Year Born: 1942
Year of Induction: 2008
In a career spanning more than four decades, Gary Russell established himself as a trailblazing radio programmer and an innovative and exceptional manager and leader.
Starting in the 1960s, as an operator/announcer at CKY Winnipeg, Gary worked at a succession of stations, taking on increasingly more important roles. He spent two years at CKOM Saskatoon, 1969-71, and then moved to CKLW Windsor, where he learned everything he could about contemporary radio. It was during his subsequent stay at CKSO Sudbury that Gary realized that his preference was for programming rather than on-air performing.
In 1972 he began what was to be a multi-year association with Moffat Communications, when he went to work for CKLG in Vancouver. There he was successively a newsman, creative director, music director and finally assistant program director to PD Frank Callaghan. In 1977 Moffat, recognizing his programming talents, 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, it was back to CKLG Vancouver. After a highly successful eight years there, he returned to Winnipeg in 1987, this time as Moffat Communications’ National Program Director. In this capacity, Gary introduced comprehensive research programs for Moffat stations in major markets. These included ongoing tracking and perceptual studies, music call out and auditorium testing. While research was later to become standard, at the time this encouraged a major change in the thinking of Canadian Program Managers.
Standard Radio eventually hired Gary away from Moffat in 1990. He first worked for three years at CJSB-AM Ottawa, before moving in 1993 to Calgary, where Standard had just acquired CJAY 92 and CFCN-AM. After three years there, Gary was packing his bags again in 1996, this time for the comparatively short flight to Vancouver. There, Standard had added CKZZ and CISL to their station line-up, and as Vice-President and General Manager, Gary helped build a mass audience for CJZZ that made it Vancouver’s most profitable station for a number of years.
During his career, Gary introduced a number of ground-breaking concepts that have become standard practice in the industry. On the promotional side, he pioneered the use of the “Window Sticker Promotion” in the mid-70s. He also co-created the first ever “Remarkable Mouth” TV commercial for CKY which was syndicated throughout North America, and is still being used today.
Gary served on the Boards of BBM, BCAB and NABS West, and also played a leading role in taking Music BC from near collapse to a vibrant umbrella organization for British Columbia’s emerging musicians.
Gary Russell has been recognized by his peers as an innovative programmer and Manager who transformed stations and made them winners, time and time again. He made an important contribution to the vitality of Canadian private radio, and gave considerable support and exposure to Canadian music artists.
In February 2007, Gary retired from his job as G.M. of Z95.3 Vancouver, shortly after Astral’s acquisition of the station from Standard Radio.
On November 4th 2008, Gary Russell was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.