Dusty Street, longtime KROQ voice and pioneering female DJ, dies at 77
Dusty Street, the radio disc jockey who shot to popularity in Southern California while working at KROQ-FM, died Saturday in Eugene, Ore. She was 77.
“We have lost one of our own. Dusty Street has passed away after 77 joyous trips around the sun. And yes, Dusty Street was her real name,” SiriusXM Deep Tracks, Street’s most recent employer, shared Sunday in a Facebook post.
“Dusty was one of the first female rock jocks on the West Coast ... We are heartbroken, Fly Low Dear Friend and Avoid the Radar.”
Street got her start in the radio business in San Francisco in the late 1960s, working at KMPX, KTIM and KSAN as one of the country’s first female FM DJs. She found her way into the Los Angeles market in 1978 after landing a job at KROQ, one of L.A.’s premier rock stations. She briefly left KROQ in 1980 and spent time at local rock stations KLOS and KWST, before returning to anchor KROQ’s evening programming from 1981 to 1989.
Of her time at KROQ, Street told writer/DJ Liz Ohanesian in 2007, “It was all about the freedom. It was never about the money, it was never about the acclaim, it was all about the freedom. I tried to maintain that freedom as the belt grew tighter and tighter around the industry, and that freedom, that love of freedom, eventually got my ass canned from KROQ, in 1989.”
Street claimed that she was let go from the station for being a “renegade.”
“[It] was kind of ironic because that was pretty much the foundation that KROQ was founded upon — the fact that we were all renegades and the music was, uh, renegade-al,” she said. “Nobody in the country was playing what we were playing when we started.”
Over the last two decades, Street had been in Cleveland — working out of the fifth floor at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — as a DJ for SiriusXM, most recently on the Deep Tracks station.
Often asked whether her DJ name was her real name, Street — who grew up in the Bay Area — had to constantly tell people that, yes, that was actually her name.
“[My full name is] Dusty Frances Street,” Street told The Times in 1985. “My father’s name was Emerson Street, and we used to live on Emerson Street in Palo Alto. Drove the postman out of his mind.”
Street was one of radio’s most outspoken personalities, especially about the attempts by such groups as the Parents Music Resource Center to apply a rating system to rock music lyrics, which was the subject of a 1985 U.S. Senate hearing.
“How come [The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’] wasn’t bad 10 years ago, and how come people who have been listening to the Stones for 10 years aren’t out on a rampage killing everybody?” she told The Times. “[The criticism of rock lyrics] is just a little too silly for me to take to heart. But I’m very afraid that this is going to result in a form of censorship … If you start controlling whether an album can be sold because of the lyric content, then record company executives are going to jump right down the artists’ throats.”
Longtime KLOS DJ Geno Michellini shared a message Saturday on Facebook regarding the pioneering DJ’s death.
How much would you pay for an FM radio license? $10,000? $20,000?
“I have been in Eugene the last two days at Dusty Street’s bedside. The numerous afflictions that she has been so indomitably fighting these last years finally caught up to her. I am writing with a broken heart to say that Dusty left us tonight,” Michellini wrote. “She died peacefully, quietly and surrounded by love in a beautifully serene location overlooking the most beautiful lake you could ever want. As befitting the queen that she was.
“Tonight I lost one of the best friends I ever had and the world lost a radio and music legend … She was all that and so much more. There will never be another Dusty Street. The queen is gone, but she’ll never be forgotten.”
In an interview with WKYC, an NBC TV affiliate based in Cleveland, Street expressed her views on the role that radio should play in people’s lives.
“I’ve always thought radio should be a combination of entertainment and education,” she said. “I’m living and working in a place where you get to educate people without jamming it down their throat.”
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