Local radio legend the Real Don Steele, who rocketed to prominence as one of the disc jockey architects of the “Boss Radio” format at Los Angeles’ KHJ-AM in the mid-1960s, died Tuesday morning after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 61.
Steele passed away at his home in the Hollywood Hills not far from where he was born in Hollywood on April 1, 1936.
It was Steele’s voice that first introduced 93-KHJ’s ultrahip top-40 “Boss Radio” sound on May 3, 1965. Along with fellow jocks Sam Riddle, Humble Harv Miller, Charlie Tuna and Robert W. Morgan, Steele and KHJ battled KRLA for local supremacy and racked up phenomenal ratings through much of the remainder of the decade. He also hosted the music television shows “Boss City” and “The Real Don Steele Show” for KHJ-9, which is now KCAL TV.
While KHJ began to fade in the 1970s with the emergence of FM stereo — even adopting a country format for a time in the 1980s — Steele remained a popular radio personality clear through the 1990s.
Over the past five years, Steele handled the afternoon drive-time shift at oldies-spinner KRTH-FM. His final day on the air there was May 16. Steele’s fellow KHJ alum Morgan — also a KRTH personality — has been off the air battling lung cancer as well. However, Morgan is said to be improving after therapy.
Steele is survived by his wife, Shaune. Private services are pending.