Bell was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina on June 17, 1945 and served in the U.S. Air Force as a medic in the Vietnam War before being able to turn his attention to radio full-time.
Radio host Art Bell has died at the age of 72, according to multiple sources. If the name itself doesn’t ring a bell, then his voice and legacy as the longtime host of “Coast to Coast AM” will. Anyone who’s flipped around the dials in the dead of night has landed on Bell’s program at one time or another. The show was gripping for the measured, and potentially earnest, crackpot messaging it beamed across the fruited plain with its bizarre conspiratorial and paranormal-themed theories.
True to most radio lifers, Bell’s rich (and a bit professorial) voice was not only custom-made for the medium, but especially the inky, barren time of day it rode the airwaves. Whether driving under the stars on an empty rustbelt highway, or in need of faraway company on an uneventful night, Bell’s “Coast to Coast AM” made for a compelling and oftentimes hair-raising companion.
At the height of its syndication in the ’90s, the show could be found on roughly 500 North American radio stations, with its broadcast originating from KNYE 95.1 FM in Bell’s remote hometown of Pahrump, Nevada.
Bell retired several times in his career and left “Coast to Coast” for good in 2010; since then, the show’s hosting duties have been split between radio personalities George Noory and George Knapp. Bell resurfaced in 2013 on SiriusXM satellite radio as host of a new, yet short-lived program; but of his many accomplishments in a long and distinguished career in radio, his most impressive feat might’ve occurred when he once set a Guinness World Record for “broadcasting solo” for 116 straight hours at a station in Okinawa, Japan.
Though his format was what could be called niche at best for its service as an idea mill for ostensibly harmless weirdos, Bell had the respect of his peers as a true radio pro by virtue of being inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2006 and the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2008.
Theories espoused and discussed at length on “Coast to Coast” covered it all under Bell’s direction: From wild reports of strange, crypto-zoological marvels lurking in the wilderness, to accounts of bizarre flashes in the night sky suggesting unidentified flying objects; to unnerving segments discussing the supposed existence of shadowy global organizations and their latent menace. Bell presided over all of it and more, running the technical board for his show and establishing and nurturing a close bond with his legion of nocturnal listeners.
“It’s my life, and that’s all I have ever done,” Bell once said of his career in radio. “I went through a lot of family problems, so that interrupted things, and I was overseas four years”–serving as medic during the Vietnam War. “[But] I went back into radio because I love it.”
Bell played himself, or alternately fictional versions of himself, in several appearances on film and television; featuring in the 2007 series Dark Skies, as well as numerous documentaries commenting on a range of topics, including the illuminati, UFOS and aliens–to name just a few throughout his decades of unique broadcasting excellence.