Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Real Don Steele

The Real Don Steele would have been 70 today. 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. has quite a few samples of his work. If you want to hear the greatest cookin’ jock to ever crack a mike in the heyday of top 40, check him out.

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.


Anonymous said...

You were lucky to have a DJ that played a role in your life.
Most markets don't have that tradition.
Growing up in DC in your same era, we didn't have anyone bigger than
I enjoy hearing RDS on reel radio dot com.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

This is a wonderful blog...

Thanks Ken for remembering The Reel Don Steele. I wish I would have met him. Closest I came was exchanging letters about 15 years ago when he was at KRLA. He must have liked the letter. His widow wrote to tell me that he kept it up 'till the end. I sure admired his work.

I imagine you have lots of great experiences and stories about the guy.

For those of you who haven't heard The Real Don Steele, do yourself a favor: Click to and listen to excerpts from a show or two, then hear the recording of his Four Fractious Friday sign-offs.

As with good writing, good DJ work (at least in Top 40) requires a few powerful words delivered well, I think.

Steele was more than just a loud DJ - he was a genius at creating something from nothing. At UCLA I did a paper on DJ's (It was the late '60's - we sometimes got credit for just breathing...), and I transcribed one of Don's Friday afternoon sign-offs. Just unrelated, rhyming words, strung together. But the magic he created when he delivered them

I think he must have been one smart fella, really, because he could verbally bob and weave...and sling double entendres with style and fire.

I never met him, but I suspect he was one smart cat. I imagine that this also probably true of many other accomplished creative people. I know it's true of Ken. (Straight A's in high school! He's modest. See, I forced it out of him once when I brought some high school kids to meet him at the studio. And, thanks again, for the tour Ken. They still talk about it...)

Anyway, as a DJ, Ken can work words just like Don, only in a different style. Ken is topical, quick and funnnnnny. Multi-level humor. I mean, anyone with an airname of Beaver Cleaver better deliver the goods, and he does!

What a minute. Someone clue me in. Why can't blogs be in audio?
I think Ken would be great to hear. And, it'd take less time than typing...

Ken, this is a great blog and thank you very much for creating it and entertaining us every day.

...and, I have a "Tina Delgado is Alive, ALIVE!" button pinned to my bulletin board, just in case.

Anonymous said...

Nobody ever came close to Steele, nobody. I hear these guys screaming
"Tom Trucking Super Q" and I laugh.
Don Steele was a fully developed character who exuded a kinetic charm and consistency that was more show biz than radio based.
The absolute last of the great
Boss Jocks is Humble Harve, still sounds great, by the way.

Pamela Atherton said...

I was fortunate enough to work for the Real Don Steele when he was at K-100. (the same place I met Beaver Cleaver.) Real was sweet and kind. And a nervous wreck if I wasn't there an hour before his show. He called me Princess Pam and even let me write his Friday sign-off riff a couple of times... an opportunity that Ken tells me he never afforded anyone else.

I admit to openly stealing his Fractious Friday designation for my Friday mornings when I was on-air. It was my personal homage to him. He was a great mentor... a funny man... and the jock one always aspired to be. He was part of my first experience in radio, and I will always love him for that.

Pam Atherton
oh... and speaking of an audio blog... I have an interview with Ken that I will soon be posting. I'll post the link when it's up.

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to win, "On Air" a Big Kahuna tiki charm with imitation leather necklace from Real Don. I wore it with pride for months.
At the time the Beach Boys were crankin out hits and Don was bellowing. It was my Southern California soundtrack.

Don was huge in my life and because of him and a handful of others I chose a career in broadcasting.

I'll never forget my fractious Friday's with the Real Don Steele.

Bill Nesbitt

Bobby Ocean said...

It turns out, we all are made of fluff.

What else can you call recycled thoughts? We, on this Life's journey, were all exposed to various others, and the mannerisms of those in whom we were interested, were carefully observed and stuck away in our mental scrapbooks, glued together with imagination. We have authority icons, celebrity states of mind files, emotion plug ins; it's all there in the imagination of each of us.

Steele was the most dynamic composit of show biz inspirations to erupt through the airwaves. His inspirations discerningly chosen, from the facets of Performing that excited him most. And he held his focus.

He absolutely thrilled me without my understanding exactly what he said much of the time. Tina Delgado (ney Del Gato) was one hell of an inspiration. Long live the Real Don Steele!

-- Bobby Ocean

Anonymous said...


Real was the best. He made working at KTNQ/KGBS so exciting. I wish I had a dollar for every time Paul Cassidy busted me for watching Real in the 10Q studio when I was supposed to me watching "Mongo" in the KGBS studio!

Anonymous said...

Great to know that many people still remember Don (Steele) on his birthday (April 1st)! I worked with him at KHJ and he was for a time my manager. I was a very young and naive girl from Merced California, hoping for a singing career. don and I "hit it off" and we were somewhat of an "item" for quite a few years. He was surely one of a kind...and I have a million stories! (Some tellable and some not!) I spoke to him on his last birthday (age 61)...he was ten years older than I...he didn't act as if he knew that anything was wrong that day! I spoke to another good friend, Robert W. Morgan (who was also batteling cancer at the time) and he was the one who told me about Don. I do still miss the once a year phone call ... but somehow I think he's still "in touch" with those of us who loved the guy. (By the way, he produced one 45 with me called "Angel Baby" on Liberty/Imperial records.)

Synthetrix said...

The Real Don Steele and KHJ were a HUGE influence on my musical tastes as a kid growing up in the Southern California in the 60s-70s.
I recorded a song called "Boss Angeles" on my first album, Synthetrix I, which was released in 2001. It's a tribute to Boss Radio, KHJ, Robert W. Morgan and Don Steele. You can hear it on iTunes.

Anonymous said...

The Phrase "Tina Delgado is alive, alive" originated from a News Paper . .
Don read the name in the Obituary Section and ran with it. Imagine his surprise when it grew wings.

viv1985 said...

My dad worked with Don in the 60's and early '70s, both at KOIL and out in LA. If the "Gracie" from the previous post is his significant other from back then, I would love to get in touch with you!


Gene said...

Tina Delgado is alive, alive!
In that time period, a classified in the LA Times, that ran everyday, exclaimed "Tina Delgado is alive alive! No other coments were in the ad.

Bassinman200 said...

Hey, I was talking to my sister today, and the question of Tina Delgado came up. I couldn't remember who she was (or wasn't), so I decided to Google the name. I was pretty young back then while living in Sylmar, just below Foothill Blvd. in Los Angeles County. My Sis is 9 years older than I am, so I figured that since she had met the Beach Boys at Sylmar High, there may be a good chance that she could tell me what the story was. All she could remember was the same thing I did, that the Real Don Steel always said "Tina Delgado is alive, alive!!!!" every time he was ready for a station break, commercial, or major announcement. I asked her who Tina was, but she said that no one ever knew. So, I guess that my search goes on for the truth about Tina (if there really was such a person). I left LA in '67 and went back to Oklahoma where I was born. Living here in Ponca City, I was one of the few that went to 'The Great American Crosby Fly-in' at Ponca High School. I did meet Gaylord Sartain and Gary Bussey who were, at that time, local Tulsa KOTV Chanel 6 talents Mazeppa and Teddy Jack, respectively. I returned to LA for a family visit in '72, and again listened to my favorite stations KHJ and KRLA. but I didn't hear the usual voice of Real Don. I must have missed his air time, but I did catch Casey Casem and his top 10 report. Living in LA was really great. I got to see James Brown receive an award on the side steps of KRLA studio, I met Soupy Sales, I witnessed a live performance of The Outsiders doing "Time Won't Let Me, I saw Something and Cher (in cow hide and bell bottoms), I met Ron Peranoski, time Dodgers pitcher at the time, and when I went back for the visit I saw even more stars and personalities and talked with them around Hollywood. The main one I remember was Ephraim Zimbelist Jr., who had driven his Eisenberg into the same UNION 76 station we were at. I also went back to my favorite eatery, Clifton's Cafeteria, although the location was not the one I frequented. I enjoyed hearing Real while traveling PCH and The Golden State Freeway, 405 and 5 and 10, going to Zuma, Capestrano, San Climente, and even up to Solvang, Redding, Napa, Salinas, and Stockton. Somehow I always lost the signal going to Needles and couldn't hear what apparently was one of Don's favorites, "I Fought The Law". But that was probably just because he had to play it so many times as required. Thanx a lot for putting up this site. I didn't learn who Tina was, yet, and Probably never will, but I'm glad your site jogged my senile old brain into remembering "THE REAL DON STEEL" who I grew up with (along with the great Wolf Man Jack). Phil Nuttle, Sylmar CA, 1957-1967.

Anonymous said...

I had the GREAT good fortune of being friends with Bob Hudson, Bill Landry and Bill Ballance. I do not remember who it was who told me the story of Tina Delgado, but what I recall is this:

Tina Delgado was a teenager in the 60's who evidently was listening to her transistor radio (remember those?) with headphones on. She was walking along railroad tracks, probably on her way home from school or wherever... and was struck by a train and killed.

The story of the teenaged radio fan, killed by a train, was immortalized by the Real Don steele and the rest is history. I do NOT know if this is actually how the phrase came about or not. I think the one who told me was Michael Gorman, who was record librarian for a while at KROQ but had known and worked with the Boss Jocks and at KRLA as well.


hannah50 said...

Hi Ken,

I grew up in Redondo Beach, CA during the BOSS radio days. I was just doing a search on Tina Delgado and ran into your blog.

I don't know if you're on Facebook, but I found a page that brought back the button! And I ordered quite a few.

I moved to Maine 15 years ago from southern CA and we have a DJ here on the local collage station (WMPG) that emulates the BOSS radio sound of The Real Don Steele. The DJ was raised here in Maine but as a teenager ran across an album of Don's show. Changed his life.

He has a weekly show on Saturdays from 1:30-3pm EST. You can stream it live or listen to it off his site once he's uploaded it. Bill Audette, and the show is called The Night Train. I will actually be co-hosting a show with him on May 10, 2014.

Off to read more of your blog.

Peace -

Unknown said...

Wow! Cool story! 😀

Unknown said...

I used to listen to him in the '80s on 1110AM KRLA when it was an oldies station(I began listening to this station in 1980 when it had been an oldies station for three years or so and I was already in 6th grade at the time). He was fantastic. A decade later, he ended up on KRTH 101.1 FM and was great there as well. When he died 20 and a half years ago, my mother said she listened to him a bit in the late '60s when both of my parents came to America from Argentina in 1967(they lived in New York for several months before moving to California at the end of that year). My parents favorite DJ on KHJ was the late Charlie Tuna, who two years ago in mid-February of 2016(Charlie's death wasn't announced until Leap Year day of that year). 😃