The Obit For Carl Wagner

Carl Wagner ran radio stations

By John Kiesewetter • The Cincinnati Enquirer July 8, 2010

Carl Wagner loved to talk about broadcasting and baseball.

Mr. Wagner, who died June 28 at age 76, was a minor league catcher in the Detroit Tigers organization for five years before becoming a Taft Broadcasting radio salesman in Birmingham, Ala., where he had played for the Birmingham Barons.

"He found radio just as rewarding as baseball," said Sally Wagner of Anderson Township, his high school sweetheart and wife of 56 years.

Born Carlyle J. Wagner in Brighton, Wisc., he was an All-American catcher for the University of Wisconsin while earning a business degree.

He worked 31 years for the Cincinnati-based company known as Taft and Great American Broadcasting, retiring as broadcast group president in 1991.

He was appointed Taft vice president for radio in 1974, and later added responsibilities for its cable TV systems and TV stations.

During his career, he trained a generation of broadcasting executives. Long-time associates recalled him as a fierce competitor very supportive and protective of his employees.

"He ran the radio business like he played baseball. He was in the game at all times," said John Soller Sr. of Mason, former WKRC-AM general manager.

Mr. Wagner "knew the radio business inside out," said George E. Castrucci, former Great American Broadcasting president and chief operating officer.

"He started in the trenches, ran radio stations in tough, competitive markets, recruited great people," said Castrucci, of West Chester Township.

Charles S. Mechem Jr., former Great American chairman, called Mr. Wagner "tough, but completely fair in all of his dealings. Those who worked for him, without exception, worshiped him - and that is not too strong a word."

Dave Crowl, a Kenwood-based Clear Channel regional manager, was one of the many managers mentored by Mr. Wagner in the 1980s.

"It was a great place to be for a young manager to learn how to compete in this business," Crowl said.

Crowl credits Mr. Wagner with switching Taft's FM stations from classical and "easy listening" music in the 1970s to youth-oriented album rock or top 40 stations, including WKRQ-FM (Q102).

Mr. Wagner's passion for sports was a big reason WKRC-AM broadcast the Cincinnati Bengals, Soller said.

His retirement was filled with fishing, boating and golf, said his son, Brad Wagner.

"He did what we all want to do - enjoy life," said Brad, one of two sons working in broadcasting. Brad, of Anderson Township is national sales manager at WCPO-TV (Channel 9); Ross Wagner of Columbus is sales manager at rock station WLVQ-FM.

Mr. Wagner and his wife spent most of their retirement summers at a Wisconsin lake home or in Arizona, Brad said.

"From where he came from, a tiny town in Wisconsin, to do what he did, was amazing. He's a true rags to riches story," Brad said.

Mr. Wagner died after a six-month battle with cancer.

In addition to his wife and two sons, Mr. Wagner leaves sons Neal and Kent, and daughter Kara Merk, all of Anderson Township; and 13 grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial is 10 a.m. Friday at St. Rose Church, 2501 Riverside Drive, East End.

Memorials can be made to Hospice of Cincinnati, P.O Box 633597, Cincinnati, OH 45263-3597.