This Milwaukee native earned his degree from Marquette University’s College of Journalism in 1955 and began his radio career in sales at hometown station WISN the following year. He later moved across town to WEMP and, in 1969, became General Sales Manager of WEMP-AM and GM of its new FM.
In 1970, Rex Rand, owner of 50,000 watt WINZ-AM in Miami and WINQ-AM in Tampa (also 50,000 watts but a daytimer) who was visiting Milwaukee on business, met with Russ and offered him the job of vice president and general manager of both of his Florida stations. Not especially in love with Midwestern weather, the offer was quickly accepted.
Russ’ first concern was WINZ so he brought in New York programming expert Al Brady who turned it into a Top 40 operation. It did well competing with WQAM and Bartell’s WMYQ, of the first FM Top 40 stations. As for WINQ, things didn’t go as smoothly. The decision was made to first turn it into a news station and Mel Berman, a news programming veteran from the east coast, was hired as program director. However, it didn’t take long to realize the difficult task the station had trying to compete as a daytimer and still make an impact on the ratings. With Rand getting more and more in debt personally, WINQ’s format then changed to country (and religion) as the station sought to generate a quick cash flow.
In the summer of 1971 Russ accepted an offer from Bartell, Rand’s Miami competitor, to become GM of its WMYQ-FM. In January 1973, as fate would have it, Bartell, which also owned KCBQ/San Diego, WOKY/Milwaukee, KSLQ-FM/St. Louis, WDRQ-FM/Detroit, and WADO, a Spanish language station in New York, tapped him to run KCBQ, then one of the killer Top 40’s in America.
Russ was there for a few years and then became president first for Charter Broadcasting (based in Jacksonville) and then Downe Communications, which acquired Bartell in 1977, and ran the chain out of San Diego. In 1984, he left the company, moved into advertising, and, from 1987 to 1990, owned a small FM in San Luis Obispo, California. In 1990, he began a 16-year association with Metro Networks, a division of Westwood One, which supplies traffic reports to over 2,000 radio stations.
In the summer of 2006 Russ retired as Director of Marketing for Metro Networks and, with his wife, moved to Sun City Hilton Head, South Carolina. He says he enjoyed his time in Tampa Bay and always loved the area, even though his stay was a short one.
1970 - 1971 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (Management)