Media Scene

Don Russell calls it quits at WBT, and this time he means it

Don Russell in a once-upon-a-time publicity shot from WBT, his broadcast home for 43 years.
Don Russell in a once-upon-a-time publicity shot from WBT, his broadcast home for 43 years.

After 43 years of service, Don Russell has signed off for the last time at WBT-AM (1110). Longtime weekend host of “Charlotte's Morning News,” Russell did his last show early this month.

Russell, 69, says the decision to leave was his and that he’d been considering it for some time. He intends to continue in real estate, which has been his weekday job, and sleep in on the weekends.

“I got tired of working seven days a week,” he said. “I’ve been doing it seven days a week, and I’m exhausted.”

Russell says he’s left WBT, “but I haven’t necessarily left broadcasting.” Which means? He plans to continue to do voice-over work and consider other opportunities if they come along.

Russell was WBT’s longest-tenured personality and tumbled to and fro at the station for decades. He has been fired by four general managers and hired back by another four over the years since the 1970s.

He is remembered for a broad variety of broadcasting feats – he donned Spock ears in 1985 when he hosted a campy midnight series of “Star Trek” reruns Saturdays on WBTV (Channel 3) and talked the city through the early hours of Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Russell joined WBT in 1973 as evening shift DJ when the station was abandoning Frank Sinatra music in favor of pop.

“I consider my greatest accomplishment that management never stood in the way of me doing my show in the way I wanted it done. I got into show business to entertain people, not to make people angry.”

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Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007, @WashburnChObs