Alison Steele - "The Nightbird"

Overnight 2 am - 6 am

Steele acknowledged that she did not know much about progressive rock when she started the program, and apparently, neither did the management of the station, but the new programming was being extended to the growing market. Steele was given complete freedom to plan and present her program. In the process, she developed her persona as, The Nightbird, and acquired a massive, loyal audience. Her listenership was estimated in 1971 at approximately 78,000 nightly, with the majority of listeners being men between the ages of 18 and 34.

Steele began her show by reciting poetry over Andean flute music, before introducing her show in her well-known sultry, smoky voice with, "The flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the sounds of the night, as the Nightbird spreads 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, at WNEW-FM, until dawn."

She then made a transition to recordings of some of the more exceptional and experimental music being recorded at the time, as well as featuring the best of the familiar favorites of her audience.


Some of the groups Steele featured were progressive rock and space rock outfits such as the Moody Blues, King Crimson, Jefferson Airplane, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, the Chambers Brothers, Hot Tuna, Yes, Genesis, Hawkwind, Kiss, Lothar and the Hand People, Tangerine Dream, Edgar Froese, The Stooges, Ramases, Renaissance, Curved Air, Bloodrock and many other groups from a variety of genres. Frequently the recordings of these groups were long and extended, sometimes without any singles on the album. Her programming often included seamless transitions to the next music featured, with minimal identifications at the end of a related session that could last most of an hour. The required station identification at half-past-the-hour provided the opportunity for credits.

If it was raining on a Monday night, she always would play The Doors classic, "Riders on the Storm" as her first song, setting the mood for that night's show. She always ended her shows with The Beatles instrumental song, "Flying", over which she would say her goodbye message.

According to Jimi Hendrix's manager, Michael Jeffery, the song "Night Bird Flying", recorded by him and released posthumously on the album, The Cry Of Love, was inspired by Allison's late night Manhattan radio program and a poem in his handwriting reads; Hello night bird, how was your day? Did you visit the Gods in the valleys far away? What did you bring me, in your visit from the sea? The song originally was intended to be the flip-side of a planned single.

Her show became an instant hit and did much to push WNEW-FM into the forefront of progressive rock radio. At one point, she also served as the music director of the station. Steele became the first woman named as Billboard Magazine FM Personality of the Year.

Born Ceil Loman (January 26, 1937 - September 27, 1995)