Charlie Tuna, the popular DJ and TV announcer whose voice was familiar to generations of Los Angeles radio listeners, has died. He was 71. A post on his official website said he died in his sleep on February 19.
Born Art Ferguson on April 18, 1944, he started in radio at 16 in his hometown on Kearney, NE. After stints in Wichita, Oklahoma City — where he was rechristened as Charlie Tuna — and Boston, he landed a late-morning shifts as one of the “Boss Jocks” on L.A. popular top 40 station whose Boss Radio format would spread across the U.S. He would remain in the SoCal market for the rest of his career.
He left KHJ in 1972 and spent part of no-compete exile in San Diego before returning to L.A. as part of the original group of DJs on KROQ-AM alongside Shadoe Stevens and others. Its hybrid format of Tuna spinning top 40 in the early mornings and his successors playing hard rack after that was progressive, but it didn’t stick.
The golden-voiced Tuna would move to top 40 outlet KKDJ, which began simulcasting with and ultimately changed to KIIS in 1975. He was the original morning jock at the station, sticking around until 1977, when he briefly returned to KHJ. He left again for nascent top 40 rival KTNQ (Ten-Q). He would go on to work at several other local stations on the AM and FM dials including KHTZ, KCBS, KMPC and KBIG.
During his long reign on the L.A. airwaves, Tuna began a quarter-century association with the Armed Forces Radio Network. Nearly 6,000 of his shows were heard around the world on the network into 1996.
Tuna also did plenty of TV work. He was an announcer on multiple shows including America’s Top 10, Casey Kasem’s TV spinoff of radio’s American Top 40; The Mike Douglas Show; and game shows The $25,000 Pyramid, Scrabble and Scattergories. He also spent three decades as host of Cinema, Cinema, Cinema, an internationally syndicated TV show featuring the top movies in the U.S. each week, with clips from the films. He hosted the international TV show Inside Hollywood for three years, played an announcer in a pair the movies Rollercoaster (1977) and Racquet (1979) and did voice-over on hundreds of TV and radio commercials.
Tuna earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990 and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2008. A 1997 poll in Los Angeles Radio People named him of the “Top 10 L.A. Radio Personalities of All Time.”