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Larry Justice takes over the WPGC airwaves
Monday, August 6th, 1962 at the start of his shift at 10AM, midday
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
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.
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.
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.
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. Nearly 60 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
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.
years after the fact, Larry himself has confirmed the stunt was
done with the foreknowledge of Program
Griffith but not General
Howard (widely known for his showmanship, he had no problem
playing along with the stunt).
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.
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!
Jerry G wrote:
remember much (it WAS about 60 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:
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
Howard was threatened for taking advantage of a country boy.
newspaper coverage of the event from The
Evening Star and the Washington
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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