Bob Steele (broadcaster)
|Birth name||Robert Lee Steele|
July 13, 1911|
Kansas City, Missouri
|Died||December 6, 2002
|Show||The Bob Steele Show|
|Time slot||5:30-10 AM ET|
|Children||Robert H. Steele et al.|
Robert Lee "Bob" Steele (July 13, 1911 – December 6, 2002) was an American radio personality. He was with WTIC Radio in Hartford, Connecticut for more than 66 years, and dominated the morning radio scene in Southern New England for most of that time.
He was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1911. After working as a newsboy, salesman, motorcycle messenger and professional boxer, he was invited to Hartford by a race promoter to announce a motorcycle race. On his last day in town, he walked into WTIC-AM on a whim and asked to audition for a vacant announcer position. He became a junior staff announcer at WTIC in Hartford on Oct. 1, 1936.
He took over The G. Fox Morning Watch radio show on WTIC Radio in 1943. (In a day when businesses sponsored entire programs, the prominence of the business was a reflection of the show's popularity. G. Fox was the premier department store chain in the greater Hartford area.) In 1950 it was renamed The Bob Steele Show. By the time he retired from the daily radio show in 1991, he had created one of the longest running radio shows in the country. But he never fully retired; he continued to host a Saturday morning radio show on WTIC-AM until his death.
For much of his time at WTIC, he also did the evening sports program on WTIC radio and television, no mean feat, since he had to be on the air at 5:30 AM. For years, Steele broadcast six days a week and told the occasional incredulous interviewer that the show was his pastime, not a job.
The show was easy-going and comfortably predictable. Segments comprised weather (including world temperatures), sports (Steele was longtime sports director for WTIC), birthdays (only over 80), anniversaries (only over 60), local and national news, storytelling for children. Nothing brightened up a winter morning more for generations of school-age kids than when Bob Steele announced that there would be no school that day. A favorite segment was "Tiddlywinks from the Teletype, little stories of little importance..." that wrapped up each day's show, ending with the final bars of the 2nd Connecticut Regiment March leading into the 10:00 AM news.
Quick with a pun (and a corny joke or two..."my full name is Robert L. Steele - the 'L' stands for Elmer"), Steele’s respect for the spoken word was renowned. He regularly shared with his audience tips and lessons on grammar and pronunciation, including his Word for the Day, an always popular part of his show. His unparalleled popularity was matched by a very responsive audience. He regularly received hundreds of letters a week from listeners, including, reportedly, letters from listeners "Down Under." Due to the potency of the WTIC transmitter, atmospheric conditions would occasionally allow his show to be heard as far away as Australia.
He often told folksy, punny stories about his numerous relatives, including his uncles Coldrolled and Stainless, and his aunts Bessemer and Amalgamated. Whenever he announced temperatures, when he got to Deep River, Connecticut, he lowered his voice as deep as it would go.
His favorite poem was Marriott Edgar's "The Lion and Albert" which he recited on occasion, complete with British accent. Two other on-the-air traditions (during 1961 through 1968) were the playing of Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink's recording of "Silent Night" on each Christmas Eve and, at 6:45 AM each morning, using "In a Clock Store" [C J Orth] to awaken those not yet in his listening audience. Bob would occasionally play, if requested, the flip side of this record, "A Hunt in the Black Forest" [G Voelker, Jr.]. "A Hunt in the Black Forest" had been his opening theme during earlier years.
Throughout the 1960s, Steele vowed to not play music by the Beatles and other rock and roll acts on his show. By the 1980s, however, oldies from the sixties, including songs by the Beatles and others, worked their way into his playlists. Steele was more famous, however, for the obscure novelty songs he often played on his show, especially Rolf Harris' "Two Buffaloes," Mitch Miller's "The Yellow Rose of Texas," and, annually on May 20, a song appropriately entitled, "(I'm Getting Married on) The 20th of May." He also was very fond of "Tulips in Amsterdam" and "Any dream will do."
Steele's son, Robert H. Steele represented Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District in the early 1970s and was the Republican candidate for Governor in 1974.
When Steele died December 2002 at the age of 91, many Connecticut residents felt as if they had lost a close friend. His warm on-air personality was matched by his immense popularity. Beginning in pre-television days, when radio was king, and continuing for decades after television’s advent, Steele was the most dominant radio broadcaster in the country. In his heyday, which spanned several generations of listeners, he hosted the most-listened-to morning radio show in the U.S. with an audience that reached more than a million people a day.
The Bob Steele Reading Center at the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford facility on Arbor Street in Hartford, dedicated in 1989, honors his years of commitment as an advocate of literacy.
On December 12, 2011, the Hartford City Council voted unanimously to support a proposal to rename in his honor a section of the city's Grove Street (between Prospect Street and Columbus Boulevard) in recognition of his iconic status and the 100th anniversary of his birth. Bob Steele Street was officially dedicated in a special ceremony on January 4, 2013.
Some of the above material from Simon Pure's The Real Bob Steele Article posted by former WTIC engineer Bob Scherago, who worked with Mr. Steele from 1963 through 1977. The material about his relatives, the poem and some of the songs was contributed by a long-time listener of his program.