DJ Maranz — Voice of his generation

By Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat November 14, 2012 10:10 am
You may not recognize the face, but fans of classic rock and roll will instantly know the voice of Randy Maranz, who has been a disc jockey for more than 30 years on radio stations from San Diego to Yakima, Wash.

Maranz, who has been at KHKK 104.1-FM (“The Hawk”) in Stockton since 2001 and was heard on the now-defunct KDJK in Oakdale before that, has a special affinity for Sonora — and not just because he and his wife, Sheryl, moved here two years ago.

“I just love this area,” he said. “I’m an outdoor guy. I love to hike, that’s what I do. My wife and I walk every day. I also like golfing at Mountain Springs and Phoenix Lake and I go bowling at Black Oak every Tuesday. I like to keep in shape because radio is very sedate.” 

Though Maranz has been immersed in music since he first heard his sister’s Beatles records at age 4, he is not a musician himself.

“I can’t play a lick of music,” he said. “I wish I could play, but I can’t, so I talk about it on the radio.”

He does, however, come from a musical family. Both of his paternal grandparents were music teachers and concert pianists — as well as the builders of Marantz pianos — in their native Russia.

They came to America in 1925 — dropping the “t” from Marantz at Ellis Island — and continued teaching and performing, with credits including Carnegie Hall and associations with such luminaries as Jascha Heifetz.

Maranz’s father, Herbert, now 92, was 4 years old when he left Russia with his parents. His best friend while growing up in New York was Richard Adler, who would go on to co-write the music and lyrics to the hit Broadway musicals “Damn Yankees” and “The Pajama Game.” 

 Maranz’s mother, Betty, was born in Junction City, Kan., and met Herbert, then an Army officer, while he was stationed at nearby Fort Riley.

Randy Maranz was born in Santa Ana in Southern California — the first of his father’s family to be born in the United States. 

He showed talent for an entertainment career at an early age. He was master of ceremonies at his sixth grade talent show and was mimicking the effects-heavy comedy group Firesign Theatre at age 13. 

“People said you should be on radio and that’s where it started,” he said.

After working several years for Bullock’s department store, Maranz landed his first radio job in 1978 at KQIQ, an AM station in Hanford.

“I’ve spent most of my career in the valley — and almost every station I’ve been at is now gone,” he said.

Next was a part-time gig at KNGS, another Hanford AM station that was owned by Ray and Mary Perry, parents of Journey lead singer Steve Perry. 

The station’s exterior, a 1930s Art Deco building along Highway 198, is featured on the cover of Journey’s 1986 album “Raised on Radio.” 

Maranz moved to FM with his next job at rock station KBOS, which was licensed in Tulare but served the greater Fresno market.

“After a couple of years there I got out of the business for a while because I thought there was too much backstabbing,” he said.

He went on hiatus in San Diego, where he returned to work for Bullock’s. 

“I also worked as a process server and my claim to fame was serving Mayor Hedgecock in an elevator in 1984,” Maranz said.

It wasn’t long before he returned to radio, working part-time for San Diego station 91X. 

In 1985 he took a job at a brand new station in Oakdale — KDJK 95.1-FM.

“It was the best station I’ve ever worked for,” Maranz said. “It was a different time, no group ownership. It was a family. It was owned by Joe Gross and his wife, Anne — wonderful people. It had great music, great ratings and got great accolades.” 

Maranz stayed at KDJK for seven years, “then I got into the heavy metal scene and tried to work in L.A.,” he said. 

“I was music director at KNAC, which billed itself as ‘the hardest f-in’ station in the nation,’” Maranz said. “But that was very short-lived — after three months I got let go for not knowing how to work a computer.”

The next step was a year at KQLZ Pirate Radio, also in Los Angeles. “We had a license, but we did what we wanted to do,” he said. 

“My biggest break was when Carey Curelop hired me at KLOS,” Maranz recalled.

Curelop had been program director at Pirate Radio before accepting the same position at KLOS, one of the most popular rock stations in Southern California.

“It was a dream come true for me,” Maranz said. “I was there full time for five years, midday for three years after ‘Mark and Brian,’ then nights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. for another two years.”

Many of the guests from the morning “Mark and Brian Show” would stay afterwards to visit with the staff, including such celebrities as Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, Ed McMahon, George Foreman and former President Jimmy Carter, who Maranz inadvertently encountered side-by-side in the men’s room (see story below).

Maranz’s KLOS gig ended in 1997 with a change in programmers.

“Then I took what most people would say was a hugh career stepback, moving from L.A. to Yakima, Wash.,” Maranz said. “There was nothing left to do in L.A. I was 40 and I wanted to find my Mayberry, but after two years I wanted to get back to California.”

Friend and former KDJK staffer Richard Perry hired Maranz at the Hawk in 2001. 

“He’s still the program director and operations manager there and is one of the most professional individuals I’ve ever been around,” Maranz said.

Maranz is on the air from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. 

Perry compiles the station’s playlist, although Maranz chooses his own tracks for the nightly Led Zeppelin showcase “Get the Led Out.”

The Hawk is owned by Cumulus Media, based in Atlanta, Ga., which also operates KAT Country, KHOP, focusing on women ages 25 to 34, and KWIN, aimed at Latina women 18 to 34, in the same Stockton office. 

Maranz said his goal in radio is to “communicate with the listener, that’s the most important factor. I try to keep my ego in check and try to stay positive. I’ve been doing this a long time now and I think we have a good product. Our product is good music and people seem to enjoy it.”

Among his fans in Sonora are Sheriff Jim Mele and Dr. James Mosson.

“My doctor listens to me and all he wants to talk about is Led Zeppelin,” Maranz said. 

Mosson agreed — with a qualification.

 “We do deal with some of his health issues, too,” Mosson said. “But, yes, Randy plays the kind of music I like — the Doors, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Animals. That’s my music.”

Maranz met Mele while hosting the 49er Festival in Groveland.

“He said it was great to see me again,” Maranz said. “I’m not sure how he knew me so well but I was a little nervous.”

“I am a fan,” Mele confirmed. “I’m a product of the 1960s and ’70s — how can you not love the rock and roll? Not only do I like his show, but he’s a real nice guy, a super guy. He’s got a great radio voice and it’s just cool to have someone like that up here.”

Over the years, Maranz also has served as master of ceremonies at the Sonora Blues Festival and Ironstone Vineyards summer concert series.

He described his musical tastes as “very eclectic,” with favorite artists including Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Tommy Bolin and the Beatles.

“I go home and listen to Zappa and the earlier punk bands,” he said. “I like jazz — Brand X with Phil Collins on drums. My favorite concert was Led Zeppelin. The Beatles are still at the top of the list and will always be at the top of the list.”

Maranz has crossed paths with many famous musicians over the years, but “I don’t get starstruck because they’re just people and 99.9 percent of them are very nice,” he said.

A short list of stars he has met includes Jeff Beck, Steve Miller, Stevie Nicks, Gregg Allman, Gene Simmons, the Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood, Eddie Money, Lynyrd Skynyrd and “all the bands from the 1980s that you can think of.”

“I haven’t met Mick Jagger but I have met Keith Richards,” he said. “I have not met Roger Daltrey but I have met Pete Townshend. I’ve never met Frank Zappa but I have met all three of his kids. I met Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1989. They asked me if I wanted a picture with him and I said, ‘No, I’ll meet him again.’”

 Maranz said he was a big fan of the television show “WKRP in Cincinnati,” which spoofed life at a struggling Midwest radio station.

“I loved it,” he said. “I’ve worked with a Herb Tarlek, a Les Nessman, especially at the smaller stations. Joe Gross was a cross between Mr. Carlson and Homer Simpson. Except for the fact that the DJs weren’t wearing headphones on the air, it was the most true to life radio show I’ve seen.”

As he approaches 35 years on the air, Maranz should know.

“I’ve been very, very blessed in the business of rock and roll and I thank my lucky stars,” he said. “I’ll be 55 at the end of this month, so I have to be happy with my life and what I’ve done. I don’t drink coffee, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs — just eat and drink some hot tea. I’m not a prude, I just choose to avoid certain things these days.”

Maranz and his wife moved to Sonora from Pleasanton in July 2010. Maranz also has a grown son, Darren, who lives in Visalia.

“I’m enjoying my time here in Sonora, I really am,” he said. “I’m not rich, so I try to give back. I’ve done some volunteer work for the library, reading to children, and I’m also an amateur naturalist — I still like to look under rocks for lizards.”


Sidebar: Randy and Jimmy in the john

 Classic rock disc jockey Randy Maranz has met hundreds of famous people over his three decades in radio, but probably the most famous — and certainly the most memorable — was Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States.

Maranz was working the mid-morning shift at Los Angeles station KLOS in 1996 when Carter was booked as a guest on the morning “Mark and Brian Show.”

Maranz was late getting to work that day and was afraid he had missed meeting the former president.

“I remember I had ‘Radar Love’ playing and figured I had enough time to walk to the restroom, then I saw all this commotion down the hallway where he was,” Maranz said. 

“The other hallway was empty, so I went into the restroom to do my thing, and two seconds later there he was standing next to me at the urinal.

“Afterwards, we washed our hands and shook hands, and I told him he was the first person I got to vote for. He thanked me and after about 10 seconds we went outside, and there were the Secret Service agents,” he said. 

“They looked at me, then they looked at him, then they looked back at me, and they were not happy that I had been in there with him. I’m sure they were wondering how I got in there.

“I got back on the air and said, ‘That was surreal — I just peed with the president!’ ”