Joe Wade Formicola, a radio DJ whose 47-year career included pioneering stints in Raleigh and Detroit, died Tuesday after a brief illness.
Formicola was 68 years old and he leaves behind a wife and two children. His death comes just three weeks before he was to be inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in Nashville.
“He was a country-radio legend in Detroit, where my wife’s family would listen to him,” said political consultant Eddie Woodhouse, a longtime friend. “And when he came here, Joe really transitioned Raleigh into a country-radio town. He was kind of the founder of country radio in Raleigh.”
Ed “Charlie Brown” Weiss, who brought Formicola to Raleigh to be WKIX-AM’s morning DJ when the station was changing from pop to country in 1980, called him “one of the best DJs ever.”
“Joe had the innate ability to know what was hot, what was topical, and he had energy and was funny,” Weiss said. “He knew how to communicate as an entertainer, not just a DJ. He was an idea guy with an incredible talent for locking into what was going on.”
Formicola stayed at WKIX until 1987, when he went back to his native Detroit. At Detroit country station WWWW, he became one of the top DJs nationwide at a time when country was becoming commercial radio’s biggest mainstream format.
“It’s been a catalog of an interesting career,” Formicola told All Access in a recent interview. “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.”
After returning to Raleigh in 2000, Formicola worked for local stations including MIX-101.5 (WRAL-FM) and WPTF-AM. Weiss (who Formicola called his mentor in the All Access interview) was to have introduced him at the June 21 Country Radio Hall of Fame induction in Nashville.
“It’s a sad turn of events,” said R.J. Curtis, the Country Radio Hall of Fame’s committee chairman. “Joe Wade Formicola was overdue for induction, and all of us on the committee are very pleased that he felt appreciated and respected by his peers, because that was certainly there.”