For almost 20 years, she was the First Lady of Houston Rock Radio. On the air, across the stage and in the dressing rooms, KLOL’s Dayna Steele rubbed shoulders and interviewed plenty of rock icons. And her loyal legion of “Steeleworkers” made her one of the city’s most recognizable media personalities.
Since shutting off her mike, Steele has headed up a marketing and PR firm, ran and sold an online space-memorabilia Web site, and created Smart Girls Rock, an online community for young girls.
Steele has distilled much of her experiences in her new book, Rock to the Top: What I Learned About Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars (Brown Books, 192 pp., $17.95). It’s equal parts music memoir, self-help, business advice, and band primer book—and there were “hundreds” of rock and roll lifestyle and celebrity anecdotes that for reasons of space (or modesty) didn’t make it in. Houstoned Rocks spoke with Steele about business, pleasure, and why Lanny Griffith could have a second career as a wedding planner.
Houstoned Rocks: Hi. Is this a good time to call?
Dayna Steele: Yes. Do you mind if I cook in your ear?
HR: Sounds like a great tag line for your former profession. What are you making?
DS: Cuban black beans and croqueta. I married a Cuban, so I had to learn how to do this. Cooking is how I relax. It’s my yoga.
HR: I see you got Gene Simmons to write the intro to your book. Did he make you sleep with him in exchange for it?
DS: No, but apparently I’m one of the few people who hasn’t. I love his reality show, and he’s really successful at what he does. So when I thought about doing this book, which combines business with rock and roll, I knew he had to do it.
HR: I noticed he spends most of his brief essay talking about how great his own successes are, and then included a full-page bio on himself.
DS: Well, yeah, whatever it took. I finally got him to say yes. It was either that or a restraining order against me.
HR: In the book, you talk about something that seems so simple but doesn’t really have sunk in with a lot of people: to succeed in anything, you have to really have the passion to do it against all odds.
DS: So many people do what they do for the prestige and money. And at the end of the day, they are the unhappiest people I’ve ever seen. If you do something because you love it, then success follows.
I wasn’t happy doing the Space Store, but they were paying me an incredible amount of money. I finally came home and told Charlie the Wonder Husband that I had to quit. I was miserable. It’s not worth it to be stressed an unhappy. You’ll survive the bad times and make it to the other side.
HR: You tell the story of how Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne fired drummer Carmine Appice right after a Houston gig and stranded him in the city, so he lived with you for a couple of days. Was he a good houseguest? Did he make his own bed in the morning?
DS: He was just fine. Actually, he was pretty bad about leaving his clothes around. It was such a weird situation, because he was stunned he’d been laid off. He was pissed. I remember that he doesn’t like cigarette smoke, and I smoked at the time. I even went away to smoke. I was so happy when he left and I could smoke on my own couch again.
HR: There’s also a picture of Cheap Trick in your apartment.
DS: I emceed so many shows with them, we just got to be buds. And I was kind of Robin [Zander’s] wingman. He was seeing somebody here in Houston, but if he didn’t want to have to ride home with her, I was his ride to take him anywhere. There was nothing there, we were just friends. But I was fascinated with the drummer [Bun E Carlos]. His brother was one of the Iranian hostages. And Rick Nielsen is so incredibly smart.
HR: I know you had a more personal relationship with David Crosby, especially when he was just released from prison in Huntsville and spent some time in Houston. You ended up being kind of his helper, and it wasn’t tied into any kind of publicity push.
DS: You know, Croz has always had a healthy ego. I must have caught him in a very humble time in his life. He knew what I did for him and I wasn’t asking for anything in return. But then he said he wanted to come up the station, and everyone in the world was trying to get an interview with him, and he did his [first one] with me. People still tell me today listening to that interview with him talking about prison and playing his music was such a memorable thing. And he was on for a long time. You can’t do that today on [commercial] radio.
HR: One of your fellow KLOL DJs has also had an interesting career trajectory. How does Lanny Griffith go from being the S&M bondage traffic master to this kind of kooky TV feature reporter?
DS: It’s not a surprise at all. Lanny is a ham, loves attention, and is really funny. I was surprised when he got married how much into the whole planning he was. When I got married, he told me I shouldn’t have Mexican food and margaritas at my wedding because people would expect something else! He’s now the father of daughters, which I think is karma.
HR: What about other former co-workers?
DS: Well, Jim Pruett has got a gun shop. That doesn’t surprise any of us. We always said he’d be the guy on the roof with an AK-47 picking us off as we come to work.
HR: Growing up in the ‘80s in Houston, listeners had a real affinity and affiliation for the local stations and their DJs. You had the KLOL Runaway Radio people, the 97 Rock people, the Q Morning Zoo…you had your Steeleworkers…
DS: That’s because radio stations had personalities back then. Now, it’s just voice tracks. It was a very different time. Some of us are left, like Dana Tyson [currently broadcasting on Sunny 99.1]. But people get us confused. She still has people who tell her they were Steeleworkers, and I have people who tell me they heard me on the radio this morning.
HR: Back in those days when you were making appearances with black leotards, boots, and big hair, your theme song was “Foxy Lady.” What would your theme song be today?
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DS: Probably [Meredith Brooks’] “Bitch.” It’s not the title, but the lyrics I love: “I’m a mother, I’m a lover, I’m a little bit of everything…” I don’t listen to much [modern] music, basically what my kids put on my iPod. And that ranges from Hannah Montana and Nickelback to Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin. But now I’m a news junkie. And I have XM satellite radio.
Can you hold on a second? [To complaining child in the background: “Are you bleeding to death? Am I on the phone? Yes, you may watch TV in my room.”]. Sorry. Obviously this was an emergency. His brother is not sharing. This is my glamorous life now!
– Bob Ruggiero
To order Rock to the Top or find out more about Dayna Steele, visit her Web site at www.daynasteele.com.