San Diego and its music community were stunned on Monday by the announcement of the death of legendary local radio DJ Steve West, who was 68.
The longtime on-air personality had battled several types of cancer over the past several years and was very open and vocal about his diagnoses, treatments and advocacy for awareness, screenings and early detection testing, particularly among men for testicular, prostate and colon cancers.
Alt 949 on-air personality Bryan Schock was a longtime friend of West's and it was Schock who shared the news on West's public Facebook profile on Monday afternoon.
“I’m in absolute shock at the moment…shock. It is with an extremely heavy heart that I am letting you know that my dear friend, OUR dear friend, father and my brother from another mother, Steve Vintner, who is known to many of us as Steve West, has passed on from this earth and made his way into radio heaven where he’s back hanging out with Biscuit," Schock wrote. "My heart goes out to his daughter, Natasha, and to all of his immediate family and friends.”
West was an on-air presence in San Diego for decades, first joining 91x in 1983 when it launched its Cutting Edge of Rock format. West continued at the station through numerous management and ownership changes, maintaining some role at the station for nearly three decades, with only short-term departures before he would return to institutions like Resurrection Sundays. He permanently parted ways with 91x in 2014 and launched his Legends of the Alternative show on what was then known as FM 94/9.
As of late, Schock had been filling in frequently for West, who last hosted Legends on May 3.
“Steve has been fighting several different forms of cancer for many years now, and even after the major surgery he had a year ago September, he continued to keep going on strong...really strong!” Schock continued on the Facebook post.
As always, West thanked listeners for tuning in on May 3 and solicited future requests via Facebook. In the past week on his Facebook, he posted tributes to the Stranglers' Dave Greenfield and Kraftwerk's Florian Schneider, presciently commenting, "This is one of those weeks."
As news of West's passing spreading, the announcement quickly generated tributes and memories from hundreds of fans, friends and former colleagues.
“He was an amazing person, a great colleague, a great friend, and I've yet to meet someone as passionate about music and radio -- especially alternative music -- as much as he was, and he just brought a joy and energizing presence everywhere he went.” Entercom promotions director Ciro Sepulveda told SoundDiego.
Musician Adam Gimbel, frontman for Geezer commented: “That voice and those songs are inseparable in the soundtrack of my youth. What a fighter. Cheers forever,” while Tighten-Ups singer Laura Jane Wilcock posted, “He was a favorite DJ of mine, and his strength and grace during his battle with cancer was inspiring. I'm so sorry for your loss, San Diego -- especially his family & friends. May we always Resurrect the '80s in his honor!”
"He was a f---ing legend," longtime colleague and former boss Mike Halloran told SoundDiego on the phone. "He cared more about the listeners than any of his program directors or management, which made him a pain in the a--; everything was done for the listeners. He was a legend. He still is a legend."
A spokesman for Alt 949 said the station is planning a tribute for Steve West and that an announcement will be forthcoming.