Alison Steele was born on January 26, 1937, in Brooklyn. She won a disc jockey spot on WNEW-FM when the station was experimenting with all-women lineup. Steele was the only woman disc jockey asked to stay on. She broadcast as “Nightbird” and developed a late-night following. In 1976, she was the first woman chosen as Billboard magazine’s FM Personality of the Year. Steele died of cancer in 1995.
Radio disc jockey and personality. Born on January 26, 1937, in Brooklyn, New York. Calling herself the ??Nightbird,?? Alison Steele was one of the first female disc jockeys on the radio. As a child, she hungered to get into show business and worked at a television station as an errand girl in her teens. Steele got her chance in 1966, winning one of the four disc jockey spots on radio station WNEW-FM in New York City. The station was experimenting with all-women lineup of radio personalities, and she beat out around 800 other applicants. The station format soon changed, but Steele became a fixture at the station. She was the only woman disc jockey asked to stay on.
For more than a decade, Alison Steele worked at WNEW-FM. This ??Nightbird?? took her nickname from the hours she was usually on air. With a voice that has been described as ??sultry,?? ??syrupy,?? and ??smoky,?? she developed a late-night following. Steele often talked to her audience, receiving around 25 to 30 calls during her show. She also helped advance progressive rock during the early days of the genre. On her show, Steele would play music by such later mainstream successes Yes and Genesis as well as the more experimental sound of such groups as Tangerine Dream. In 1976, she again broke new ground, becoming the first woman chosen as Billboard magazine??s FM Personality of the Year.
After leaving WNEW-FM in 1979, Alison Steele worked in television on the CNN program Limelight for several years. She later returned to radio, and her last disc jockey position was on New York??s WXRK. During her long career, Steele also found time to record voice-overs for commercials.
Alison Steele died of cancer on September 27, 1995, at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. She is remembered as one of the great women of radio??a true on-air pioneer.
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