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Larry B is finally ready to take a vacation

Country music DJ Larry B retires Oct. 29 after 50 years on Cincinnati radio.
Country music DJ Larry B retires Oct. 29 after 50 years on Cincinnati radio.

'Classic Country' morning DJ Larry B ends 50 years on Cincinnati radio Friday, Oct. 29.

After 56 years in radio, and only getting two weeks of vacation a year, country music DJ Larry B is ready for an extended vacation.

"I decided to take two months off," says Larry, who retires Friday, Oct. 29,as the morning host on Classic Country WNKR-FM (106.7) in Dry Ridge and sister station WNKN-FM (105.9) in Middletown, Ohio.

"I'm 80 years old. I decided I'm not going to live forever," he says. "Then I'll see how much I miss it."

Morning DJ Larry B stands next to the WNKR-FM van at the Dry Ridge station.
Courtesy WNKN-FM
Morning DJ Larry B stands next to the WNKR-FM van at the Dry Ridge station.

Larry's incredible 50-year run on Cincinnati radio – on WUBE-FM, Hamilton's country Beaver (now 96 Rock), Middletown's The Rebel (now WNKN-FM) and WNKR-FM – began quite unintentionally.

"I got hired here by accident," says the Minnesota native. "I applied for a job in Kansas City, and they said, 'We don't have anything, but we've got a job open in Cincinnati.' "

Both the Kansas City and Cincinnati stations were Kaye-Smith stations, owned by entertainer Danny Kaye (White Christmas) and broadcasting investor Lester Smith. So Larry, with six years of radio experience, headed to WUBE-AM, which had adopted a country format in 1969. Shortly after he arrived, the station changed its FM call letters from WCXL to WUBE-FM and started simulcasting the country format.

Back in those days, country music was not cool. It was regarded it as "hillbilly music" until Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and others overhauled the overall image in the 1980s.

Larry eventually moved from the evening shift to mornings at WUBE, and served as program director during three of his 14 years there. He was also playing country music with many local bands in bars, clubs and fairs throughout the Tristate.

"In the early years of radio, you worked six days a week, and then I did a singing gig on Saturday night, and occasionally made a guest appearance at home," says Larry, who also recorded songs in Nashville, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

"I played guitar and sang, but I quit that 20 years ago. I decided I didn't want to work every weekend."

In his nearly six decades in radio, Larry has met a Who's Who of country music superstars: Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Kenny Price, Sara Evans and many more.

"I remember when Dolly Parton came to WUBE. And one time I was at a DJ convention in Nashville, and I was walking down the hall and she walked by and said hello to me – and I didn't know who it was," he says.

"George Jones – I used to call him once in a while," he says. "I remember when Sonny James ("Young Love') came into the station before a show in town."

Larry started hosting Classic Country mornings in 1998, four years before owner Jeff Ziesmann acquired the station.Over the past two decades Ziesmann had added other classic Cincinnati radio personalities to the Dry Ridge station: afternoon host Maverick, midday host Gina Matthews, newsman Ernie Brown, weekend DJ Tom Cat Michaels, and past DJs Jim LaBarbara, Peter Zolnowski, Tim Closson and the late Pat Barry.

Larry also witnessed a technology revolution since the 1970s, when he played records on a turntable or music recorded on audio tape cartridges, or "carts." Now all the music is digital, and he's doing two different shows with identical music on two stations simultaneously from 5 to 10 a.m. He records an hour for Northern Kentucky with local sponsors and references to the UK Wildcats for WNKR-FM, then records an hour for Southwestern Ohio with Ohio sponsors and references to the UC Bearcats and Miami RedHawks on Middletown's powerful WNKN-FM.

"It's pretty intense," he says.

Cincinnati Edition host Michael Monks, who did morning newscasts for WNKR/WNKN before joining WVXUin 2019, was amazed at how Larry could juggle everything in the morning.

"Larry is truly gifted. He puts that morning show on by himself, handling the technical side, and also programming it. I was always so impressed with how he was able to be funny and informative while running the whole thing," Monks says.

Larry says he has no immediate plans, except sleeping in. After Friday he won't be getting up at 3:12 every weekday. His station bio saysthat Larry off the air "enjoys walking the trails, fishing, and hanging around the pool with family. He is your average, everyday LEGEND!"

"I want to take a couple of months off, and we'll see what happens," Larry says. "I hear there a lot of radio stations looking for talent for that Old Geezer format."

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.