass sound of Fred Maddox was changing music and became known as Hillbilly Boogie.  Fred Maddox’s bass is on display at the Experience Music Project in Seattle. It is there because the first notes of Rock and Roll maybe been played on that instrument. Read the MADDOX STORY

Maddox Brothers and Rose

The station was established in partnership between two men, radio engineer, Bill Bates and businessman T.R. McTammany. On June 18th, 1933 KTRB Modesto was granted a broadcasting license by the Federal Communications Commission in Washington. The call letters were taken from their initials and they began broadcasting with 250 watts of power, eventually the station doubled it's broadcast capacity and moved their operation to Norwegian Avenue with an expanded studio and more powerful transmitters. The future of the station would be closely entwined with Modesto Music at least until the early sixties when another upstart radio station KFIV would take the mantle rock and roll to new greater audiences.

"Researched and developed  by Chris Murphy, ModestoView and Sierra Pacific"

More Modesto Music History Coming Soon...
We need your help! If you have any video, pictures, posters, flyers or any memorabilia from these times, please contact us ASAP. This is a community effort and we need to capture, remember and celebrate our music history.

Send info to:  info@modestoview.com 

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Chester Smith with Hank Snow at KTRB

Maddox Family at KTRB

Arkie & His Hillbillies

Early KTRB broadcasts the diversity of the area with such on air programs as "Voz do Vale" - Voice of the Valley, a Portugeuese group is pictured here in the studio from around 1935.
Photo courtesy of Robin Borba Besotes

Club House
Out in front of the Sylvan Club House, new home for KTRB Modesto.

Cecil Lynch and Seldon Palmer out front of the new KTRB station on McHenry.