Chuck Leonard (March 30, 1937 – August 12, 2004), born in Chicago, Illinois, was a popular radio personality at WABC (AM) in New York City during the 1960s and 1970s. His deep voice and smoothness resonated across 38 states for 14 years at 'ABC. During his over 40 year career in broadcasting, Leonard worked virtually every shift and played all styles of music at stations including WWRL, WABC, WXLO, WRKS, WBLS, WQEW, WNSW-AM and WJUX. He has been inducted in the Museum of Television & Radio and is known for being a pioneer as an African-American in mainstream radio.
Chuck began his broadcasting career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as program director of college radio WPGU, while majoring in journalism.
After graduation, Chuck worked briefly for the Washington Evening Star (his boss was Carl Bernstein
), while working part-time at WEBB, Baltimore.
, New York, April–June 1965
Chuck moved to WWRL (R&B) in New York in June 1965, doing the night shift. Chuck was at WWRL for just seven weeks, before WABC (AM)
deejay Dan Ingram
heard him and convinced WABC to hire him. He was to become the first African-American air personality on a major market Top 40 station.
WABC (AM) Radio, New York, 1965-1979
Chuck began at Musicradio 77 WABC (AM)
under Program Director Rick Sklar
in 1965. He broke the color barrier for all who followed—the first African American to cross over from R&B radio to mass appeal.
Chuck debuted in the 11 p.m. to midnight slot, and would continue working late nights and Sundays at the station through Nov. 27, 1979. He would do the 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. shift following “Cousin” Bruce Morrow and later George Michael. He also gladly handled weekend and fill-in work.
Chuck was the voice for American Contemporary Radio's "Sneak Preview,” a late-night show, where he introduced new songs to listeners. He stayed at WABC until 1979, before moving to WXLO and WRKS.
WXLO-FM, New York, 1979
Chuck moved to WXLO in 1979.
WRKS-FM (98.7 KISS-FM), New York, 1987
Chuck did mornings ("The Wake-up Club”) and afternoons in the ‘80’s.
WBLS-FM, New York, June 30, 1989
Chuck played R&B from 7–11 p.m. He always kept ties with WBLS, working weekends, fill-ins and overnights.
WQEW-AM, New York, 1996
Chuck played popular standards from the American songbook prior to the station flipping to Radio Disney.
WNSW-AM 1430, New York
WNSW would be on the air only 2 years (March 22, 1999 to March 1, 2001), offering popular standards.
WJUX-FM 103.1 “Jukebox Radio”
Chuck did afternoon drive.
Chuck did occasional fill in work, including on Christmas Day. He was heard on the Radio Greats weekends. Did not work full time at WCBS-FM because he was a full time employee for WBLS. CBS-FM welcomed Chuck to fill in anytime he could.
Chuck joined SIRIUS Satellite Radio, where he was heard on both the Swing Street and Soul Review channels.
Emcee, Host, Voiceover...
Chuck emceed Stevie Wonder
at Radio City Music Hall
Chuck hosted the The Muppets from Sesame Street at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden.
Chuck hosted Janet Jackson in her first New York concert at Madison Square Garden.
Chuck was the guest ringmaster of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Chuck did voiceovers for Panasonic, Noxzema, Coca-Cola, The Wiz and VIM athletic store, as well as NBC’s Friday Night Videos. Chuck was also heard in Robert Stigwood's movie Times Square.
Chuck participated in WABC AM’s “Rewound” on Memorial Day, May 28, 2001.
"You can go through life kicking and screaming or laughing and scratching."
Chuck's trademark signoff: "Chuck Leonard, sneeeekin' it to ya!"
"The best that ever did it and got away with it."
"Get the butter and roll me outta here."
"There's one in every crowd, and I'm the one."
"Hey Mom, your son's on the radio"
"Layin' some heavy music on ya"
Chuck Leonard was a Golden Gloves
boxing champion, and later served in the Vietnam War
He had a son named Michael.
Chuck Leonard died on August 12, 2004 in Manhattan, following a bout with lung cancer. He was 67. He is survived by his wife, Pam, and two daughters, Kyra and Diana.
Aircheck at Reelradio.com
Chuck Leonard tributes