Tag Archives: WNEW-FM

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Dick Summer re Alison Steele
Dick Summer (photo from: http://grubstreet.ca/articles/index/495/radio-dick-summer)

Yesterday’s post on WNEW-FM DJ Alison Steele got a great response. Ex WNEW DJ Dick Summer contacted me about his thoughts on Alison.

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Dick Summer

To give you an idea about Dick Summer, let me quote from the Grubstreet magazine: Summer fit well among giants. His warmth, sensitivity and style matched “Wolfman Jack.” He balanced the raucous “Cousin Brucie.” His intelligence complimented Carl de Suze. His subtle mischievousness laid way for the lampooning Don Imus. He and Alison Steele, the Nightbird, were late-night poets, who set listeners free and aloft.

The sum all others and more, Dick Summer stands tallest. He’s as smooth as Larry “Superjock” Lujack or Sonny Fox. He’s as off-the-wall as Dale Dorman or Soupy Sales. As cerebral as Steve Allen, Dick Summer is cleverer. He offered Shrewsbury crumbs or a scoop of peanut butter to contest winners.

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Summers’ words

And what did he have to say about Alison Steele? 

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 had a wicked, slow smile and a big, soft, gentle heart….  (the quote is also from Dick Summer’s great read called Staying Happy, Healthy, and Hot)

The forward to the book reads: A late August night, and you’re sitting alone on the stoop in tee shirt and jeans. A bottle of Nedick’s orange sweats at your side, and the Philco radio in the windowsill plays Sarah Vaughan so softly it stirs a warm breeze as the prettiest girl in the world turns the corner. Neighborhood kids in black sneakers run past her along the sidewalk chasing fireflies, while the guy across the street sprays a hose along the fins on his ’57 Chevy. He turns, as you do, to watch the prettiest girl in the world walk slowly through the night air, her summer dress swishing against bare legs, her hair flowing like the waves at Coney Island.

While that might not exactly describe each of our teenage lives (I sat on a Jersey stoop and could hear Palisades Amusement Park’s Cyclone), it has enough components to keep us reading. I suggest you do, too.

Thanks again to Dick Summer.

To find out more about Dick Summer today, check out his siteDick

Dick Summer re 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