by Tim Hunter
It was early in 1980 when I was told I had a phone call on line 2. I was working at KMWX/KFFM in Yakima, Washington, doing mid-days, some production, my third year into a radio career. When I picked up the phone, there was this deep voice introducing himself as Larry Nelson and letting me know he was on the lookout for a producer. KOMO news guy Bob Gillespie had heard me on a visit to the valley, recommended me to Lar and the next thing you know, I headed over the mountains for an interview.
Three weeks later, I began working as Larry's first-ever producer.
Those were the days when MOR was fading and Adult Contemporary was being born. KOMO was evolving to an MOR/Full Service/AC with a handful of songs an hour, jazz background music to go under the jocks while they talked and news updates from the likes of Gillespie, Dale Good, Lan Archer and Harmon Shay. Rounding out the dayparts: Rich Osbourne, mid-days, Dick Cross afternoons and Bill McDonald evenings.
My job was to feed Lar material and give him ammunition for the morning hours. In time, he brought me into the show, pushing the envelope for the management, resulting in angry phone calls from upstairs. The day we staged a fake April Fool's Day parade, the CEO flipped out, saying "What if people from Lynnwood drove all the way down here for nothing!"
Through Larry, I met a lot of Seattle's classic radio personalities including Katherine Wise and Ray Ramsey.
Four and a half years was not enough time, but it was all we were given. They had budget cuts to make and so one morning when I went into Larry to tell him I was thinking about buying a new car, he said, "Naw, I wouldn't do that right now". Around 10 minutes later, I came back into the studio and said, "O.K., what do you know that I don't know" and he let me in on my upcoming surprise retirement party.
Larry and I created the tailgate parties, had a blast with Ray's weather check-ins, interviewed the likes of Wayne Newton, Johnny Mathis and dozens of the famous who paraded through the building.
Larry showed me that it's O.K. to stay a kid, to have fun in your career and that things always worked out, no matter how crazy things got.
Thousands knew him as that guy on the radio. I knew him as the guy I could make laugh just by doing my Nixon voice and saying, "Barry"! Inside joke, but if Lar reads this, he's laughing right now.