Jim Carson, Shaune Steele pass
As we were going to press last week with early reader tributes to Jim Ladd, who passed away in late December, word came that we lost two more radio greats … this time on the same day. Jim Carson, last heard on KRTH (101.1 FM) and Shaune Steele, one of the great behind the scenes managers, both died on December 29.
Carson is among the most versatile air personalities in the business, a guy who could do any format, and shift. He was also one of the nicest guys I have met, always making time to talk with me at various radio gatherings … making me feel like his best friend every time we spoke.
He was born Vic Gruppie in La Canada, and studied journalism, radio and television at Pasadena City College before attending the legendary Don Martin School of Broadcasting. His work prior to Los Angeles included KFRC/San Francisco and KGB/San Diego. In 1965 he arrived at KBLA/Burbank (then at 1500 AM, now off the air); by 1973 he was heard on the brand-new K-100 (KIQQ, now KKLQ, 100.3 FM) … where he remained for an astonishing 16 years under multiple formats including top-40, adult contemporary, and soft rock.
He then went to KLIT (now KSCA, 101.9 FM) playing light rock for five years, and finally to KRTH doing the mid-day shift for another astounding time period, this time 22 years, until he retired in 2016.
Always upbeat — I am told that he never lost his temper — and always with a good story to tell, Carson was known in the industry and among friends as the consummate professional, fully prepared, and consistently ready to make a positive influence on everyone he met — or played music for — on or off the air.
A few days prior to his death, he had emergency surgery for bleeding in his brain; the surgery was first thought successful but he succumbed to his illness a few days later. He is survived by his wife Susan and his son Kit.
Shaune (McNamara) Steele was one of the people who make stations sparkle. She worked at numerous stations including KHJ (930 AM) twice, KHTZ/KLSX (now KNX-FM, 97.1 FM), KRLA (now KWVE, 1110 AM), KRTH and KCBS-FM (93.1 FM), usually as music director or a related area.
At KHJ during the great 1978-80 comeback days under programmer Chuck Martin, she played a pivotal role: “She was my executive assistant and music director, Martin told me. “I am shocked and in disbelief. She was my right hand and arm … a dynamo, smart and sharp. She was the best assistant I ever had, ever,” he said, adding “She kept me sane many times … and protected me to the max by keeping many of the record promoters away from me!”
In recent years she spent much of her time researching, documenting, archiving, and presenting the radio legacy of her late husband, The Real Don Steele, whom she married — if I recall correctly — in 1992. She is one of the reasons there are so many airchecks of Don available on the internet.
Steele is another who always made time to talk to friends and fans alike. Years before I ever met her in person, she had replied to me when I wrote to KHJ back when I was in high school or college. I still have her letter; it meant a lot to a radio fan like me that someone in her position would take the time to write back, and it showed her dedication and love of the job in doing so as well. “Genuine” is perhaps a good word to use in describing Steele. Kind, and Genuine. She will be missed.
InsideMusicMedia’s Jerry Del Colliano reports that Audacy, owner of multiple local stations including KRTH, KTWV (94.7 FM) and KNX (1070 AM, 97.1 FM) has reportedly been working with lenders and creditors to create a pre-packaged bankruptcy, which if approved by all concerns will reduce debt, but hamstring the company’s growth efforts.
The net effect? More cuts, less reason to exist. In my opinion the deal should be rejected, and Audacy should be forced to sell stations to those who know how to run them … including, perhaps current local management. Like all major radio groups, Audacy is too large to be successful; radio’s few success stories these days center on small, locally-focused owners. Time to break up the monopolies.
Your tributes to Jim Ladd are not unnoticed…. they just got pushed back a week due to the deaths of Carson and Steele. I hope to include more next week. And if you have any kind words for Carson or Steele as well, please send them my way.
Richard Wagoner is a San Pedro freelance columnist covering radio in Southern California. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.