Late Friday caller ID flashed my longtime friend Todd Wallace was on the phone.
I answered with “hey, how ya doin’” in my best Phillyese.
The voice on the other end was Todd’s son-in-law who said “I don’t think this call is going to go the way you thought it would” and informed me of Todd’s passing.
His credentials were rich: Big 8 Drake jock, program director, consultant here and in Australia and New Zealand, the “father of call out passive music research” and on and on.
I know him from our long relationship and mutual love of radio. When I founded Inside Radio, Todd supplied his audience ratings even before the publication made it big.
When I moved to Phoenix, Todd along with fellow buddy Bill Gardner founded the “Scottsdale Study Group” to study the lunch menu at local restaurants and pursue non-stop two-way conversation about all things radio.
Bill and I once stayed on after one of our lunches to talk right up until dinner – non-stop talk with no commercials in a way.
We had regulars like Bruce St. James and John Sebastian and a host of friends like Gary Edens, the late Jim Taszarek and many others.
We’d have guests passing through join us like Scotty Brink – sometimes in ways a bunch of program directors could appreciate like the time I invited a radio acquaintance who said he was on his way to check into hospice where he expected to die.
Lowry Mays picked up the tab because every time I got my Amex out I told them that the hardnosed founder of Clear Channel who tried to sue me for $100 million wound up settling for millions to get me to drop my countersuit so before wallets came out, the question would be posed, is Lowry paying?
Back to the programmer on his way to hospice -- he died and I covered it in Inside Music Media but a few years later he returned from the dead – that’s right, he never died – to stage a bank holdup. You can’t make this stuff up.
Bank bandit or not, how could we know – he was a programmer who loved radio, that was the ticket to admission.
Todd often encouraged me to give voice to the radio industry and its people we love who know how to do the best local radio and expose the evil ways of hedge funds and their CEO puppets – like I needed encouragement. Still, I appreciated that my friend appreciated what I was doing.
I don’t have to tell you that every loss is a tough one and particularly so when it is a radio friend.
Radio is like ice hockey – we compete ferociously but always shake hands in the end to show respect.
I’m glad I never had to go up against “One-book Wallace” as he was called for his ability to fix stations quickly and make them bulletproof.
And now that I’ve had a few days to let it sink in Todd’s passing reminds me of how fortunate we are to be in an industry where we care about the audience, probably make less money than we could doing something else and forge wonderful lasting relationships with everyone -- even competitors.
Todd was an outstanding radio guy and devoted friend, I celebrate his life today by reminding myself and all who will listen that like radio, even friendship is local.