Respected radio broadcaster Gary Russell has passed away at the age of 67.
A message from brothers Jeff Vidler and Chuck McCoy reads: "Following a courageous battle with cancer, our dear brother, Gary Russell (Norm Vidler) passed away peacefully in White Rock on January 2nd with his devoted wife Joan and family by his side.
"Gary's contributions as a broadcaster spanned more than four decades. Starting with on-air work he then carved out a successful career in programming and management with Moffat Communications and Standard Broadcasting. Gary was a champion and supporter of his on-air talent and managers, inspiring them with confidence and the opportunity to excel. Gary served on the Boards of such distinguished Industry associations as BBM, BCAB and NABS West. In 2007, Gary retired from his role as General Manager of Standard Broadcasting’s CISL/Z-95 in Vancouver. In 2008 he was inducted into the CAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Gary was 67."
Gary Russell began his career as an operator/announcer at CKY Winnipeg in 1967, later becoming Program Director there. He spent two years at CKOM Saskatoon, 1969-71, and then, as Fast Eddie Russell, he was a radio personality at CKLW Windsor in the early 1970s. A stint at CKSO Sudbury followed, and he then connected with Moffat Communications in 1972, when he went to work for CKLG in Vancouver. He worked there as a newsman, creative director, music director and assistant program director.
In 1977 Moffat transferred him to CKY Winnipeg where, in two years, he took the station from last in the market to second behind perennial leader CJOB. In 1979 he returned to CKLG Vancouver, spending the next eight years there. In 1987, he returned to Winnipeg, this time as Moffat Communications' National Program Director. The comprehensive research programs he instituted there would have a real impact on the thinking of Canadian program managers.
Russell moved to Standard Radio in 1990. He worked for three years at CJSB-AM Ottawa, then moved to Calgary in 1993, where Standard had just acquired CJAY 92 and CFCN-AM. In 1996, he relocated to Vancouver. Standard had added CKZZ and CISL to their station line-up, and as Vice-President and General Manager, he helped build a mass audience for CKZZ that made it Vancouver's most profitable station for a number of years.
In February 2007, Russell retired from his job as G.M. of Z95.3 Vancouver, shortly after Astral's acquisition of the station from Standard Radio. In Nov. 2008, he was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame.
Reaction to the news of Russell's passing came quickly, with many notable industry colleagues sharing their thoughts on social media. A post on Puget Soundradio.com described him as"one of the business’s great people…wonderful to have worked with him in both the Moffat and Standard days. Loved and respected by all…a toast with a glass of red wine would be highly appropriate."
On Facebook, consultant/radio columnist Reg Johns noted that "The outpouring of respect for him as a person and broadcaster is a tribute to his character. I met Gary/Norm first in Saskatoon. Smart, hip, cool, he was a such good guy. I learned a bunch from him."
Consultant Pat Holiday, on Facebook, stated: "So sorry to hear about Gary passing yesterday. He was a great friend to me and a huge help when I went to Calgary and he went to Vancouver. Just a really nice person. I will miss him and am grateful for the memory of us all together in Toronto at Gary's (Slaight) dinner. He was great that night and that's how I'll forever remember him."
Warren Copnick, also on Facebook, posted that "Gary was always a smiling welcome and hello whenever we'd see each other. I know that all those who crossed paths with him held him in the highest esteem."
And broadcaster Eric Samuels on the same page: "Gar and I worked closely together for more than 10-years and he was truly one of the great guys, who also helped keep me (and many others) sane during some pretty crazy times!"
- Sources: ZoomInfo, Facebook, Puget Sound, Jeff Vidler & Chuck McCoy