He was born Charles Osgood Wood III in Manhattan on Jan. 8, 1933. His father, Charles Osgood II, was a textile salesman who moved the family to Baltimore when young Charles was 6 and took a second job, as an expediter for a copper company, during World War II. His mother, Mary (Wilson) Wood, was known as Violet.
Mr. Osgood went to Fordham University, where, he later said, he spent more time at the campus radio station than in class. His first job after he graduated in 1954, with a degree in economics, was as a radio announcer at a classical-music station, WGMS in Washington, D.C. (the call letters stood for “Washington’s good music station”). Realizing that he might be drafted, he applied to be the announcer for the U.S. Army Band at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Va., and got the job, which he held from 1955 to 1958.
He also moonlighted under assumed names at several radio stations in the Washington area. Top-40 listeners knew him as Chuck Forest and, with a wink at Henry David Thoreau, Carl Walden. The pseudonyms were plays on his real name, which he had used on WGMS.
He briefly broadcast to an audience of one. After President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955, Mr. Osgood was recruited to be the president’s personal disc jockey. “I was put into a studio with a stack of records that had all been chosen as his favorites,” he said in 2016, “and I spent most of the day playing records for Eisenhower.”
When his Army service ended, he returned to WGMS, where he became the program director. RKO General, the network that owned WGMS at the time, later transferred him to a pay television station it operated in Hartford, Conn. “We lost money at an alarming rate,” he said, and RKO let him go in 1963.