» Portland Radio

"The Real Don Steele" Portland History & More

(3 posts)
  • Started 6 years ago by Craig_Adams
  • Latest reply from Bill Cooper


  1. Craig_Adams
    Radio historian

    Today April 1, 1936 The Real Don Steele was born in Hollywood, CA. Don was one of the most popular disc jockeys in the United States, from the mid 1960s until his retirement (for health reasons) in May 1997. "The Real Don Steele," a name given to him by KOIL Program Director, Steve Brown, in Omaha, Nebraska, hoped the moniker would click with listeners and make him stand out from other radio personalities.

    Steele graduated from Hollywood High School, served in the U.S. Air Force, then studied at the Don Martin School of Broadcasting. Shortly thereafter, Don began his radio career weekends at KCBH-FM Los Angeles, moving to KBUC in Corona, CA. in 1960, then on to KEPR Kennewick, WA. also in 1960; KIMA Yakima in 1961; (The Mighty 1290) KOIL Omaha, Neb. afternoon drive, also in 1961 and KXLY Spokane, morning drive, beginning in March 1963.

    In July 1963, 27 year old Steele moved to Portland, becoming KISN Program Director, as well as a "Kisn Good Guy" weekday afternoons 3 to 7pm. Within the 12 months Don spent in the Rose City, listeners were dazzled by his outrageous on air antics and excitement. One of Steele's most memorable bits was his run for President of The United States. Don's slogan: "For a New Real Deal, Wheel with Steele in 64." "The Cooler Ruler" even did one of his shows from the "Steel" bridge, proclaiming it as his own, dressed as Uncle Sam, snarling up traffic and shouting to passersby "Remember Our War Cry: Tina Delgalo Is Alive, ALIVE!"

    Don's bid for President didn't workout, so Steele goes totally power crazy on "Kisn Radio" declaring himself Emperor of North America! Listeners were invited to become sympathizers by joining the "Emperor's Legions Order of The Imperial Wheel." In late July 1964 Steele left KISN (91erful) to become KEWB Channel 91 (Cube Country) San Francisco, Program Director and afternoon drive, before returning to Los Angeles to help kick off what would become one of the most influential radio stations in the country, 93/KHJ, Boss Radio, in 1965.

    Steele became nationally-known as a DJ on KHJ, where he helped to promote the "ultrahip" top-40 Boss Radio format which began at 3pm on April 27, 1965. In the book "Los Angeles Radio People", Steele recalled the beginnings of Boss Radio: "We were standing literally at ground zero, then (the radio format) became a huge giant. It was like a mushroom cloud that went up -- heavy on the mushroom." Steele also appeared on TV as host of "Boss City" and his own weekly TV dance-party, "The Real Don Steele Show" which ran from 1965 to 1975 on KHJ-TV.

    When popularity of AM radio gave way to FM stereo in the 1970s, Steele continued to remain a popular personality. Don stayed at 93/KHJ until June 1973, then moved to other L.A. stations including KIQQ (K-100); KTNQ (1976); KRLA (1985); KODJ/KCBS-FM (1990) and KRTH-FM (K-Earth 101) from 1992 to 1997. Steele also had a successful, nationally syndicated three-hour radio show called "Live From The 60's" from 1988 until 1993.

    He appeared in several films, many times playing a disc jockey, in films such as Death Race 2000 (1975), Grand Theft Auto (1977), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), Eating Raoul (1982), and Gremlins (1984). He also appeared as himself in KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978). On TV, Steele had appearances in a 1966 episode of Bewitched, and in an episode of Here Come the Brides in 1970.

    On May 3, 1995 Don received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. The Real Don Steele died of lung cancer on August 5, 1997, at the age of 61.

    References: "The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio," The Oregonian & Wikipedia.

    Posted on April 1, 2014 - 12:12 AM #
  2. msndrspdx

    One can say that a little but important piece of Don's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame belongs to KISN. Many of Don's KISN fans still have their membership cards in Don's order, now collector's items.

    KHJ-TV (9) in Los Angeles is now KCAL-DTV and is now owned by CBS. KHJ also produced the original "Elvira's Movie Macabre" series, which started as a local show and ended up running in syndication successfully for five years, with reruns airing across the nation for years thereafter. When KHJ got sold to CBS and got renamed, Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira) bought the series and all the rights to it from KHJ and then joined forces with Shout Factory to put it on DVD, where that piece of KHJ history still lives on.

    Best, Mike 8)

    Posted on April 1, 2014 - 08:08 AM #
  3. Bill Cooper

    I had the privilege to hear and see RDS when he worked at KISN. That experience was what prompted me to have a career in radio. I was in the 4th grade and was riding with my dad up Burnside. We got to the KISN studios at SW 10th but missed the red light that would have allowed me to see the DJ in the window on the world studio for more than just a moment. I begged my dad to go around the block, which he did, and this time we hit the light. I turned up the radio and got to hear Don in all his glory. RDS was the best!

    Posted on April 1, 2014 - 10:49 AM #