Conor Flanagan works the board at KKDJ 99.7 FM studios in Fresno. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on August 24, 2018 - 1:31 PM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

After a three-decade closure, a new generation of KKDJ — one of the most popular stations in Fresno — is back on the air as the official home of the Fresno Grizzlies, and is airing a new TV channel.

“It’s like going to the graveyard and digging up an old corpse, and bringing it back to life,” said Gary Cocola, president of Cocola Broadcasting Co. “Because it was dead and buried, it was gone — it was gone forever.”

Started in 1979, KKDJ 105.9 FM quickly gained a reputation for listener engagement, unorthodox playlists and on-air stunts by such talents as DJ Dean Opperman. However, economic changes, changes in format and overexertion proved to be too much for the station, which closed in 1987.

The station appeared to be gone forever until five years ago, when Cocola was approached by Opperman, who wanted to bring the station back. Cocola, whose business is television, later directed him to Chris and Denise White, who owned two stations in Hanford, along with another in Firebaugh.

Negotiations with Opperman eventually fell through, but the Whites decided to go ahead with the station. The next big step was acquiring a translator for the station. Cocola was able to buy the translator from KOKO 94.3 FM’s owner, Southern California radio personality Art Laboe, in 2016. On April 20, the revived station started broadcasting from its Fresno signal.

Currently, the operation is small, with their broadcast area reaching the Fresno metropolitan area and Clovis. However, with their new app — KKDJ Fresno — they can be heard from anywhere on Earth.

“A lot of these stations want to be everything for the whole Valley,” Chris White said. “We want to be a Fresno and Clovis radio station. We want to focus on the local market.”

Recently, the station has also gained the attention of the Fresno Grizzlies.

“It has been going well because within a few weeks on the air, the Grizzlies contacted Chris and said: ‘We need a home for our Grizzlies games,’” Cocola said. “So they started running Grizzlies games at the start of this season.”

Emboldened by their recent success, the Whites have now rolled out their latest venture with the station by introducing KKDJ TV. As of Aug. 1, the channel, which airs on 27.1 Fresno, is a non-stop, music video channel in the same spirit as the original MTV format.

According to Cocola and the Whites, the channels have been received well, with requests even coming in.

“Oh my God, I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it!” one viewer said. “I’m usually a Motown girl, but soft rock takes me back to the ‘70s, the ‘80s. I just love this station.”

Chris and Denise White have taken the operation one step further by synchronizing the music on their radio station with the videos on their channel. According to Chris no other station is doing this. The synchronization officially started this week.

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