WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

January 26, 1937 – September 27, 1995

“The flutter of wings, the sounds of the night, the shadow across the moon, as the Nightbird lifts her wings and soars above the earth into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel. Come fly with me, Alison Steele, the Nightbird…”

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
An official autographed portrait of Alison Steele, courtesy of Kimball Brandner
(According to Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffery, the song “Night Bird Flying”, recorded by Hendrix and released posthumously on the album, The Cry Of Love, was inspired by Allison’s late night Manhattan radio program.)

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

Alison

For those of us in the New York metropolitan area who discovered FM rock music in the 60s, WNEW-FM is the station we think of.  Yes, WOR-FM had preceded ‘NEW with a rock format and later there was WPLJ-FM where John Zacherle and Vin Scelsa initially were. But WNEW-FM really was where rock and our hearts lived.

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

And Alison Steele became one of those voices forever embedded in our hearts.

She began her time at ‘NEW in 1966 as part of  an all female DJ line-up.  An interesting legal adjustment WNEW made since FM stations in large markets could no longer simulcast what was being broadcast on the AM side. The experiment lasted 13 months.

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

WOR-FM

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
WNEW-FM newsletter from July 1966. The station launched an all female DJ line-up. Alison Steele was one of that group.

WOR-FM, another NYC station, dropped free-form rock in the late fall of 1967 and WNEW-FM hired ex-WOR-FM jocks Rosko (Bill Mercer) and Scott Muni and added Jonathan Schwartz and Dick Summer. Alison Steele remained and became “The Nightbird.”

The wonder and beauty of WNEW-FM’s format was that the DJ’s were far more than disc jockeys. While certainly playing music–vinyl and likely albums–they also spoke to us. They commented on current events. They read poetry. They told stories.

In 1971, a New York Times article wrote, “In the radio world, Alison Steele is something of a rarity. As WNEW-FM’s self-proclaimed “Nightbird,”  she is the only full-time woman disk jockey in the city and one of the few in the country.”

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

Valentine’s Day, 1977

She left WNEW in 1979, but her voice continued to be her presence.

Alison died in 1995 of cancer. Our Nightbird had flown >>> NYT obit

References: NY Radio Archive site

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
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18 thoughts on “WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele”

  1. Alison’s voice was comforting and soothing, especially after a long day. She was someone to look forward to. Thank you, Woodstock Whisperer for the sharing the memories.

  2. I learned so much about music from Alison as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep each night. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Yes, Renaissance, and dozens of other bands and artists came into my life – brought there by Alison. Her voice both educated me and lulled me to sleep throughout my high school years. I don’t think I’ve ever slept as well since then. Not that Alison was boring, that was not the case. She was comforting. She is missed.

  3. Allison Steele called herself The Night Bird. Allison did
    overnights when I did mornings on WNEW-FM. She looked
    just like she sounded: smoky, smooth, and sexy. She wore short
    leather skirts very, very well. She had a wicked, slow smile and a big,
    soft, gentle heart in a nicely curved sweater, and as I said, a very short
    leather skirt. Did I mention a very short leather skirt? I tried to put the chapter I did about her in my book here, but it was rejected as “spammy.” I’ll be glad to send it to you (free-no spam) if you drop me a note at dick@dicksummer.com

  4. In the words of Rosko: “That’s it – – gotta go – – but remember: I sure do love you so…”

    WNEW -FM was the soundtrack of my youth -Jonathan Schwartz’s Friday night poems – -Vin with “T-shirt and Razop Kelly”, the “Professor”, and of course, flying with the nightbird – – a magical time in Rock radio, and for late 60 s and early 70s culture – the station is gone, but the memories live on…

  5. Pretty sure Allison Steele was well treated and respected in the last 10 years of her career by Howard Stern, whom she preceded, at WXRK. This may not fit in with the WNEW romanticizing tone of the piece, but some of us couldn’t stand the drone of WNEW. We needed it snappier, more to the point, and more irreverent like Howard at his best! Yes, I miss Allison, but she had a good friend in Howard.

    1. I’m sure the fans of WNEW would not use the word “drone” to describe the station. Often relaxed and typically meaningful without shouting. Not looking for irreverent commentary (as funny as Stern can be), but sense. WNEW could be other things, but its DJs spoke to its listeners in a way that connected to many.

  6. Listened late at night to a transistor hidden under my pillow, FM was sort of subversive, not being as commercial as WMCA ond 1010WINS and departure from the hit single top 100 format. . Alison delivered the best of the times, and interviewed them all live in the studio. She did a lot for Rock and deserves greater recognition for her immense contribution.

  7. Never anyone like her or will ever be in music. WNEW was the flagship of FM music and she was someone I always looked forward to listening every night. RIP

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