The Real Don Steele Collection RDS re: RDS

..."RDS hated talking about himself to writers, press people, etc. (He) always knew he'd get quoted out of context. (It was) very difficult to get him to speak about his philosophies at any time.

These quotes ... were from an interview for a book project that never came to fruition. We became friendly with the guy who was writing the book and Don actually spoke to him... You have no idea how shocked I was! (This transcript) is Don in his own words talking about what made him tick.

- Shaune Steele
My two biggest influences were Elisha Cook, Jr. and Francis Faye.
Elisha Cook, Jr.
Elisha Cook, Jr.
I was watching the movies, and in the "Falcon" series, in one of those films, Elisha Cook. Jr. plays a disk jockey, and I saw that and said. "Jeez, what a gig." Anyway, it was him and then years later, there was one album by Frances Faye performing live in Vegas.
Frances Faye
Frances Faye
She had this routine, her timing and so forth, she was always a little dirty and a little risque, the tempo was always moving and I said, "That's the kind of act I'd like to put on, in my own way." And I put those two people together and created "The Real Don Steele."

When I started, rock & roll radio could garner a huge audience in whatever market. But the sales people were unable to sell it because rock & roll was just some horrible fad started by Elvis moving his "lousy, stinking, filthy" hips. That's the way it was. It was a negative. Teenagers would listen to it and at minimum, masturbate, and at maximum, get pregnant, just by listening to the records. Or so everyone thought. What made huge sums of money, what popularized Top 40 radio, was the Beatles. Elvis made it popular, the Beatles made it negotiable. After that, it just got so huge that even though people looked down their noses and frowned at it, they couldn't deny that it was there and it was a negotiable medium.

So I'd look at the big baritone announcers and think, how do I get to be what they are, how do I get to be popular, how do I get the fan mail, how do I get the people to go, "Oooh, Frankie!" How do I get that? I don't have a baritone voice, I didn't have that shit. Well, how did Alan Freed get his, he was a squeaky-voiced jerk? He played the fuckin' records. He played the music. When you're the guy who plays the music, you become the star. It seemed real automatic, real obvious to me. So that's when I said, "Shit, I'm not gonna get into "good" music (which was an opportunity, it was a viable format at the time), or news, or anything like that. If I do, I'm not gonna have any fanatic groupies running after me. Rock & roll is what I'm gonna get into." That's what I went for, like all d.j.'s do, they're all trying to get laid.

I came down here from San Francisco to get hired by Bill Drake, he was the creator of the "BOSS radio" format. He'd had the format in the back of his mind, and had done it in smaller markets. I think he'd done it in Fresno and he was successful in San Diego and then latched onto a vehicle like KHJ where he could plug his thing into a market that counted, that people paid attention to. I mean, you could have a successful format in Fresno, or in some other small market and nobody pays attention to you. I was a big hit in San Francisco, I was a big hit in Portland, Oregon, and I was a big hit in Omaha-fuckin'-Nebraska. So what?

I had just come off some pretty good success' at KEWB in San Francisco and I knew, after monitoring L.A., that this joint was ripe, I mean really ripe. The reason I wanted to come back was because I always knew this was where it was. When you're on the radio in other cities though, it's like, "What do you do?" "Well, I work at Kress", or "I work at B&F Manufacturers, or I work at the radio station." There's no pecking order, there's no glamour thing. Out here, you're show-folk, you're different. I came back to Hollywood and I said, "Oh yeah, of course."

KHJ Boss 30, February 23, 1966
KHJ Boss 30,
February 23, 1966
So Drake took me around on a tour. He had just gotten here from I think it was San Diego and had just rented a house in one of the joints on the Strip. I was kissing up to him to let him know that I was not a fucking maniac because I had had a bad rep in San Francisco (they thought I was "raucous.") One of the heavy officers of RKO (who owned the station) said, "We'll let him [Drake] program here. He's done alright at my station in San Diego, let's let him try this one." He got Robert W. Morgan down here before he got me because they had worked against each other in Fresno. He asked Morgan if he knew of an afternoon drive guy, and I was hired. At this time, KHJ was 17th in the market, nobody paid any attention, we were just a bunch of guys coming in, nobody gave a fuck.

We came down here and sat... actually, I sat here longer than anyone else because I was "questionable." At this time, KHJ had what they called "The Cavalcade of Hits." We [the jocks] came down to the bar at the bottom of the Continental Hyatt House and played MOR, Eartha Kitt, "Come On To My House, To My House Come On", all that sort of thing. This must have been for about 60 days, we just sort of sat there till the staff got gathered up.

All of a sudden, KFWB, which was on the air rockin' at the time, got hold of the word "BOSS", which was going to be our big schtick, and they started saying the word. Well, that scared Drake, he thought, "We're going to be upstaged by these guys." So KHJ had a sneak preview in the afternoon with me and I became the first to do the "BOSS" format.

KHJ Boss 30, August 27 1969
KHJ Boss 30,
August 27, 1969
Now what I had to do, so people wouldn't say it was just a music machine, a jukebox, I had to stick in this stuff, my schtick, over the intro of records, in 5,6,7,8 seconds. That's executing the Drake format. It was puttting personality into a very short period of time. This was a big deal, it was revolutionary.

We kicked off the format and I knew it was going to be a killer right off the top because the other stations couldn't get it together fast enough, they didn't understand what we were doing until the fucking city fell at our feet. It was incredible. It just went up like a balloon, we were monsters almost overnight. It swept the country. All the other radio stations immediately glommed onto the word "BOSS." I became No. 1 when we broke format.

After KHJ, when I was on another radio station, I'd go into the men's room and nobody would go in with me. At KHJ, I couldn't have gotten it out without several people, you know, being polite but still talking to me. After that, they allowed me to go into the men's room by myself. And later, when I had my own television show, people would say, "Oh, you're the guy on radio." But you had to be on television for them to say that.