Moving Forward 10/19: Celebrating a Decade of The Rock

Written by Judy Salamacha

October 24, 2023

The DJ crew at 97.3/107.0 THE ROCK. Photo by Abe Perlstein

Indeed, it’s time to give a big shout-out to 97.3/107.0 THE ROCK Community Radio! We can look forward to the next ten years of “Radio for People, Not for Profit.” 

As I began to write up this celebration story, I tuned into The Rock’s Sean Myers Show and what was on the DJ’s playlist, but “And It’s Still Alright” by Nathaniel Rateliff. The Rock is not only alright, but has evolved, survived, and expanded. So, Estero Bay, you adopted it and helped make it happen, so it’s time to gather, jam and even boogie in October to offer our collective thanks.  

Rockfather Hal Abrams, founder and current treasurer of the board of directors, knows exactly how you can show your appreciation. Show up at the 11th Annual “BFD” Fundraiser Concert & Silent Auction on Saturday, October 28 at the Morro Bay Community Center starting at 4 p.m. It’s a free concert, but Hal says “bring money” to buy food from food trucks, adult beverages from The Rock bartenders and to bid generously on a variety of silent auction items donated by Morro Bay businesses and notable musicians.  

Hal touted an amazing array of talent that will perform during the concert. “The nationally touring recording artist Dulcie Taylor lives right here in Estero Bay. She has always been a big supporter of the station and has donated her time once again to wow our listeners. She will be joined by percussionist John Astaire. He plays with the SLO Symphony.  Jill Knight is a central coast icon. She retired, playing only a few select gigs. Murder Hornets are an interesting mixture of Honky Tonk and psychedelic surf. Central Coast Music’s Ed Frawley plays guitar and vocals in the band. His store has been kind enough to donate the backline (bass amp and drums) for the show. Just another example of how the community comes together for the cause. And finally, one band that always gets the crowd going, returning for their third Rock Fundraiser, Unfinished Business will perform classic hits.”

A quick search on the talent’s websites revealed more. Headliner Dulcie Taylor has shared the stage with a long and impressive list of artists, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Guy Clark, Kathy Mattea, Raul Maol and Vern Gosdin. Her first recording in 2012, ‘Free of Sorrow,” reached No. 1 at Amazon for Top-Rated Americana and her newest album, “Wind Over Stone,” is already reaping reviews like “an Americana masterpiece.” 

Since they formed in 2003, Unfinished Business has been perfecting their sound-covers of the best and most popular music of all time. Expect their set to include 1960s rock ‘n roll and soul, like Beatles, Rolling Stones, British Invasion, the Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Motown and Memphis soul.  

Regional favorite Jill Knight lives in Cambria. Her musical business for over 20 years offers voice-over work, background vocals plus writing and producing jingles. 

Longtime THE ROCK founders and crew at an early fundraising concert picturing original board and DJs like Board President Sherry Sim, Bill Pierce, Judy Abrams in front and Hal holding the mic. 
Photo submitted

And since 2020 the Murder Hornets’ unique and playful stage antics encourage dancing and major musical fun-time. 

Looking back before The Rock launched its music and talk schedule, I recall Hal presenting his quest for a community radio station at a Morro Bay Rotary Club meeting. When I heard 97.3 The Rock was really happening, I got excited. I’ve always loved radio and had been visiting on-air weekly with KVEC’s King Harris for a couple years promoting Estero Bay happenings. It was a fun ride to have my own show for a time. Hal invites, “We’re always looking for new on-air talent.”  

Hal and Judy Francis Abram’s careers began in commercial radio. Hal was a seasoned professional radio personality for 25-years. “I was considered an edgy talent. I did morning drive and came up with strange stunts to draw in the audiences.” 

He admits his independent thinking about the commercial radio business compelled him to move from market to market. He began researching pirate radio opportunities while building the couple’s popular “Animal Radio” pet show that since 2001 has grown to over 350,000 listeners airing weekly on 130 AM-FM radio stations and XM Satellite Radio. Hal also had another silver bullet to guide his path to Morro Bay’s radio innovation. Actor and radio personality Jay Thomas was his best friend and introduced him to an FCC lawyer who helped him file an available license. Hal insisted whatever venture he worked on needed to be legal. 

“It all started in our home walk-in closet,” Hal said. It took two years to final the license and launch the station. He had to build a board of directors which eventually cemented an agreement with the City of Morro Bay to build a studio in the Chamber of Commerce building and a transmitter in the city’s sewer yard. Former Councilmen Bill Peirce was an advocate that Morro Bay needed an emergency radio network. Hal added, “It wouldn’t have happened if (Councilmember) Noah Smukler hadn’t helped us promote a community neighborhood radio station.” 

The first board of directors was led by community leaders such as Cayucos-based realtor and Rotarian Sherry Sim, Councilwoman Cyndee Edwards, who was Chamber of Commerce president at the time, plus Bill Peirce. After Sim’s term as president, Hal served until the couple made the hard choice to move to Colorado in 2019 when his father was ailing. And then COVID shuttered everything. Funding reserves built up over six years dwindled with no way to reach out to supporters to fund raise. 

Currently on-air talent Robert Moynier, originally a talent on the popular K-OTTR radio based in Cambria, has taken over leadership of the board. Drew Ross is program director and Cheryl Wells is coordinating special promotions like the upcoming anniversary concert and silent auction extravaganza. And the music plays on with talents like Bill Musial, Lisa Ellman, Brian Davis, Ruthann Angus, Dead Air Dave, Jason Cantu, Neil Ramirez and so many more, including Abe Pearlson with his popular show “Tuesdays with Abe.” New talent stepped up like Morro Bay’s City Engineer, Eric Riddiough hosting a Surf Show and Chamber membership director Lynsey Hansen, who hosts “The Hype Machine.” TV’s Barry Funkhouser, known for “SheeZaam,” produces his show from Oxnard. The Rock’s technology has allowed streaming since 2014.

So, what’s the newest news at 97.3/107.0 The Rock? Its major advancement has been adding listeners in the Paso Robles area. 

“Our transmitter in Paso has incredible range from Radio Ranch. It’s where area emergency fire and national internet companies are located,” Hal said. 

The board of directors envision a future relocation of the Morro Bay transmitter to gain an even broader coverage area on the Central Coast. And that’s exactly the purpose of their 11th annual fundraiser on 10/28, Hal added “…replenish the reserves so The Rock can move forward and expand their groovin’ sound throughout the Central Coast.”   

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