Radio talk legend, Larry Glick, passed away Thursday 26 March 2009, after hours of open heart surgery. He lived in Boca Raton, Florida. He leaves his wife, Lisa; daughters, Nannette, of Boston; Tali and Tirana, both of Florida, and one granddaughter.
Born 16 May 1922, Glick grew up in Boston. After serving in World War Two, including time with Armed Forces Radio, he graduated from Emerson College, where he majored in radio. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Glick owned FM radio stations in Florida. "I was about 25 years ahead of the trend," he said.
In 1964, he returned to Boston, to work for Mac Richmond at WMEX-AM. At WMEX-AM, Glick worked over nights, following Gerry Williams. As Dick Summer, himself an overnight phenomenon, says, "Glick was one of the few radio people who understood 3 am."
Glick moved to WBZ-AM, in Boston, in 1968. Gerry Williams, who joined WBZ-AM a few months earlier, urged station management to grab Glick when he was available. They did.
His last five years on air were at another Boston station, WHDH-AM. "I was pushing 65," said Glick, "and WBZ-AM, owned by Westinghouse, wanted to retire me. They were subtle about it. 'Go back to the over night show or retire,' they said, 'and here's less money, too.' A great offer came from WHDH-AM. I took it."
"Glick made contact with listeners," says Howard Lapides, "better than any talker on radio, ever. He was perhaps the last talker who could paint word pictures for listeners, with such effect, day after day."
Lapides produced the Steve Fredricks Show, on WMEX-AM, in Boston, from 1968 to 1972, when Glick was starting to soar over WBZ-AM. "I sat at his feet," says Lapides, "listening every night, hoping beyond hope that he'd teach me how to effectively tell a story."
He did! "I learned," says Lapides, who, today, is a top story teller. "All I had to do was listen carefully, to the commander. The pictures he painted were always so clear."
Until the assassination of John Lennon, in 1981, Glick shot callers, awful callers or by request, off the air, with sound of a handgun. It was a badge of honour to have Glick shoot you off air; a dozen callers a show asked to be shot off. The first show after Lennon died, Glick stopped shooting listeners off the air, saying, a week or so later, the bit was too callous to continue.
After 25 years doing over nights and evenings, Glick moved into the 9 am to noon show on WHDH-AM, in 1987. The deal was one million dollars for five years, including the one year of "market silence" called-for in his WBZ-AM contract. "Plus a few bonuses," said Glick.
Glick retired from radio, in 1992. "I never planned to retire," he said. "It just happened my contract [at WHDH-AM] came up for renewal when I was about 70, and I decided to move on. I knew I'd never stop working, though."
Moving to Florida, Glick worked for Legal Seafood Restaurants, a Boston-based company, with locations in the Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton area. Every evening, Glick toured the Legal Seafood restaurants, greeting diners, regaling them with stories about Boston and radio; a great story teller is welcome, all the time and by everyone. Glick continued working until about the end of February, 2009.
Ever the optimist, Glick was positive about his operation, his daughter, Tali, told the Boston "Globe." He wanted to get his heart working, again. He wanted to get well. He wanted to get back to work, she said.
"Let Me Check"
The following interview, with Larry Glick, was conducted in 1978. Photographs, below, are from 2006, 2000, 1978 and 1966.
"I originally wanted to be a FBI agent," says Super Talker, Larry Glick, of WBZ, Boston.
Admittedly, it’s hard to believe Larry Glick, whose quicksilver wit and puckish, yet good-natured, mischievousness punctuates the night time airwaves from the Midwest, East and Florida to Canada's North West Territories, could have yearned for the serious, staid and relative inflexibility of the FBI.
Nonetheless, it’s true! "After the War, I really wanted to join the FBI," says Larry. "At the time, you had to be either an accountant or a lawyer. I took the accountancy route at Burdett College, in Boston.
"A few weeks into the course I heard you also had to pass a FBI physical. A war injury left me with two pins in my ankle, and that, I figured, would flunk me. I was right!"
"Besides," adds Larry, pausing at times for a bit of uproarious laughter, "I was finding out that, 'nay, nay -- from accounting Larry Glick must stay away."
Radio also appealed to Larry. He moved to Emerson College, and a degree in radio. followed.
"After graduation I was an announcer at WLMH-AM in Laconia, New Hampshire," says Larry, stressing the “shire.” He worked in Israel during the War of Independence, eventually re-enlisting in the US Army and working Armed Forces Radio in Munich -- a country station no less!
In 1953, Larry started a 7-year, 5-station career in Jacksonville, Florida. For 3 years, he was an announcer and salesperson at WIVY. Then, after a short spell programming WPEC, which featured an all-girl line-up, he became general manager of WQIK-FM. In 1956, Larry moved to WZOK-FM as general manager.
Two years later, he bought WZOK-FM. At the time, FM penetration was probably .0001%, and that was in New York City! “Who wanted to buy time on a station that no one ever heard of, let alone listened to," said Larry.
Again, it was 'nay, nay -- from radio station ownership and management Larry Glick must stay away.
Glick’s an eternal optimist. Every cloud has a double-layer silver lining! WZOK-FM, a major setback for most, was a positive experience for him.
"It made me realize I wasn't management material, more because of interest than capabilities, I think. Just about everyone aspires to management. That is where the money is supposed to be. WZOK-FM helped me to realize that I was a performer, not a manager. 'Leave management to those so inclined,' I told myself."
Larry moved to WINZ, in Miami in 1960, and his first talk show.
Was it the same type of talk that he does today? "No. At first, it was just like most talk shows -- controversial. However, I tended to get too involved; too emotionally involved. And to tell you the truth, these controversial shows weren't as successful as the ones I do today."
The change in style was the result of a perceptive programme director. "One day the programme director told me if I wanted to be successful in talk shows, I should drop the heavy and controversial stuff, and get on the zany type of things.” In other words, “nay, nay --from the controversy Larry Glick must stay away.”
"Then when I did the lighter shows, it was like falling off a log," says Larry. "The other stuff, in comparison, was really drudgery."
Can his success be attributed to his 'zany personality'? "I would think so," he says. "I like to enjoy myself. Most people do. And there is so much controversy and heavy things to deal with each day, a little relief is, I think, welcome.”
In 1964 Mac Richmond imported Larry’s unique brand of talk to WMEX, in Boston, where he rounded out a superstar line-up, which included legendary rocker Arnie 'Woo Woo' Ginsberg, and top drawer, controversial talker, Gerry Williams.
The Boston careers of Gerry Williams and Glick intertwined at WMEX. "Jerry and I always complemented each other. He is conscientious," says Larry, admiringly, "I'm light and humorous. It was a perfect one-two punch. Jerry got them all steamed-up. I relaxed ‘em.""
Jon L'Heuri (Howard Lapides), currently manager of Treble Clef Entertainment, in Ottawa, worked WMEX just after the Williams and Glick years. They were, he says, legion.
"Here was WMEX," says L'Heuri, "number 9 or 10 in the market. Then there was Williams and Glick, number one, every book. It was just amazing."
Gerry Williams left WMEX for WBZ, in early 1968. Glick followed, in short order. (“Nay, nay – from Mac Richmond, Larry Glick must stay away.”) For a while, Larry worked on developing his stage hypnosis act.
How did Larry eventually get to WBZ? "In August, 1968, Jerry recommended me to fill-in for him a few nights," says Larry. “WBZ took his word – they had never heard of me; management had just come from the West Coast. I sat in. WBZ liked what they heard. They offered me a contract to do all-nights. I accepted."
The Gerry Williams and Glick one-two punch was back in action, back on top where it stayed until Williams exited WBZ in late 1976 for WTIC, Hartford, CN. A series of talkers drifted through the Williams 8 to midnight slot. Listeners drifted to other stations, only to return at 12:05 for Larry.
Things worsened after sports talker Guy Manilla also left. Evenings on WBZ, once a viable alternative to TV, was dying. Even Paul Benzaquin, another legendary Boston talker, could not pull things together. By 1978, the once uber-dominant 100,000 quarter hour averages built by Gerry Williams was down 60%. All the while Larry was running away with overnights. "There is only one station in Boston after Midnight," a Boston cabbie told me, "WBZ and Larry!" Moreover, the Larry Glick show was SRO – no sell time left on overnights.
All this led Dave Martin, then PD of WBZ, to a fundamental decision. "I don't know why we didn't see this before," he confided. "A forest for the trees situation, I guess. Why it hadn't struck us before, I will never know: move Larry Glick, king of the zanies, into the 8 pm to midnight slot.”
The results were immediate and overwhelming, said Martin. "In the first book in the new slot, Larry picked up 30% in the quarters."
Current WBZ PD, Ric Starr, shares Martin’s enthusiasm over how Glick revitalized the show. "Quarters were up to 56, 000 in the April and May ARB (Larry's second book in the new slot)," said Starr. "Cumes were 421,000. ARB share 9.9, up from 8.3 the previous year. That gives Larry a comfortable lead." Mediatrend, [an alternative rating service to ARB] …, agreed on Larry's lead.
Has the shift change affected the Larry Glick Show? "More entertaining now, and less companionship-oriented, I think. The overnight show was meant to keep people company, to keep 'em awake. Entertainment was important, but so was being friendly and comfortable to be with.
"Now since the show isn't meant to keep people up, the emphasis is on entertainment. In the new time slot, the show is faster paced, more general interest. The show is an alternative to TV."
Does he prefer the evening show to the overnight one? "I think I enjoy this show more because I get more young people listening," says Larry. "College students, teenagers, young adults -- even kids -- we get a lot more now. Midnight to 5:30 we just didn't get that many young people. Now a lot of them study and listen to me!"
"But this doesn't mean we just get young people calling; listening. We get a broad range of callers, all ages, all occupations, all nationalities. I have regular callers from Canada. It's North West Territories, Florida, The Midwest -- everywhere!"
How has the earlier time slot influenced the show's pacing? "I have to turn the callers over faster now. Overnight I could keep a caller on for a long time; no more! A facer pace is needed. Listeners want to hear a variety of callers, and topics. Maybe the callers are a little less patient now, too. Used to be a caller might try to get to through for an hour or two."
Has the turnover affected Larry's guests, too? "Right, overnight I used to be able to keep a guest on for almost as long as I wanted – at least as long as Kenny “Muck” Meyer, his long-time producer, and John Detroya, his engineer, would let me! Now, a half hour is probably average. An hour isn't rare nor is it regular. Ninety minutes for one guest is an exceptional case."
Larry Glick, of course, is a talker. His brand of talk, however, is singular. He regularly beats issue-oriented talkers, rockers and beauty formats too. Even the Red Sox and Bruins can't dent Larry's numbers.
Most important, all this happens in the evening: 8 to midnight, when boppers and sports enthusiasts presumably dominate radio audiences. As the programmer of one Boston rocker said, "Before WBZ moved Glick into that 8 to 12 slot, I was about to make my move. Now? Zio-oh! My best bet is heavy cume sharing."
Categorizing Larry Glick, beyond the simple label of "talker," is difficult. As does Don Imus, of WNBC, in New York City, Larry offers a conceptual approach to entertainment, rather than a series of one-liners. He can be subtle, blatant, a social critic, a therapist---just an ear to bend. But, always up! Always positive! Always optimistic! Said an ITOA cabbie, "Listening to Larry is good for my fares. I don't snap at them as much. He makes me feel good. Good for my tips too!"
Larry is akin to radio comic, Fred Allen. He lives by his wits. So does Larry. He was always optimistically critical of society. So is Larry. Larry’s off-the-cuff repartees with his callers parallel Allen's tightly written scripts. In an immortal tribute to Allen, his friendly enemy, Jack Benny, once respondent to a sardonic jab – "You wouldn't dare talk to me that way if my writers were here." Many a Glick caller knows how Benny felt!
Fred Allen had "Allen's Alley," an imaginary city block so geographically askew it could only have worked on radio. Accompanied by Portland Hoffa, Allen wound meander the Alley visiting, in order, the ante-bellum mansion of Senator Claghorn, the farmhouse of Titus Moody, the Brooklyn tenement of Mrs. Nussbaum and the shack where poet Ajax Cassidy lived. Yes, Steve Allen, no relation, borrowed the concept.
Larry Glick deploys a 1980 version of the Alley. Technology renders appearance random. The characters are real, not figments of a fertile, comedic imagination -- although you may think so! There are no scripts, just real people being real people. The regulars, Glickniks, as they like to call themselves, are as consistently entertaining as the residents of “Allen’s Alley.”
First, there is Vida, who’s blessed with the wisdom of the years, who is an archetype grandmotherly Mrs. Nussbaum to Larry’s puckish Baby Snookums. Vida rarely misses a trick, is evidence that older is better; she works very well with Larry.
Next is Charlie DeGiovanni, a most likeable Boston cabbie, who is a long-time friend of Larry. Charlie is the universally likeable fellow. When Charlie calls in it’s usually to offer help to another caller.
The Champagne Lady, who calls from Providence, Rhode Island, is a listener favourite. Rarely a week passes without requests for a song by her. She usually compiles and sings in a weakened vibrato until the woman next door starts banging on the wall.
Arnold Tarbox, a lobsterman, reminiscent of Titus Moody, calls in with the, “aye em news” from Maine – translation provided. Sleepy Lebeef is a country singer who makes semi-regular appearances. Harvard students call and get into a "what's the capital of..." battle with Glick. They lose. He wants to know if their families are rich. Yes? Can he borrow seven for five? A woman calls from Baltimore. Her German Shepherd just ate her poodle. Larry pops in the German march cart!
Another caller details her last operation. Larry yawns, snores. She goes on! Vivid detail! Eventually she gets the Larry Glick salute – a gesture WMEX alumni, Jon L’Heuri says, “it was first directed at Mac Richmond. It is now standard for Boston cabbies.” Tip heavy to avoid.
Mary from Michigan calls. "Can I talk to Larry," she asks. "I want to play my melodica for him."
"Is this Larry?" asks Mary as Larry answers.
"Let me check," is Glick's response. Under his breathe he is asking Muck, "is this Mary from Michigan?" The response must be positive. He tells her that Larry is out.
"Can you call back," he says.
"Okay," says Mary.
"Whew," says Larry, "a nice lady, but oy that melodica!"
There are more characters! There is Manny Mallock, the Portuguese Poet. Seymour Birdcasts Hergwersh, who, conspicuous by his recent absence, "rates as the most unusual talk-show caller anywhere! Ever! Ever! Moreover, we cannot forget Thor Larsen, Larry’s Viking newsreader!
Hold it! Larry is about to re-fight the Civil War – Appomattox to be precise! A caller has voiced his dislike of the original outcome.
"Over a bed of "Dixie," Larry pops in carts of gunfire, .cannons, rifles, barking dogs, an occasional scream, and, finally, cheers. As this fades, the caller asks if the outcome is the same.
"Not quite," says Larry. "This time General Lee surrenders to Commander Glick!" They both laugh! Roar! A million people across North America join in.
"This is better than 'Laverne and Shirley,"' quips a trucker somewhere between Muncie and Akron.
"That's a big 10-4, good buddy," adds another over his CB.
A caller wants to hear "The Baloney Song," by Orson Bean, a Glick Show special. Another caller demands to hear "The Graveyard Tape," in which a cop from the Midwest recounts a harrowing experience in a graveyard. You must hear the tape for full effect; words on a page can only do so much. Truth is stranger than fiction.
The current caller confides to being a “first time caller.” Larry rewards her good taste with a round of applause. Other callers have copied this antic. From coast to coast, one can hear tinkling teacups, clanging coffee cups, cheering masses, foot stomping and even the wrinkling of paper money.
The next caller wants to know what Private Eye, Gil Lewis, has been up to. Larry calls him on the celebrity line. Gil recounts a tale of an 80-year-old woman who hired him to tail her 90-year-old husband. She believes he is having an affair! He is, and his paramour is 19! Glick roars! So do a million listeners across Canada and the USA.
A depressed voice wants to talk with “Da Godfather.” Godfather theme music appears. A mildly Marlon Brando qua godfather voice says, “What is your favour?”
"I need somebody rubbed out, gawd father."
Larry shoots him off the air!
Not everyone, though, love Larry. "A few months ago," he says, "a late night call to one time Presidential hopeful, Alf Landon, produced such an outraged response, that I was forced to throwaway my Landon for President button."
A 10-year attempt to get Frank, as in Sinatra, on the celebrity line met a similar fate!
Someone is telling Larry that his theme music reminds him of Spike Jones. "Right," says Larry. "A bunch of nice kids at Berkeley School of Music did that for me a few years ago. They said I reminded them of Spike Jones."
This is a solid good comparison! Spike Jones' stage presence was analogous … Oops! LARRY is into a religious discussion with an Orthodox Rabbi who speaks six languages ... to Monty Python pandemonium. So is Larry!
Another caller says she finds LARRY to be therapeutic. Does he try to be? Is this his intention? "Not really. Fun, entertaining, unusual, yes, but therapeutic, not intentionally.
"But I do see myself as a German psychologist: Sigmund Glick!"
Is it true he makes $150,000? "Hello! Hello! Can you hear me? Must be something in the phone line," he says. Again, "Is it true he makes $150,000? Hello! Come in if, you can hear me. Darn phones. Hello! Hello!"
How much preparation goes, into his show? "Not much," he says, as the phone line miraculously clears up. Drat this new technology!
"I come in and read the papers, go over my mail and so on. If there is something of interest, I'll have my producer follow it up, but usually I just wing it, 90% of the time anyway.
Is it true he gets a quarter for every listener? "Hello. Hello! Come in if you can hear me. Hello!"
Larry gets more calls from radio people and broadcasters, in general, than any other talker. Why? “I did not realize that,” he says. “I have never really thought about it, until now, that is. I don't know why."
Could it be that Larry Glick is a folk hero: a role model for aspiring and successful broadcasters alike? "I never thought of that either. That would be nice. Just as long as I am not a 'cult' figure!
"I can't really explain this. A lot of these callers ask for advice, now that I think about it, on their careers and such. I try to help them all I can. Hey, you know it makes me feel good that I get the respect of other broadcasters. I work hard in 'my own little candy store.' It pays off in a lot of ways. But, no, I cannot explain it."
One reason might be that Larry Glick is sheer radio. He does what radio is supposed to do. He does it, not just well, but superbly. Hence, the moniker, Super Talker. Achieved, not bestowed. Earned, not taken.
Milton Berle is Mr. Television. Larry Glick is Mr. Radio. Both are craftsmen, possessing singular abilities to perform in a particular medium. Larry's tools are cogent: anonymous voices, unruly sound effects and the audiences' imagination.
With these he weaves, as if a magician, audio-visual images so exact, so precise, so powerful that any listener may picture, in minute detail, Olga, Charlie, The Champagne Lady and all the other characters who populate The Larry Click Show. Each character's entrance is perfectly orchestrated. The appearance is of a tightly scripted, well-rehearsed show. Complexity appears simplicity. Glick conducts with the flair, the imagination, the delicateness of an Arthur Fiedler or a Leonard Bernstein.
This is radio! This is what radio is all about. This is what announcers or DJs are extolled to strive do. This is the ultimate!
A Boston cabbie, who swore Larry Glick saved his marriage, summed it up best: "Larry Glick is," he said, "Like eating peanuts. The more you listen, the more you want to listen."
Click here for a brief aircheck of "The Larry Glick Show," on WBZ, in 1976.
Click here to hear the complete "Let Me Check," album, which Larry Glick released about 1971. You'll hear a wide variety of Glicknics, regular listeners, and a couple of out going calls, too. The cast of characters changed, over the years, but the essence remained the same: Glick was always positive, optimistic and entertaining. The "Cop and the Cemetery Creature," from 1975, wasn't part of the original album, is included.
Click here to listen to Larry Glick radio shows, from the 1970s and his 1971 album.
Click here for a list of all Grub Street Interviews
Interview edited and condensed for publication.
dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.
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