Veteran Multi-Format Air Talent Formicola Dies


Updated at 1:20pm Eastern on June 1, 2017

Joe Wade Formicola, who rose to fame in the mid-1980s in the Motor City and is set for a June 21 induction into the Country Radio Hall of Fame, died late Tuesday (5/30).

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Formicola — a Detroit native — was 68 years old. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Formicola had just finished his afternoon show on Local Radio Network (LRN)’s 24/7 Hot Country format when he was suddenly taken ill, LRN CEO Steve Swick said in an e-mail to RBR+TVBR. Formicola joined LRN in July 2016.

“Joe was one of the great ones across radio dials and will sadly be missed, both personally and on-air with Local Radio Networks,” Swick said.

Formicola first became known through early career stops that included stints as Program Director of WFDF in Flint, Mich., and at KENR in Houston for Lake Huron Broadcasting. He won Billboard magazine’s “DJ of the Year” honors in 1976 and in 1984.

From 1987-1995, Formicola hosted the morning show at former Country WWWW (W4), at 106.7 MHz in Detroit. He joined the station after competing against W4 at another ex-Country station in the Motor City, WCXI-FM 92.3.

Formicola shot to stardom at W4, becoming CMA Personality of the Year in 1988.

He then worked at WYCD-FM 99.5 in Detroit, where he was teamed with the late Linda Lee. Lee died March 31 on the eve of being honored with an Academy of Country Music award for Major Market Personality.

Both will now be honored posthumously at the Country Radio Hall of Fame Dinner and Awards ceremony, scheduled for Wednesday, June 21st at 6pm at the Marriott Nashville.

After WYCD, Formicola became OM/PD of the former WWBR-FM in Detroit, turning away from country music. From November 1996-January 1999, the Classic Rocker became known as the home of performing artist Ted Nugent, who hosted the morning show. Radio One acquired the station, changing formats.

After his long run in Detroit, Formicola moved to Raleigh-Durham. In December 1999, he joined Capitol Broadcasting Co., taking on the PD and, later, OM roles for WRAL-FM “Mix 101.5.” His time in the Triangle region also includes a stint as OM of WKIX.

While WRAL’s OM, Formicola was inducted into the Detroit Radio Hall of Fame, at a Jan. 29, 2005 ceremony.

From 2010 until fall 2015, Formicola hosted the 2pm-7pm Eastern slot on Westwood One’s syndicated Mainstream Country format. George King, VP/Country Programming for WW1, told RBR + TVBR, “We’re very, very sad here at Westwood One. He was a great jock here, and he will be missed.”

Kirk Stirland, WW1’s President/Programming, added, “Joe Wade was loved by both affiliates to Mainstream Country, and to listeners. He always went that little-bit-further for both.  He was a true radio star.”

Of late, Formicola was also associated with WPTF-AM 680 in Raleigh, a Curtis Media Talk station

The Country Radio Hall of Fame “Class of 2017,” announced during Country Radio Seminar (CRS) 2017, include WW1 Manager/Affiliate Sales, Country Tim Closson, veteran Country programmer and radio executive Charlie Ochs, and Mel Owens, CEO/GM at Buck Owens Production Co., in the radio category.

In a May 14 interview with All Access, Formicola was asked about his induction into the Country Radio Hall of Fame means to him.

He replied, “In [the] record business, they use[d] to say these guys have a lot of hits, but now they have a catalog. And I think really, for me, its 47 years of a catalog of a lot of different hits, so to speak …  I’m not going to lie, there is a lot of hills, and there’s a lot of valleys. I’ve been fired six times, and I can’t tell you one good reason why I was. One time I was Employee of the Month, and they fired me! Another time I was No. 2 in morning drive in a big city. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what it was all about. I tell people that I always loved the business better than some of the people I worked with in the business. I never gave up on the business, and the business never gave up on me.”

In addition to Formicola and Lee as on-air category honorees are WRNS-FM 95.1 in Greenville-New Bern, N.C. morning host Jim Mantel, representing Alpha Media, and The Good Morning Guys at Townsquare Media‘s KUAD-FM 99.1 in Ft. Collins, Colo., in the on-air category.

The hotel is on West End Avenue, across from Centennial Park and adjacent to Vanderbilt Stadium.