Chuck Niles, the velvety voice of jazz in Los Angeles, died on March 15 from complications of a stroke. He was 76.
Born Charles Neidel, Niles learned the clarinet when he was seven years old, and was playing the saxophone professionally by the time he was 14. He joined the Navy in 1945 and served briefly in the South Pacific. After returning to the states, he played alto sax in the jazz band, the Emanon Quartet, earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from American International University and landed a job playing music on WTXL in Springfield, Mass.
In 1956, Niles moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. He appeared in a few films (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Teenage Zombies”) and stage productions until his friend Sleepy Stein recruited him to be an announcer on KNOB.
He would remain on the air for more than 40 years.
Niles hosted shows on several L.A. stations. Known as “Be-Bop Charlie,” “Mr. Jazz” and the “Minister of Cool,” he spent the past 14 years making the afternoon drive time a pleasant and informative experience for listeners of KKJZ. His love of the genre also endeared him to jazz artists, who wrote songs like “Niles Blues,” “Nilesology” and “Bebop Charlie” in his honor. Niles is the only jazz disc jockey to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.