Chuck Niles is dead at 76.
His gravelly voice and impeccable taste in straight-ahead jazz seem immortal to me. He was a DJ that mattered. Online condolences may be sent via http://www.kkjz.org/
Jazz deejay star’s voice falls silent
By the time he arrived at KLON, he was arguably one of the most recognizable personalities in Southern California radio. His employment was a boon to the station and helped cement what would become KJAZZ as one of the nation’s most popular jazz and blues
LONG BEACH Chuck Niles, the legendary jazz radio host whose velvet baritone and unparalleled knowledge of America’s music entertained Southern California audiences for more than 50 years, died Monday. He was 76.
Niles suffered a stroke Feb. 26 shortly after a doctor’s visit and died at Santa Monica Hospital, according to representatives from Long Beach- based KKJZ FM 88.1 “Kjazz.’
Dubbed “Be-Bop Charlie,’ “Mr. Jazz’ and the “Minister of Cool,’ Niles had served as the afternoon drive host on KKJZ since 1990. His life’s work earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame the only one ever awarded to a jazz radio host.
“Chuck Niles was to jazz lovers what Chick Hearn was to Lakers’ fans,’ said KKJZ station manager Sean Heitkemper. “He was the most talented, knowledgeable and recognizable jazz radio announcer in the nation. And he was also a friend to everyone who worked at and listened to him at the station.’
KKJZ, formerly KLON, will play a regular tribute to Niles for the next several days. Listeners can expect to hear classic interviews, broadcasts and Niles’ favorite tunes.
Born Charles Neidel in Springfield, Mass., in 1928, Niles began playing clarinet at age 7 and was playing professional jobs on the saxophone by age 14. His first big break into professional radio was at WEAT in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Shortly thereafter, he headed to California to pursue an acting career and worked at KHJ, Channel 9, in Los Angeles as the afternoon movie host. He also hosted a show where those who had gone on safari and other adventures shared tales of their excursions.
Aspiring to be an actor, the tall and lean Niles played a Frankenstein-like character in the movie, “Teenage Zombies,’ and had a small role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and other films. Niles also did plenty of stage work, appearing in touring versions of “Death of a Salesman,’ “Light Up in the Sky,’ and “Dial M for Murder.’
During his time with Channel 9, Niles landed a spot on KFOX where he developed a long-lasting relationship with jazz legend Sleepy Stein, who brought Chuck to KNOB, launching the career of one of the most recognizable voices in Los Angeles radio. His understanding of the history, artists and heritage of jazz made him one of the most well-respected personalities in the Los Angeles jazz community.
After leaving KNOB in 1965, he began a long run at KBCA, which later became KKGO. Niles stayed at KKGO until the station’s format changed from jazz and blues to classical. In the switchover, KKGO gave its sizable jazz record collection to KLON, and the station signed Niles.
By the time he arrived at KLON, he was arguably one of the most recognizable personalities in Southern California radio. His employment was a boon to the station and helped cement what would become KJAZZ as one of the nation’s most popular jazz and blues stations. “We are alternately the No. 1 or No. 2 station in America, largely because of Chuck,’ said KKJZ General Manager Judy Jankowski. “He cannot be replaced, but we can honor his spirit by continuing to bring listeners hosts whose knowledge of jazz borders on scholarship.’
There are more jazz songs written about Niles than any other broadcaster. Among them: “Bebop Charlie’ by Bob Florence; “The Hippest Cat in Hollywood’ by Horace Silver; “Niles Blues’ by Louie Bellson; “Mambo Niles’ by Jose Rizo; and “Nilesology’ by Bill Cunliffe
The station expects more to be written.