Twenty Years of Honestly Provocative Talk
By Lars Larson
Let me tell you a little “inside baseball” story as I mark a milestone.
KXL hired me twice: the first time in March 1980, two weeks before Mt. St. Helen’s cracked open and began venting and two months before the cataclysmic eruption of 1980. I stayed almost 4 years and left on good terms. My boss back then, Brian Jennings, left KXL a few years later to make Talk Radio 570 KVI America’s 1st all conservative radio station. Today, KVI airs both of my radio shows daily.
KXL hired me 17 years later on Friday, May 20th, 1997. I had left KXL for a few TV jobs, but in the end, my employers told me I had a “face for radio” and I returned to the profession I love: telling folks my opinion using only a microphone. No more makeup, ties and bright lights, hallelujah!
I was filling in for KXL’s local talker, Bill Gallagher, for a few years when he took vacation or sick days. In those days, Bill followed Rush Limbaugh from noon to 3pm on 750-AM – the best possible position to hold back then in talk radio. When Jacor – which would become Clear Channel and later iHeartRadio – announced it would yank Rush from his spot at KXL, 750-AM told me they wanted me to replace him. This is the most impossible job in talk: telling listeners you were replacing Rush.
Thankfully, Jacor and Gallagher made that unnecessary.
KXL hired me on a Friday. Before the day ended, the folks at Jacor told me “you’re making a huge mistake as we plan drive KXL out of talk radio in 6 months”. They hired Gallagher away the next day, he did his last show Monday and I took over. Bill’s been gone from talk for more than a decade, the execs who promised destruction are gone and iHeart is $20 billion in debt. So much for the best laid plans.
I started the following Tuesday and I’ve been here ever since.
Today, my show reaches roughly a million people in Oregon, Washington and Idaho on the 21 stations of the Radio Northwest Network – which we started three years after Jacor promised to destroy KXL. Three years after I started the northwest show, I started the national radio show, which reaches another three million or so people across 170 affiliates from coast to coast. I went from three hours of talk radio daily to six hours a day. I get to the studio six hours before I ever crack the mic. As anyone who has worked in radio will tell you, that’s a long day. Most radio shows are three hours long, with the longest shows topping out at five, but those aren’t long-form talk. Rush does three hours. No one does six. I agree, that’s just a bit insane.
As my listeners know, I love numbers. So I did a little math on how much radio I’ve done over the past twenty years and here’s what I came up with: over 15,000 hours of talk on the Northwest program. 10,000 hours of talk on the national show. From Honolulu to Portland, Maine & Anchorage to Baton Rouge and all parts in between. Roughly 15,000 commentaries. 25,000 hours of show preparation, or prep as we call it in the biz.
Over the last two decades the show has taken me across the nation and around the world. I have broadcast from some interesting places, including the sites of the terrorist attacks in NYC at the Millennium Hotel across the street from Ground Zero and at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.. From the Old City of Jerusalem to Seattle, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. I’ve done my shows from Bismarck, ND during a real tornado that knocked me off the air for a few minutes. I’ve done it from the end of the chutes where they cut loose bulls and riders during the Pendleton Roundup. County fairs have provided a stage to do my talk show as has the town of Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.
The radio show has blessed me with the opportunity to talk to heroes like the late Chris Kyle and Marcus Luttrell to the homeless and the downtrodden. Presidents, ambassadors and politicians have graced my program with their words. I have talked with important folks who make critical decisions to serve the people and the self important who mostly serve themselves. I have talked to actors, musicians, policemen and firemen. I have talked to some of the best and worst of our society. I have talked to people who are no longer with us. I have talked to many of you, too, because for me, a dialogue is always better than a monologue and “naysayers always go first”.
My wife Tina and my family tolerate the tough hours and the public exposure and the stalkers my chosen profession attracts. My producers – Carl Sundberg and Ben Lebwohl – tolerate my eccentricities and impossible demands. My employers – Peter Kosann at Compass Media Networks and Bruce Collins at Alpha Media USA – support both my shows in a business where a talk host who says foolish things can turn into the media equivalent of an IED. So far I’ve been sensible – or lucky – enough to avoid that kind of trouble.
I look forward each day to the moment I crack open that microphone and invite you to join me in a conversation.
This week, I mark 20 years of this blessing I enjoy. I hope that I will still be doing it 20 years from now.
Finally, let me say thank YOU for making this possible by making the decision to listen. Whether you’re a new listener, a long-time fan or a naysayer, without you, I would be talking to myself.