WDCB's John 'Radio' Russell Retires
The longtime host of “Midwest Ballroom” is retiring after more than 20 years of presenting swinging music on WDCB every Saturday night. With his farewell broadcast on April 9th, Russell caps off a radio career which has lasted more than half a century.
“I will miss doing the program and staying in touch with my listeners,” says Russell. “It has been a good run and I will always treasure my years at WDCB.”
Starting out with a “pirate” radio station from the bedroom of his boyhood home in South Holland, Russell been a presence on local airwaves since 1966, making stops up and down the dial at more than a dozen area stations. He hosted music and reported news at Northwest Indiana stations including WJOB and WYCA, also working as a traffic reporter at Chicago powerhouses WLS and WMAQ, before making his way to WDCB in 2001.
With his unique mix of big band classics, legendary vocalists and exclusive recordings performed by local singers and dance bands, Russell’s “Midwest Ballroom” attracted a loyal following on WDCB every Saturday night. He drew on his own extensive collection of CD and vinyl recordings, which easily numbers in the thousands, to create his weekly shows.
“I can’t think of too many people who truly love being on the radio more than John,” says WDCB Station Manager Dan Bindert. “He puts a lot of TLC into each week’s show. I’ve talked to so many listeners over the years who tell me how much they look forward to tuning in to hear John each week. We’re all going to miss him.”
Russell is the author of several local history books, including “Valley Voices,” a history of local radio in Chicagoland. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an honorary membership in the Chicago Federation of Musicians, presented to Russell during a 2009 ceremony at Willowbrook Ballroom.
Following Russell’s farewell program on April 9th, WDCB will offer a series of specials in the coming weeks during the Saturday 5-7pm time slot before unveiling new weekly Saturday evening programming in May. The specials will spotlight the work of Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and more.
Correspondence can be set to John by mail at:
P.O. Box 1073
Dundee, IL 60118
Or by email: MidwestBallroom@yahoo.com
(Photo: John “Radio” Russell preparing his farewell broadcast of Midwest Ballroom – April 2022)