Boss Radio Legend
The Real Don Steele
passed away in his sleep Tuesday morning, August 5th, 1997, at his home in the Hollywood Hills, after a short bout with lung cancer. Steele had given up smoking in 1979. He was 61.
Donald S. Revert was born April 1, 1936 in Hollywood. He graduated from Hollywood High School, served in the Air Force and then studied at a local radio school before working at stations around L.A. He worked in Kennewick, Yakima and Spokane, Washington; Omaha, Nebraska; Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco before returning to Los Angeles to work at the All-New KHJ in April of 1965. He is survived by his wife, Shaune.
Steele did his last show on KRTH on May 16th of this year. He was one of the first to deliver the phrase "Boss Radio in Boss Angeles" on the air.
"He had never been ill until this came along," Shaune Steele said.
"I grew up as a fan, listening to him on the radio. We ran across each other at
KRLA, where he was working. We knew each other about five years before we got married five years ago," she said.
In the book Los Angeles Radio People, Mr. Steele recalled the beginnings of
Boss Radio in May, 1965: "We were standing literally at ground zero, then (his radio format) became a huge giant. It was like a mushroom cloud that went up — heavy on the mushroom."
Mr. Steele was never one to analyze the evolution of rock radio. In a 1995 interview, he insisted, "Look, you take the Motown sound and the British Invasion and you throw in Elvis and Roy Orbison, and you have a music mix that's hard to beat at any time or any place."
In 1990, several major record companies honored Mr. Steele, Robert W. Morgan and format creator Bill Drake at a Boss Radio Reunion Dinner. It was an immediate sellout.
"Morgan was the first one hired for Boss Radio," Drake said. ''He recommended Steele. He flew down from San Francisco. I was a little leery because I had heard he was kind of a crazy man, but it turned out he was very dedicated to his work."
The Real Don Steele (inset) with the original KHJ Boss Jocks and their Boss elephant.
Mr. Steele stayed at KHJ until 1973, then moved on to KIQQ, KTNQ, KRLA,
KODJ, KCBS and arrived at KRTH in July 1992. He made his
acting debut in ABC-TV's Bewitched, had his own weekly TV dance-party show and appeared in such movies as Death Race 2000, Grand Theft Auto and Eating Raoul. He starred as "Screamin' Steve Stevens" in Rock 'n' Roll High School, "Rockin' Ricky Rialto" in Gremlins, and in 1996, he played a driver in Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood. He recorded commercials, and at one time had a successful,
nationally syndicated radio show. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995 it's at Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue.
With Tiny Tim
"It must be a sad day for Tina Delgado,'' author-historian Don Barrett said of Mr. Steele's death. Delgado became part of Mr. Steele's afternoon mantra, "Tina Delgado is alive, alive!"
Who she was is a mystery he took with him. Not even his wife knew.
"He never told me and I never asked," Shaune Steele said. "I felt if I had asked him that when we were dating, we never would have gotten married. He didn't like people to get too close. We had only a very small circle of intimate friends."
With Dan Rowan and Dick Martin
A poll seeking the top 10 disc jockeys in Los Angeles from 1957 to 1997 rated Steele
second among the 232 personalities nominated. The ballot was printed by Barrett in his 1994 book, and results are published in the second volume of his book. Rick Dees said of Steele in Barrett's book, "Pure,
raw energy and focus. And he still has it every day. That's amazing!.
Boyd R. Britton, who worked with Steele in the late 1970's at KTNQ
said, "He educated me in star quality, in energy and focus. He epitomized energy on the air." Reflecting on Steele's habit of using very high headphone
levels, Britton said, "Very early on he was extremely hearing
damaged. It was very difficult for him to hear in a group. That made his natural speaking voice almost as loud as his on-air voice."
In 1993, from KRTH, Steele told the Los Angeles Times:
I don't think I'm any different now. I've never stopped. I've never changed. I never did anything else. This is the music of my life."