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Remembering pioneering female rock DJ Dusty Street

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Radio lost a pioneer this week. Dusty Street was a legendary DJ who began her career spinning records in San Francisco in the late 1960s. She went on to work for KROQ in Los Angeles and, more recently, SiriusXM. She died last Saturday in Eugene, Ore., at age 77. Street was one of the first women to control the mic on rock radio. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DUSTY STREET: This is Street on the Rock, and I did just get an album of "Death Cult," and I thought maybe you'd like to take a listen to this.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Dusty Street was all about discovery. She grew up listening to jazz. Later, she discovered the blues, punk and new wave. She turned listeners on to Duran Duran and Depeche Mode. Billy Idol credited her with being the first American DJ to play "White Wedding."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE WEDDING")

BILLY IDOL: (Singing) Hey, little sister, what have you done?

ANNIE ZALESKI: She just really had a knack for discovering new music.

BLAIR: Writer and journalist Annie Zaleski has written books about Duran Duran and Lady Gaga. She met Dusty Street about 10 years ago.

ZALESKI: She was so knowledgeable. You know, if you mention any artist, pretty much, she had a story to tell - either she knew them or had a factoid for it. So she was so unbelievably smart.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STREET: Great guitar work from John McGeoch. John McGeoch also is the guitar player for Siouxsie and the Banshees or...

BLAIR: This is Dusty Street in 2012 on her podcast, the "FlyLow Show." Something else she was known for - championing women artists like Siouxsie Sioux.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE PASSENGER")

SIOUXSIE SIOUX: (Singing) I am the passenger, and I ride, and I ride.

BLAIR: Dusty Street was her real name. She grew up in the Bay area, and her mother was a journalist. Her father was a labor organizer. She believed passionately in the free-form radio that allowed DJs like her to mix genres and play both popular and unknown artists side by side. She claimed a corporate takeover of KROQ led to her firing. Annie Zaleski.

ZALESKI: So having to, you know, potentially conform to specific formats or one style of music was definitely something she always tried to rail against.

BLAIR: In addition to her breadth of knowledge and vast musical palette, Dusty Street was also known for her signoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STREET: And so until I talk to you again, babies, fly low and avoid the radar. I'm going to leave you with...

BLAIR: Fly low and avoid the radar.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR news.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE DANSE SOCIETY SONG, "SOMEWHERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.
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