September 9, 2014 at 7:25 am #51Craig_AdamsParticipant
Today September 9, 1921 Russell Lyle “Russ” Conrad was born in Thermopolis, Wyoming to Hazel Lila & Edgar Ferguson Conrad. Russ’ father was an electrician for “Portland Traction Co.” (later aka Rose City Transit Co.) and was decorated in WWI. Russ had a younger brother Wesley Edgar Conrad.
In 1923 the Conrad family moved to Oregon. By 1928 the family was living in Oak Grove, at: 2911 S.E. Chestnut St. Russ attended the University of Washington before the war. On January 27, 1944 Russ enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Fort Lewis, and became a radio mechanic, reaching the rank of corporal. He later served in the Navy Air Forces.
On February 1, 1946 Russ began radio school at “Portland Announcing Studio” 708 Broadway Building, owned by Don Kneass & William A. “Bill” Sawyer. The school had just opened. Russ began his broadcasting career at the new KPFM.
On October 2, 1947 it was announced Russ Conrad hand landed a weekend job at KEX and was engaged. On February 27, 1948 Russell Lyle Conrad, 26, married 23 year old Barbara Mae Reichling in Oak Grove. Brother Wesley was best man. Barbara was a Portland singer and actress who was with KPOJ in 1956. By April 1948 Russ Conrad was on KEX Saturday nights with an all request show from 10:30pm to 1:00am.
On October 8, 1949 KELS (later aka KLOG) signed on the air in Kelso, Wash. Russ had joined the station for a full-time job and was on the air inaugural day. He was also KELS Promotional Manager.
On May 12, 1951 Russ returned to KEX weekends with the new program “Record Party” Saturdays 1:30pm to 4:00pm with Russ & Ed Watson as co-deejays. On June 8, 1951 Russ Conrad helped broadcast the “Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade” with Sherm Washburn, Albert Charles & Jesse Leonard all with KEX mikes along the parade route.
On June 23, 1951 the last “Record Party” program aired on KEX. It was in this period that Russ Conrad became a KOIN Radio sales representative.
By May 1952 Russ was back on KEX broadcasting the 15 minute 9:00am news weekdays. By August 1952 Russ was a full-time employee of the telephone company. On August 21, 1952 Russ & Barbara welcomed son Michael Shawn Conrad. The couple was living at 9835 S.W. 53rd Ave. in Portland.
On June 1, 1953 Russ began his 15 minute “Know Your News” program weekday afternoons at 3:00pm on KEX, where you could win cash prizes by knowing the news. On June 12, 1953 Russ along with Barney Keep, George McGowan & Sherm Washburn broadcast descriptions of “Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.” On Friday October 2, 1953 “Know Your News” aired for the last time at 3:00pm.
On Monday October 5, 1953 “Something For The Girls” program expanded from 30 minutes to an hour, beginning at 3:00pm with Russ Conrad & Barney Keep added to the cast which included: Heck Harper “with his bass voice and the big guitar.” George McGowan, John Emmel & Miss Shirley “fashion and beauty news.” In 1954 Russ began working the overnight shift on KEX weeknights midnight to 6:00am.
On January 3, 1955 Russ left KEX for KENI Anchorage, Alaska where he became Chief Announcer. On June 6, 1955 Conrad returned to KEX weekdays as a newscaster. On July 18, 1955 it was announced Russ Conrad would substitute for the vacationing Barney Keep mornings at 6:00am for two weeks.
On January 2, 1956 Russ Conrad became one of the “KEX Big 5” deejays, beginning evenings on 7:45pm to 9:30pm to January 9th. On January 12, 1956 Russ was moved to afternoons 1:00pm to 3:30pm weekdays and 2:00pm to 4:45pm Saturdays. On April 2, 1956 Conrad’s show expanded a half hour 1:00pm to 4:00pm and Saturdays 2:00pm to 4:00pm.
On July 23, 1956 Conrad’s show expanded an extra hour Noon to 4:00pm. On October 8, 1956 the “KEX Big 5” deejay’s became the “KEX Solid 7.” On October 13, 1956 Conrad’s Saturday show expanded 11:00am to 4:00pm.
On December 17, 1956 Conrad’s weekday hours expanded 10:20am to 4:00pm because of KEX’s loss of ABC Network programming to KGW. At 12 Noon Russ had an hour for lunch while George McGowan did the Noon news. On October 21, 1957 Conrad’s show was shortened an hour to 3:00pm. By November 1957 Russ was living at: 4839 E. Burnside in Portland.
In December 1957 Russell Lyle Conrad, 36, married his 2nd wife, 37 year old Lurene Ann Hosford. At the time Lurene was still using her last name from previous marriage to Donald Hosford. Her original maiden name was Marx. On March 17, 1958 with Bob Blackburn moving to KPOJ, Russ began a split shift on KEX 10:20am to Noon & 2:00pm to 6:00pm weekdays. On January 4, 1960 Russ went back to a single show mid-days 10:00am to 2:00pm Monday thru Saturday.
On May 22, 1961 Russ Conrad was moved midnight to 6:00am on KEX, a shift he would have for the next 14 years. On May 21, 1962 Russell’s father Edgar Ferguson Conrad died at age 60 in Milwaukie.
On April 17, 1963 it was announced Russ Conrad would join Bob Blackburn on Portland Beaver Baseball games on KEX. Conrad replaced Frank Bonnema doing color when the Beavers moved from KGW to KEX. The idea was to have one of KEX’s own, working with Blackburn. Russ continued his overnight shift for the next six seasons. In hindsight he said: “I don’t know how I did it — six nights a week and double-headers on Sunday — except that I loved the game.”
September 23, 1964 KEX ad: “ALL NIGHTER. Only 8/9th’s of the world sleeps between midnight and 6 A.M. The other 1/9th listens to Russ Conrad. For some, his light, listenable blend of music, comedy, and conversation is a soothing soporific—for others, a swinger way to wing it through till dawn. Try some tonight. Guaranteed habit-forming when used as directed on the package. Russ Conrad “All Nighter” Midnight-6 AM. The Call of The Northwest. KEX 1190.”
April 17, 1968 KEX ad: “GO YOU BEAVERS. Enjoy every game — all season with Bob Blackburn and Russ Conrad — play-by-play on KEX. Presented by Union Oil Co. of California, Marv Tonkin Ford and Heidelberg Beer.” With Blackburn now living in Seattle, this would be their last year broadcasting games together. In 1975 it all came to an end for Russ overnights on KEX.
By April 1978 Russ had joined KYXI as evening News Anchor and Sports Announcer. On August 28, 1981 KYXI announced Russ Conrad would move to weekends. In 1983 Russ retired from KYXI and Radio. On February 4, 1985 Russ Conrad was given a special “Bill Hayward Merit Award” for his many years as Sports Announcer.
On February 11, 1985 Russ Conrad died at age 63 in his Milwaukie home, of cancer. Funeral Mass was at 10:00am at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Milwaukie, with private burial and concluding service in Willamette National Cemetery. Known to generations of Portland Radio listeners, Russ Conrad was one of the great all night DJ’s.
Special Thanks to Joel Miller who helped make this Radio biography more complete.
References: Billboard magazine, Broadcasting Yearbook, The OregonianSeptember 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm #2784scoootyParticipant
Great roundup Craig. As an “overnighter” at KYXI in the early 80s, I had the pleasure of building news blocks for Russ. He was a great broadcaster to work with. I will always remember his delightful, smooth news delivery as I was driving home those weekend mornings.
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