Windsor

'Be aware of your opportunities': Bob Steele retires from CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive

Bob Steele, host of CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive program is retiring after three decades with the public broadcaster.

Friday marks Bob Steele's last day as host of CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive

Bob Steele, the host of CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive, is retiring after a three-decade career with the CBC. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Bob Steele's life-long love affair with music has taken him to concert halls across the continent — and ultimately paved the way for a three-decade career with the CBC.

Steele, the host of Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario, is retiring.

Friday marks his final day in the host chair.

A musical first act

Born in Scotland, Steele moved to Windsor as a toddler. In 1964, he saw The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show and knew from that moment he wanted to be a musician.

"I was offered my first recording contract when I was 17 years old by Warner Brothers of Canada. I left high school and moved to Toronto," Steele explained.

"I (ended up turning) down the contract...I just wasn't ready."

Despite this, Steele went on to pursue a career in music, first behind the scenes with Warner Brothers, and then with a band called "Steel River" — which he notes was not named after him.

When he returned to Windsor in 1977, Steele dabbled in private radio, wrote commercials and jingles as a freelancer, and decided to study mass media at the University of Windsor.

A 1981 promo shot of "Roberts" - Bob Steele (left) and his partner Bob Bone. (Bob Steele)

But before he could complete that degree, music came knocking again, this time in the form of a duo with friend Bob Bone, called "Roberts".

"We were a two piece band using technology, which was just beginning at the time. We were one of the first doing a big five piece sound with a two piece band — and that really took off."

'You need more than a good voice'

After a few years touring the United States, "Roberts" came to an end, and Steele returned to Windsor for good in 1987.

"I cold-called Rick Alexander, who was the manager of CBC Windsor at the time," he explained, making a door knocking sound on the desk. "Can I be your announcer?"

Steele was turned down flat.

"Rick politely told me that 'No, you need more than a good voice these days — you have to be a journalist,'" Steele said.

"I thought that was it."

A short time later, a chance encounter at a party with Beatrice Schriever, then-producer of CBC Windsor's morning radio show, proved to be his in.

A promo headshot from Bob Steele's time as TV weatherman. (Bob Steele)

"We got to chatting and she said, 'Well, how would you like to do a weekly entertainment column?' — and that's where it began."

Over the next three decades, Steele would do myriad jobs for both CBC radio and television.

"I've done everything — reporting, writing, associate producing, hosting...the only thing I haven't done is sports."

Bob Steele at the free-throw line

Windsor

5 years ago
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The CBC's Bob Steele sees how many free throws he can sink out of 10 shots from the line. Windsor Lancers coach Chantal Vallee tries to help him out. 1:05

While much of his work pertained to the arts and culture scene in Windsor and Essex County, Steele was also a television weather presenter and fill-in news anchor.

When Barb Peacock retired in 2009 as host of Crosstown, CBC Windsor's afternoon radio show, Steele was tapped as her replacement. The show was given a new name: The Bridge.

Bob Steele addresses the "Bold Steps" town hall in London, Ont. (Amanda Margison/CBC )

In 2014, the show's focus expanded to include all of southwestern Ontario, including London-Middlesex, and was renamed Afternoon Drive.

When asked to name the biggest change to broadcasting over the last thirty years, Steele immediately mentions technology; more specifically, the influence of social media.

"That's where news happens, right? It's not a press release anymore; it's not somebody calling in a tip - it's people posting things on Facebook or Twitter and you go, 'that's news!'"

No immediate retirement plans

As for life after CBC, Steele mentions catching up on a backlog of housework, cooking for his wife Carol and perhaps taking a stab at writing a book.

"There are no immediate plans," he said.

'Well, I haven't played guitar in 30 years, so I might pick that up again," Steele said with a laugh.

Bob Steele on the rooftop of CBC's iconic Windsor station on Riverside Drive. His final broadcast of Afternoon Drive is Friday, June 9. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

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