Charles Wesley “Chuck” Leonard (March 30, 1937, Chicago, Illinois – August 12, 2004, Manhattan) was an American radio personality at WABC (AM) in New York City during the 1960s and 1970s. His deep voice and smoothness resonated across 38 states for 14 years at ABC. During his over 40-year career in broadcasting, Leonard worked virtually every shift and played all styles of music at stations including WWRL, WABC, WXLO,WRKS, WBLS, WQEW, WNSW-AM and WJUX. He has been inducted in the Museum of Television & Radio and is known as the first African-American disc jockey to work on a mainstream radio station.
Leonard began his broadcasting career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as program director of college radio WPGU, while majoring in journalism. After graduation, Leonard worked briefly for the Washington Evening Star (his boss was Carl Bernstein), while working part-time at WEBB, Baltimore. WWRL, New York, April–June 1965 Leonard moved to WWRL (R&B) in New York in June 1965, doing the night shift. Leonard was at WWRL for just seven weeks, before WABC (AM) deejay Dan Ingram heard him and convinced WABC to hire him. He was the first African-American broadcast personality on a major market Top 40 station.
Leonard began at ABC’s flagship New York radio station, Musicradio 77 WABC (AM), under program director Rick Sklar in 1965. He broke the color barrier for all who followed — the first African-American to cross over from black R&B radio to (then-mostly white) mass-appeal radio.
Leonard began in the 11 p.m. to midnight slot, and continued working late nights and Sundays at the station until November 27, 1979. He did the 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. shift following “Cousin” Bruce Morrow and later George Michael. He also gladly handled weekend and fill-in work. Leonard was the voice for “Sneak Preview,” a late-night show on ABC’s American Contemporary Radio Network, where he introduced new songs to listeners. He stayed at WABC until 1979, before moving to WXLO and WRKS.
From 1979 to 2003, he worked at various different stations under various formats. He also did a lot of voiceover work and hosted several major events.
Leonard was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, and later served in the Vietnam War.
Leonard died on August 12, 2004, in Manhattan, following lung cancer. He was 67. He is survived by his wife, Pam, and two daughters, Kyra and Diana.
Mr. Magic debuted in 1981 on WHBI-FM in New York City with the first exclusive rap radio show to be aired on a major station. Billing itself as Rap Attack, Magic’s show featured Marley Marl as the DJ and Tyrone “Fly Ty” Williams as the show’s co-producer. Magic moved to WBLS-FM in July 1982. Magic’s reign on the New York City airwaves lasted six years and was instrumental in broadening the scope and validity of hip-hop music. Mr. Magic recorded one 12″ single as an artist “Magic’s Message (There’s A Better Way)”, produced by Spyder D for Posse Records in 1984.
During the mid-80s there was a rivalry between Mr. Magic and Kool DJ Red Alert, who hosted a weekly show on WRKS-FM. The feud also played out between proxy rap groups, the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions . The Juice Crew – headed by Mr. Magic’s on-air assistant, DJ Marley Marl – was named after one of Magic’s aliases, “Sir Juice.” In April 2000, Mr. Magic began to take on a new role, with new faces; Kdabra, and Mah Gambino. Mr. Magic first met Kdabra then was introduced to Mah Gambino, and soon discovered their lyrical capabilities. He then took them under his wing as their manager and offered them positions to become interns at Hot 97 FM on his then show “The Classic Showcase” with Fly Ty, and DJ Mr. Cee.
In 2002 Magic lent his voice to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, as himself, a DJ on one of the in-game radio station.