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Larry Justice - 8/06/62

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'Barefoot' Larry Justice takes over the WPGC airwaves

On Monday, August 6th, 1962 at the start of his shift at 10AM, midday personality 'Barefoot' Larry Justice took over the airwaves of WPGC, locking himself in the control room and played the same record (Len Weinreb's 'Prez Conference' - see details below) over and over again until station management met his demands for a pay raise.

Six months after joining the station and 2 months after having been promised an unrealized pay raise, Larry took matters in his own hands. Listen as he berates newsman David B. Simmons (who ironically finishes Larry's shift as 'Jolly David B'), then talks with the Morning Mayor, Jerry G from the news studio.

General Manager Bob Howard, long known for his showmanship is heard next, attempting to reason with Larry.

Further evidence this was a planned event is revealed as Larry gradually makes on air 'concessions', allowing the News to air, then agrees to run the commercials, has live spots read by others and eventually lets Jerry G in the studio.

As the drama unfolds, listeners start calling up the station en masse. Supposedly, numerous fans of Larry begin congregating outside the station and form a mob. Management pleads on air the situation not turn violent.

Program Director and afternoon man 'Big Ol' Fat Ol' Deano (Dean Griffith) is heard warning Larry his job is on the line as Bob Howard wants to fire him. The story makes the national news wires as heard from a David B. Simmons newscast. Following this, Bob Howard does fire Larry on the air but Larry refuses to come out of the padlocked studio and continues playing the same record over & over ad infinitum.

After nearly two hours of holding the airwaves hostage, Bob Howard agrees to let him keep his job and gives Larry the long overdue pay raise and a contract in writing at which time he finally vacates the studio & David B. Simmons finishes his shift.

Stunts like this today are passé but 40 years ago something like this was unheard of. Speculation as to management's foreknowledge & approval of the stunt seems certain since all they had to do was take control at the transmitter site.

In any event, real or planned, the stunt worked and gained national attention for the station as well as a ton of talk in the market for many years to come. 40 years later, you be the judge.

Incidentally, the song Larry played repeatedly for two hours was a novelty record called 'Prez Conference', a parody of the Kennedy administration by Len Weinreb. It did not chart nationally on the Billboard Hot 100 but because of the local nature of the material was a minor hit in DC.

The song preceded the Grammy winning 'First Family' comedy album by Vaughn Meader in 1962 by about 90 days. For historical reference, the Larry Justice stunt occurred approximately 15 months before the tragic JFK assassination.



40 years after the fact, Larry himself has confirmed the stunt was done with the foreknowledge of Program Director, Dean Griffith but not General Manager, Bob Howard (widely known for his showmanship, he had no problem playing along with the stunt).

The issue of not having received a promised pay raise was the real life impetus for the event. KLIF / Dallas had offered Larry a job at a higher rate but because he wanted to move back East after serving time in the Army in Missouri, he accepted WPGC's offer.

Several listeners actually came down to the station to protest management's refusal to give Larry his raise. One gentleman with a gun was escorted out of the building!


'Lovable' Jerry G writes:

Can't remember much (it WAS over 40 years ago !!!) I do remember being completely surprised by the event, so much so that I totally forgot the lines we'd been rehearsing for weeks!


'Barefoot' Larry Justice writes:

During the "take over / lock in" a major mob of fans gathered outside the station on Southern Ave. and the PG County police had to be called to control the crowd. Wow! What a hoot. General Manager, Bob Howard was threatened for taking advantage of a country boy.

Read newspaper coverage of the event from The Evening Star and the Washington Daily News.


April 2002

Hear Dean Griffith's recollections of the event.


Special thanks to contributor Lee Whitney for the extremely rare audio above and Joe Jackerson for the articles from the DC Public Library.


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