Bob Gordon in 101.7 KKIQ’s Pleasanton studio, 1992
Photo by Tom Richard
Robert Neal “Bob” Gordon has worked at several stations around the Bay Area, including Pittsburg-Concord’s KKIS/KINQ-FM and Livermore-Pleasanton’s KKIQ. In addition, he has carved out a niche as a musician under his stage name as Miles Landry while, like many others trying to catch a break in the business, also working as an auto mechanic, security officer, jewelry salesman, bicycle mechanic, cab driver, school bus driver, shuttle driver for an auto dealership, and even a “repo man” for a bank. Here, Bob tells the story of his career in broadcasting and music in his own words:
Before I entered the field of radio broadcasting, I always felt that radio work was always for the “chosen few,” the fortunate, or someone “special.” I knew somewhere in my heart that I had to do whatever it was to enter this alluring field. My days were depressing knowing that I was not living up to a higher potential. I knew I had the talent, personality, and, of course, the voice to attain this goal.
Back in 1982, I was working as assistant manager of a gas station in the San Rafael area. One day, a young man drives in with his shiny, new Porsche and says: “Hey, duuuude … right-aaaawn. Ya gaat an awwwwwwsum set-a vocuuuul pipes. Ya autta’ be a dee-jay or suumthun instead-a sniffin’ those gaaaas-fumes all day.”
That was the turning point in my life. I was in the process of moving from Rohnert Park and I wanted to reside somewhere closer to my service station job — moving was the priority before any broadcast training could occur. I found a room to rent in a nearby housing tract. The ad in the paper read “piano available,” which was an attractive quality since I played piano. (I also played trumpet, drums and guitar.)
As soon as I was settled-in to my new digs, I signed up for broadcast training with the Ron Bailie School of Broadcast in San Francisco, located in the KBHK-TV building. I would travel about twenty-five miles each way using the local bus system. Our class was made up of about twenty individuals, most of whom probably could not cut the mustard in the business. I seemed to be one of the few “shining stars” in the class and I knew good things were in store for me.
I would practice my course materials in the room/home where I was renting. The house where I was living was occupied by two other people, the female owner and her ten-year-old son. It was a wonder how I could complete my studies. This ten-year-old would wad-up peanut butter balls and throw them up to the ceiling. He would also put soap in the ice cube trays! After trying to keep my sanity though all of that, I finally graduated and gave the ten-year-old and his mother a good sendoff.
As I was learning, I obtained a volunteer position as newscaster for Broadcast Services For The Blind with KPFB-FM. Upon graduating ahead of my peers, I traveled on that Greyhound Bus to South Lake Tahoe in 1984 for my first overnight gig with KOWL-AM. I started to get a following “over-the-air” as Neal Gordon. There was another Bob working with KOWL at the time and I suggested that I use my middle name. My job was announcer/producer. Upon arriving in Tahoe, I’ll never forget trudging through the snow on my way to the KOWL studios.
During 1985, I became discouraged with the Tahoe environment and made the choice to move back to Concord in the Bay Area. There, I procured a position with KKIS-AM/KINQ-FM as Bob Gordon. My work included announcing, producing, and PSA director.
I can remember a particular day while working at KKIS: they wanted me to be the guest DJ for a Valentine’s Day event for the ladies at a shopping mall in Antioch. A soap opera star was to be there and I was to “pump up” and work the females as they were waiting for that prominent actor to arrive.
My program director and I left in a limousine together as he was going to be doing a live broadcast at a nearby jewelry store. The limo dropped him off, then it was off to the mall for me. After interviewing that actor and giving my fair share of autographs to the ladies, I ended up having to take the bus home from that event!
KKIS/KINQ-FM was a unique place to work because while I was on the air in the AM (KKIS) studio, I had to run down the hall to the automated FM (KINQ) studio to change the large tape reels when the music ran out. Those large music reels also applied to the performance in the AM studio. No compact discs at that time. Some of the music was on carts but the majority of the playlist was on giant reels of tape. Sure was embarrassing when the tape was stretched and the song played over the tape head!
I wanted to better myself, so I left the radio business to pursue an acting career in TV commercials. As an actor, I became involved with a number of roles including feature films, industrial films, videos and print work.
At the same time, I started driving a taxi which gave me the flexibility to go out on casting auditions. The radio bug returned and I started working with KCRK-FM in Walnut Creek in 1987. In 1990, I was hired by KKIQ as weekend announcer in Livermore and worked there until 1992.
The equipment at KKIQ, I recall, was certainly primitive but the broadcast content was superb. We had a potential audience of about 600,000 — not bad for a middle-market station.
About a year later, the entire facility moved to a state-of-the-art studio in Pleasanton and everyone working there was greatly pleased. We were in a high-rise office building and I felt I was looking out my “control tower,” having a commanding presence over my listeners. I was employed with KKIQ on the weekends and driving my taxi during the weekdays.
One day, a reporter with the Contra Costa Times approached me while I was waiting at the Walnut Creek BART station. The following week, I was interviewed and photographed (photo, above) while picking up my passengers. The reporter felt that I was not the “Average Joe” when it came to taxi drivers.
The newspaper ended up publishing my story and picture on the front page, noting that I was a disc jockey with KKIQ in the caption.
I have been a musician most of my life. In recent days, I sing and play my guitar at local open mike events. My compact disc demo is also available under my pseudonym, Miles Landry. You may see and hear my music at CD Baby.com.
Bob Gordon at 101.7 KKIQ, Circa 1991 (2 minutes)
All photographs courtesy of Robert Gordon. Yellow Cab photo by Dan Rosenstrauch for the Contra Costa Times.