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'Barefoot' Larry Justice


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Dedicated in memory of Jim Collins



 

Hey it’s Barefoot Larry
Come on, let’s not tarry.
It’s the Larry Justice Late Date Show.

He’s got naked feet.
He plays music sweet.
Hey Larry, get on with the show.

- Jingle by Jerry G, 1962

 

'Barefoot' Larry Justice worked at WPGC for exactly one year from February 14, 1962 - February 14, 1963. The original Bob Raleigh (Rolle Ferrar) followed him in middays when Larry left for WIBG / Philadelphia then moved on to WMEX / Boston to work for Max Richmond, owner of WPGC & WMEX. From there he went to WBZ / Boston and WROR / Boston. He moved into station ownership in the early '80's. Larry now lives in Naples, Florida with his wife of 45 years, Beverly.

 

 

'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 Weinrib'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 now 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 Weinrib. 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.

Epilogue

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!

Larry Justice writes:

I have just finished looking and listening to the WPGC website and am stunned at the volume of material that has been collected. What a FABULOUS job putting the site together....There are many websites of current stations that do not compare with the 'PGC site. Dedicating the site to Jim Collins is very thoughtful.

I was very fortunate to have grown up in Little Rock in the Fifties. As a radio junkie, I had access to stations during my high school years (54-55-56-57) that I would not have had in a major market. During my junior and senior years...I actually worked on-air at the first Todd Storz / Gordon McClendon type top 40 station in Little Rock. Everything we did was a FIRST. I had the pleasure of working with a jock named Dewey Phillips, Sam Phillips brother, and since I was only 90 minutes from Memphis....always had Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, et al, hanging around the station asking us to play their records.

On coming to DC:

When I was discharged from the army...I wanted to move East...to the big markets...so when I had the job interview at 'PGC...I jumped at the opportunity. With $20 bucks in my pocket...I jumped an army transport flight (free) from St. Louis to Andrews Air Force Base (all night)...interviewed with Bob Howard and I was offered the job at 'PGC. I lied about my age...I was only 22 and afraid that he would not hire such a young kid.

Bev & I moved there Valentine's Day 1962...and sort of like Robert Redford in "The Natural", hit the air like we had been there all our lives. I was very blessed with natural talent and to start a career during a time when personality was encouraged. Bob Howard and Mac Richmond recognized that talent and were able to direct and develop it. I owe everything I have to those two icons. I was also a Program Director's worst nightmare when the formula and research boys started programming stations in the 80's and stifling talent.

On his name:

Bob Howard tried to change my real name...Lawrence Kirk Justice...to some stupid off the wall stage name and that was the only major conflict we had....we compromised and settled on Larry Justice...however he insisted on 'Barefoot' Larry Justice, friend of all the 'Barefoot' housewives. How do you think that would have played in 1968 when they were burning their bras? I was never crazy about 'Barefoot'.

On taking over the station:

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. Bob Howard was threatened for taking advantage of a country boy. I should have stayed at 'PGC another year instead of going to Philly and then to Boston.. Another year to enjoy the success instead of another challenge.

On his subsequent career:

During the 80's, I purchased a class B FM on Cape Cod (60 miles from Boston) and our little company, Justice Broadcasting, grew to five stations reaching from Vermont to Ft. Myers, Florida...hence...that's how we settled on Bonita / Naples as our home...climate!!!!! However, I realized that ownership was not all it was cracked up to be when the bank insisted that we had to FIRE people to improve the bottom line. Coming from the talent side made it even more distasteful so after ten years of that...I sold everything and settled in Florida.

Deciding to go back to my roots and utilize my God given talent...I went back on the air but SW Florida is bad radio and you cannot make any money. I had to choose between working in Boston with the horrible winters and making great money or living in SW Florida on a golf course with the beach and boating only 5 minutes away....easy choice...but I miss being on the air....would love to do a Saturday night Oldies (60's-70's) show....60's music was the best....Motown, Supremes, Four Tops, Smokey, Temps, great rock era with The Beatles, Stones, et al !!!!!

We were all at the right time and right place for Radio History. We are survivors !! Once again, THANK YOU for preserving great memories for so many of us !

The infamous novelty tune Larry played incessantly!
Click label to hear a clip of it. Hear the instrumental too!

 

Photos

Click on image for enlargement.


From 1962.

 

 

Print Materials

Sales Kit Insert

Click on images below to see enlargements.

 

Articles

©The Evening Star
Monday, August 6, 1962

©Washington Daily News
Monday, August 6, 1962

 

 

Miscellaneous Audio

1994 Hear Harv Moore & Marv Brooks on: Larry Justice.
2002

Hear Dean Griffith's recollections of the event.

 

 




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