Monday, April 01, 2019

The Real Don Steele

The Real Don Steele would have been 83 today. You've probably heard me talk of him before. He's one of my idols.

He passed away on August 5, 1997. For thirty years The Real Don Steele ruled the Los Angeles airwaves, most notably on 93/KHJ “Boss Radio” in the 60’s and 70’s. Outrageous, electrifying, thrilling – that was Real on…and OFF the air. If you want to hear the greatest cookin’ jock to ever crack a mike in the heyday of top 40. You can check him out here.

Real also appeared in some highly prestigious films such as EATING RAOUL, DEATH RACE 2000 (starring Sylvester Stallone), ROCK N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, and Ron Howard’s first directing effort, GRAND THEFT AUTO. Television credits are equally as impressive: TALES FROM THE CRYPT and HERE COMES THE BRIDES.

I had the pleasure of working with him at two radio stations, K100 and TenQ in LA in the 70’s. He also fell off my couch stinking drunk one night and my wife still invited him to dinner again.

His catch phrase was “Tina Delgado is alive, ALIVE!” shouted by some unknown frenzied girl. No one ever knew the story behind it. Who Tina Degado was. How he came to use it. Even what the hell it meant. But it didn’t matter. It was all part of the excitement this larger-than-life personality created for “the magnificent megalopolis of Boss Angeles” three hours every day…and especially on “Fractious Fridays”.

Every year on his birthday, April 1st, I wish that maybe his passing is just an April’s Fool joke. That would be so like him. And at 3:00 I could turn on the radio, “Devil with a Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder would come blazing out of my speaker and I would hear “The Real Don Steele is alive, ALIVE!”

He is in my heart. And always will be.

25 comments :

Tom Asher said...

TRDS = GOAT (apologies to Dan Ingram).

Thank God for airchecks... a 41 year old Philly guy can learn about the great radio personalities of before my time, from the opposite coast.

Jeff R said...

Truly one of the best of all time and one of the reasons while growing up in LA that I wanted to be and did get to be on the radio! No one ever had the energy, timing or fun of the Real Don Steele...and no one ever will. You are lucky to have known him while I feel lucky to have had him on the radio every day in Boss Angeles!!

Pamela Atherton said...

My hero, too. Thanks for always posting about him. He was the best radio boss ever.

Paul Duca said...

Don't forget his appearance on BEWITCHED

Tom said...

On the topic of legendary DJs that rhyme with 'Don Steele' and were born in the 1930s (look, I'm not a segue guy, okay?): I heard a replay of one of John Peel's classic shows on 6 Music in the dead of last night and it made me realise that he's the only DJ I've ever cared strongly about. He sounds like the antithesis of Don Steele, whom I've heard of only through this blog, though — quiet and mannered, no catchphrases and always cutting edge, from the 1960s right the way through to his death in 2004.

There are still other people on the air doing his style of radio, indeed you could argue that 6 Music is almost an entire radio station of people trying to do John Peel's style, but they'll never best the real thing. And I'm writing this about somebody who was already on the other side of 60 when I got to university, no good-old-days lenses here.

Have you any strong feelings about that sort of DJ, Ken? Calm and conversational but with an undying thirst for new music, much more about content than style?

AlaskaRay said...

Can’t wait for the next fractious Friday.

Mike Barer said...

By the time it's your turn, there won't be many good air shifts left.

JR Smith said...

The Real Don Steele, Robert W., Dan Ingram...such talent! Miss these guys from when radio was amazing!

Peter said...

As Mr T would say, I pity the April fool!

Kevin Johnston said...

The Real Don Steele was IT when it came to Top 40 radio. The style of radio he perfected is long gone and I fear we will never get it back. Thank God we have what air checks we do, and the memories.

Andrew Krigel said...

He was one of my all time favorite boss jocks. Right along with RwM and Beaver Cleaver.

Peter said...

I'm a bit late to the party but I watched Network for the first time on Netflix. What a brilliant film. An incredibly intelligent script by Paddy Chayefsky.

My nice and short Friday question:

What do you think of Network?

Steve Michaels said...

WAIT!
The Tina Delgado story HAS been revealed. It started in Portland, Oregon when the local paper printed an obituary for a Tina Delgado and then, days later, printed a retraction saying Tina Delgado was alive. Steele grabbed on to this and made it his own in Portland and then in L.A. "And now you know the rest of the story."

Irv Goldstein said...

Some of us still rerun his "Live from the 60's" syndicated show - which he originally recorded in the late 80's into the early 90's - every weekend.

Talent never dies.

Anonymous said...

The Real Don Steele was LA Radio

Anonymous said...

The real Don Steele was very good.
But Larry Lujack was the man.

(and if we are talking surreal DJs,- different style- no one was better than The Greaseman)

Parvenue said...

I always thought ina Delgado was Katy Sagall

Rick Kurshner said...

I always thought Katy Sagal was Tina Dlegado

Jahn Ghalt said...

Thanks for the link to those airchecks.

(thanks too, for the occasional aircheck on your podcasts)

Now I know where you got your Hollywood and Levine jingle melody - not that it was "original" on KHJ.

Janet Ybarra said...

It's a shame they don't make DJs like that anymore.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken, a Friday question: you've written a lot here about the 10-minute plays you've been writing, and you've also talked about the difficulty today's sitcom showrunners face of fitting a "half hour show" into the 18-20 minutes they now have available. A local arts association near me is running a competition for 20-minute plays (to be produced by local performers at a nearby theater). How do you think about these different lengths? What makes a story a viable 20-minute story instead of a 10-minute story or vice-versa? When you sit down to write your cafe plays and you're still in the coming up with ideas stage, how do you recognize ones that will work at 10-minute length? (I'm guessing it's easier to spot ideas that won't work...)

wg

Dave Widel said...

My favorite radio April Fools was when the DJ for the Country station and the Hard Rock station swapped and announced their new format change. Lots of very angry callers. It might have been part of the gag, but apparently management was not consulted ahead of time, and they were less than thrilled. I could imagine some advertisers might have been less than happy.

sueK2001 said...

I recall hearing an Oldies package with him on some Oldies station. He really had a gift. I miss the old DJ's that made radio worth listening to.

Mike Barer said...

I remember when there were some DJs that were so compelling, I couldn't wait for the song to end, just so I could hear what they had to say.

Andy Ludlum said...

Loved your comments and hearing the aircheck, it brought back some great memories. I grew up listening to him on KHJ.