|City of license||Atherton, California|
|Broadcast area||San Francisco Bay Area|
|Slogan||The Home of the Big Bands|
|First air date||June 2, 1979|
|Format||Big Band & Swing|
|Former callsigns||KMAH (1983-1984)|
|Owner||Sequoia Union High School District|
KCEA (89.1 FM) is a high school radio station in Atherton, California, USA. The station features big band and swing music, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. The station is housed on the campus of Menlo-Atherton High School.
During the week the station features live call-in request programs featuring Bay Area broadcast veteran Michael Isaacs ("Night Train" Thursdays & Saturdays), "Spotlight on the 30's & 40's" with long-time radio host Craig Roberts (Mondays), and "Two Hour Tuesdays" with Victoria (Tuesdays). A weekly program featuring old-time radio called "Yesteryear" is hosted by Craig Roberts (Monday nights and Sunday mornings). The station also airs live play-by-play coverage of local high school sporting events affiliated with the Sequoia Union High School District.
Formerly known as KMAH (1979–1984), the MAH standing for Menlo Atherton High School, the station dates back to the late 1960s. In about 1967, a group of students working in the Audio Visual Department, as members of the AV Club, found some recording equipment and a dual turntable stored above a storage closet in the intra-campus broadcast room. This room was used to broadcast the Pledge of Allegiance and information to the general school population. Bruce Coblentz and Ray Duhem learned that this equipment had been used in the past to broadcast music to classrooms on request and to the multi-purpose room where many students met to eat during the lunch hour. Together they came up with the idea of starting up the private lunchtime radio station again, and founded "Spectrum 5". Potential advertisers were approached with the idea of funding coming from advertising revenues from local merchants in downtown Menlo Park. A record store and a men's and boys' clothing store were the first two advertisers. The funding was just enough to cover the cost of new record albums and magnetic tape. As the popularity of the station grew, other "disc jockeys" joined the station. The DJs had their own favorite artists, increasing the diversity of the music. Schedules were made to allow for different DJs assigned to different days of the week. The station was kept alive after the graduation of its founders when Coblentz and Duhem graduated in 1969.
In 1979, under the direction of the high school's AV manager, Frank Spinetta, the station was granted FCC status and broadcast for the first time on 89.1 FM with 100 watts of power and 60-foot antenna from the hills of Heather Park in San Carlos.
Cockran, who was also a student of the high school at the time, came up with the idea of broadcasting a recording he made of the ocean at night. The status gained national fame for "trying to put listeners to sleep" with the sounds of the sea. Newspapers around the world picked up the story, including the Stars and Stripes, the Washington Post and several local papers. The station's staff were also interviewed on several morning TV programs including Good Morning America.
Originally, KMAH aired top 40 rock, which appealed to the students. As a result several students learned about broadcasting. However, since the school paid only for power, space and lights, the crew had to raise money for equipment and recordings. Radio memberships began in the early 1980s, but few teens would pay money for a station they were listening to for free. In 1984, the station began playing other formats including Broadway musical soundtracks. The Golden Oldies program began in 1984 on Saturday night, hosted by Dan Del Fiorentino, who would later become the program director and changed the format to Big Band Jazz. The callsign was later changed to KCEA. The new name came from the sounds of sea (cea), which the station was still playing at night.
The station gained wide support for its Juke Box Saturday Night broadcast beginning in 1985 and hosted by Dan Del Fiorentino and Jerry Jacobs. The team remained together until 1989. Meanwhile the entire station format became big band jazz with a focus on the music of the 1920s-1950s. Several key broadcasts were offered during this time including a tribute to World War II in which 3 hours of V-Discs were played, most of which were loaned by the listenership. Underwriting and donations grew during this time as well, thanks to the support of Jerry Jacobs, who once owned a local men's clothing store and knew many of the local business owners. Another key to the success of the early days of the big band broadcasts were the artists, most of whom were retired and in love with the idea that a radio station at a high school was playing their old recordings. Among the names who supported the station were Cab Callaway, Lionel Hampton, Jonah Jones, Dick Jurgens, Helen Forrest, Jo Stafford, Frankie Laine and songwriter Jack Lawrence.
The station has also enjoyed support from record labels such as Rhino Records and Highlights. Bay Area personality Alan Dale began his regular weekly shows at KCEA in the late 1980s as well. Other highlights came when Dan Del Fiorentino began an annual tribute to American songwriter Irving Berlin with a 4-hour show dedicated to his songs every year on his birthday, May 11. On May 11, 1988, on Berlin's 100th birthday, several newspaper stories told of the special 6-hour show in which Del Fiorentino would not repeat any song (easy to do considering that Berlin wrote over 4,000 songs). The news resulted in a large request of tape copies of the program, one of which sent directly to Irving Berlin himself. The birthday broadcast ended the following year as Berlin died at the age of 101.
- KCEA website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for KCEA
- Radio-Locator information on KCEA
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for KCEA