Another legend from the heyday of Top 40 rock and roll radio has moved from this life into Alabama radio history. Oren Russell Chappell, Sr. passed away at DCH Regional Medical Center this past Monday at the age of 87.

Better known as Russ, Chappell was already a local celebrity on the airways of WTBC when I first met him in the 1960s.In junior high I would hang out at remote broadcasts hosted by Russ in the parking lot of the old Sears store at the corner of 15th Street and Hackberry Lane. He was always happy to let me observe and sometimes help. Russ Chappell played a major role in my broadcasting career.

It seemed like every car that drove past that bread truck, converted into a red radio mobile studio, during those remote broadcasts had their radio tuned to 1230AM. They honked and yelled hello to the affable Russ, who always had something to give away to fans.

The radio station that got the nickname "The 15th Street School of Broadcasting" was the top rocker in West Alabama in those days. It produced copious numbers of talented announcers through the years and Russ was right at the top in personality, with a voice, laugh and style that were easily recognizable.

Russ and Jim Kell, a popular radio personality at WSGN in Birmingham who recently passed away in Northport, were influences on me and many other would-be disc jockeys and announcers.

But it wasn't just as a DJ that made Russ a West Alabama legend. He also developed a loyal sports following as the voice of Tuscaloosa County High School football and basketball. For two decades all you had to do was hear that recognizable voice and you knew you were listening to the Wildcat's game.

Russ was born in Pine Apple, Alabama and raised in Greenville. He graduated from The University of Alabama with a broadcasting degree in 1958 and began his broadcasting career at WTBC. He not only was a top performer on the air but also a top advertising sales representative at the station.

After a stint at Tuscaloosa's WJRD radio Russ went on to become a successful advertising executive with Dan Kilgo & Associates, later founding Group One Advertising and eventually creating the Promotional Group, Inc. with several partners.

Russ' advertising abilities brought him much recognition. He was the first president of the Tuscaloosa Ad Club and was elected Governor of the American Advertising Federation’s Seventh Deep South District. In 1977, he received the American Advertising Federation Silver Medal Award for outstanding contributions to advertising and community leadership.

Funeral service for Russ Chappell are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Monday, at St. Mark Church, on McFarland Blvd. in Northport. Burial will follow in Tuscaloosa Memorial Park with Magnolia Chapel North directing. Visitation will be 10:00 a.m. Monday at the church.

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