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.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
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.”
Tara Lane, who was part of the original weather team when Time Warner Cable launched its Charlotte news channel in 2002, leaves for a TV job in Columbus, Ohio. … Rob Tanner, host of “Tanner in the Morning” on WSOC-FM (103.7), signs a five year contract extension. Tanner has been at WSOC for 13 years. …
Longtime Charlotteans may remember Les Alexander who came to the old Big WAYS radio in the early 1970s, then went on to a career in television at WSOC (Channel 9). Alexander, 93, died Jan. 27 in Wilmington, where he’d worked as a TV weather forecaster. …
Lake Norman’s Shannon Spake replaces Danielle Trotta as co-host of “NASCAR Race Hub” on Fox Sports 1. Trotta, who got her start at WBTV (Channel 3), announced last week she was leaving Fox after seven years. Spake joined Fox last summer a decade at ESPN and has done sideline work for college basketball and NFL games in addition to motor sports. …
Calvin Brown Jr., a Charlotte native and successful TV producer and writer, will be the 2017 Africana Studies Artist-in-Residence at UNC Charlotte beginning March 13. Brown is creative consultant and writer for the “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” starring Kevin Hart. In the 1990s, Brown was executive director of a the Nickelodeon series “My Brother and Me,” which was based on his life growing up in Charlotte with his parents and two sisters. Other producer credits include “The Proud Family,” “A Different World,” “Meet the Browns,” “Moesha,” and “Married with Children.” …
Actor Bill Pullman, who starred in the “Independence Day” movie franchise, will deliver the keynote address at Warren Wilson College in Asheville for spring graduation. Pullman’s two sons are graduates of the college.