In 1985, my radio career was soaring. I was co-hosting the hugely successful WQMF-FM morning radio “Show With No Name.” My partner Ron Clay was a shrewd, sardonic, soured-on-life hippie guy. He was brilliant and always had something clever to throw out on the air. We could finish each other’s sentences with goofy riffs about society, celebrities, and politicians.
We did outrageous things. We used sound effects to make it seem as if we were broadcasting from around the world. We lied a lot. We giggled at each other’s provocative setups. We were juvenile delinquents trapped in grownup bodies. Rude boys throwing conventional broadcast techniques out the window.
Radio stations in Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia sent employment inquiries. None of those turned into final offers but we knew we were generating industry buzz.
Then the local big league station called. But they were only interested in one of us. Steven Lee Cook, a sales person at talk station WHAS, called me at home and said that their afternoon show host was leaving.
“If I were you, I would apply for it,” he said with certainty.
WHAS is the monster signal, legacy news/talk station in this region. A chance to host a show on it is a dream come true for virtually any radio personality. I knew it was my chance to graduate into thoughtful radio, a completely different beast from cracking jokes between hair band songs.
WHAS is also the hub of University of Kentucky and University of Louisville sports broadcasts. Coaches and players are often available for interviews and promotions with their flagship broadcast partners.
I hoped the switch would also get me a chance to work on WHAS-11 television, a completely different skill set that I wanted to develop. I didn’t know how to do TV comedy but I watched TV so how hard could it be?
I quickly wrote out a list of “84 Reasons You Should Hire Terry Meiners” and sent it to WHAS radio program director Denny Nugent. He would later admit to me that “as soon as I read that list, I knew I would hire you.”
I told WHAS officials that I would take the job but I couldn’t quit WQMF for several more days. The Courier Journal Sunday Magazine the next weekend planned a cover story on us and it would look ridiculous if I’d already quit the job celebrated in the biggest newspaper in Kentucky.
The magazine came out on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I quit WQMF five days later.
Nothing against Ron Clay but I was 28 years old and looking to forge my own path in broadcasting. We were funny on WLRS-FM from 1981-83 so WQMF lured us away with pay increases of about 50%. Ron made a bit more than me at WLRS but we made equal salaries at WQMF.
I enjoyed writing jokes and Ron was more of an extemporaneous ad libber. Our combined skills worked wonderfully.
Occasionally I did goofy solo stuff on WLRS station promos. While other stations were promoting giving away concert tickets, I decided that our WLRS promo would offer the most intimate Rolling Stones experience ever.
My parents were embarrassed about this publicity for their son. I thought I’d written a masterpiece.
Ron Clay was a rare commodity in that he had no inflated ego. He was just a low-key comedian who rarely filtered his public comments. I grew up in a strict Catholic household so the pairing of our personalities added wildly differing viewpoints, much of it staged for outrageous effect.
This Courier-Journal column from June 5, 1985 makes some incorrect claims. There were no real problems between Ron and me. He was terrific and I knew he was strong enough to go forward on WQMF without me.
Read it and then I’ll correct some of its other half-truths. Understand that Tom Dorsey, the Courier Journal’s TV/Radio critic, was no fan of ours.
Truth be told, I generated a little FAKE NEWS, keeping things hazy for legal reasons. I couldn’t talk about WHAS yet because they could be sued for tortious interference.
WQMF co-owners “Diamond John” Otting and Frank “Bo” Wood both quickly realized that I was going to take the afternoon show at WHAS after their six month non-competition clause was exhausted.
People in every business know what their competitors are up to. I had been talking with WHAS Radio officials for a few weeks. They said they could not interfere with my current contract but, if I were to leave WQMF, there was an unfilled position at WHAS that might be perfect for me. Wink, wink.
After I was certain that WHAS would hire me, I informed WQMF that I was leaving on Friday, May 31, 1985. In spite of the what the newspaper printed, I never went to Ottting’s house and talked about being burned out. That’s completely made up.
Without any foreshadowing, I handed “Diamond John” Otting a letter from attorney Walter Butler. It stated that I planned to resign but that I would stay on duty for up to 6 months while WQMF looked for my replacement. The only stipulation was that my 6 month non-competition clause began counting down immediately. I would be clear to work for anyone else in late November no matter how long WQMF needed me to help with the transition.
Mr. Otting read the letter, stared up at me, read the letter a second time, and then looked up again and calmly said “I think you’d better leave.”
I walked out the door of WQMF and went home. I called Ron Clay to tell him that I was out and he said “Do what you need to do. I’ll be fine.” I knew he was hurt but he was also conditioned to sudden changes in radio lineups. That’s showbiz.
Minutes later, Bo Wood called me from Cincinnati and offered me a co-host position on the very popular WEBN-FM “Dawn Patrol” morning show. He told me I was being used by WHAS to break up WQMF’s momentum. “They’ll fire you within a few weeks,” he said. “Come up to Cincinnati and start fresh here.”
Of course, all he was doing was trying to crush the deal that he knew I had already worked out with WHAS. I suspect that it would have actually been Bo Wood firing me in a few weeks once the WHAS job was filled.
Business always comes full circle. Bo Wood found himself outmaneuvered by WHAS two years after he snatched away WLRS’s most successful show.
WHAS officials waited a month to sign me. They started paying me in July 1985, including a month of back pay to cover June so that I never lost a paycheck. All of that was done on a verbal agreement with WHAS station manager Sandy Gamblin.
I believed so much that I would succeed as a solo host that I agreed to the same salary of $42,000 at WHAS that I was being paid at WQMF. A few years later, as was correctly reported in the Lexington Herald Leader, my pay had moved beyond $100,000 per year.
Attorney Walter Butler continued negotiating new deals for me over 25 years and it turned out to be the best money I ever spent.
My parents stopped worrying about my career as a goofball media guy.
My WHAS radio show has been a smashing success for 35 years. WHAS-TV made me a co-host on PM Magazine and later Great Day Live. I hosted the Rick Pitino Show, did live shots on Good Morning Kentuckiana and the WHAS-TV 11 PM news, and anchored community affairs specials created by Louisville Productions, a separate Bingham media company.
Ratings are still very strong during a pandemic when car listening opportunities have diminished. Radio is easily accessible through all smart speakers and a multitude of digital platforms.
Several years after leaving WQMF, “Diamond John” Otting approached me at a celebrity golf tournament at Hurstbourne Country Club. “Doovers, I’m really proud of you for all you’ve achieved.”
Doovers was the pet name he gave all of his favorite people. We shook hands and promised to get together soon.
Similarly, WLRS co-owner Louisa Henson, who defended my work on the satirical sex-with-Mick Jagger promo, was initially stung by the departure of her ratings dominating Ron & Terry “Morning Sickness” duo.
All these years later, Louisa and I still have an occasional chat filled with laughter and good memories.
WHAS Radio was eventually sold to a company now called iHeart Media. WHAS-TV was sold to the Providence Journal but has been resold and is now a TEGNA station. Both have been great partners for me.
Earl Jones, a regional president for iHeart, has signed me to multiple deals over the years and has defended me against detractors. We’ve had a great business relationship. I’ve assured Mr. Jones that as long as he remains my boss, I am committed to going forward.
That’s how it started. This is how it’s going. 🔥
We signed my most recent contract extension in the parking lot of Party Mart liquor store a few months ago. He handed me the papers out of his car window and I re-upped until December 31, 2024. We couldn’t shake hands because of the pandemic. Cheers!
My WHAS Radio and TV crews over the years have been an incredible blessing. I can’t throw enough love at Ian Vertrees, Jeff Ketterman, Suzanne Duvall, Rachel Platt, Mary Jeffries, Van Vance, Tony Cruise, Jo Jacovino, Sid Jenkins, Angie Fenton, Susan Sweeney Crum, Lynda Lambert, Angela Fleming, John Ziegler, Doug McElvein, Jane Norris, Bob Scherer, Skip Essick, Matthew “12” Brown, Leland Conway, Greg Kaelin, John & Ann Blim, Hannah Cherryholmes, Jelisa Chatman, Shannon The Dude, KD, Tori Strauss, Julie Kredens, Larry “L Man” Ledford, Mark Travis, Sherlene Shanklin,
John Asher, Rick Belcher, Chuck Taylor, Kevin Harned, Jay Cardosi, Jack Fox, Kristin Goodwillie, Kaitlynn Fish, Ron Robertson, Francene Cucinello, Randy Davidson, Chris Chandler, Ange Humphrey, Ralph Dix, Holly Rupprecht, Hayley Hansen, Paul Miles, Gus Allen, Renee Murphy, Shay McAlister, Roz Jones, Tyler Emery, Doug Proffitt, Bill Gentry, Will Clark, Mindy Peterson, Joy Hall, Mandy Connell, Donnie Ruark, Larry Baysinger, Charlie Strickland, Terry Dismore, Steven Lee Cook, George Demaree, Cheryl Ades, Cheri Knight, Bonnie Duggins, Tabnie Dozier, Brooke Katz, Jeff Gard, Dan Brindle, Forrest Clem, Nick Goldring, Chuck Olmstead, Theresa Stephens, Joe Federle,
Bobby Ellis, Brian Goode, Chris Johnson, Jody Demling, Dymon Rondo, Ron & Mel Fisher, Mark Stahr, Gary Bruce, Cawood Ledford, Adam Neft, Chris Allman, Anne Hubbs, Helen Huber, Gary Rizzo, TG Shuck, Dwight Witten, Tony Vanetti, Dave Jennings, Ben Pine, Milton Metz, Wayne Perkey, Liz Curtis Higgs, Joe Elliott, Laura Rogers, Holly Rudolph, Jim Ghrist, Andy Treinen, Barry Bernson, Leah Bisig, Laura Shirley, Kristin Taylor, Laura Jones, Bobby Frazier, Lauren Jones, Tim Wilson, Chuck “Shirley Q” Knipp, Joe B. Hall, Tony Wyleta, Scott Fitzgerald, Steve Kirkland, Elizabeth Hilbrich, Matt Jones, Dr. Ricky Jones, Nelson Reyes, Michael Bennett, John Polk, Barbara Polk, Bud Harbsmeier,
Conner Galle, Bryce Gill, Shelley Catharine, Shannon Paddymo, Billy Reed, Beth Merrill, James St. James, Joann Dickson, Sam Gray, Big Pete Longton, Katie George, Joe Arnold, Kirk Wesley, Mark Steven Williams, Joe Gibson, Larry Smalley, Bruce Pate, Joe Donovan, Fred Wiche, Lachlan McLean, Brian Rublein, Dan Burgess, Bob Lauder, Jerry Gleisner, Melissa Swan, Lisa Hutson, Julia Rose, Claudia Coffey, Vicki Rogers, John JR Ross, Ted Ellis-Werbin,
John Bistarkey, Paul Rogers, Tom Leach, Jim Williams, James Banzer, Jerry Bloom, Tom Latek, Ed Huckleberry, the Crusade for Children team and the incredible crew upstairs at Louisville Productions. Also thanks to WAKY superstars Gary Burbank, Bill Bailey, Johnny Randolph, and Coyote Calhoun. They all helped me get started.
I’ve interviewed an endless parade of newsmakers, citizens, charitable do gooders, musicians, actors, comedians, and a few scalawags. What a parade of ideas, goals, inspiration, and achievement from a myriad of voices.
I am not a politically partisan person so critics attack me for not being acerbic in interviews with politicians from one side or the other. My rule is to let leaders dump their bucket of ideas on the air. I will then respond with points made by their political adversaries and let the interview subject answer.
I don’t bite off anyone’s head because I don’t want to make an interview about me. I feel like the listeners have the intelligence to decide whether they support what a politician says.
Politics aside, I love doing humorous segments above all else. And yes, I do sometimes tear up when people tell me about their charitable work to uplift the community.
Whatever tomorrow’s roller coaster of news, information, humor, charity, or sudden topic swerve brings…I am ready to power through it.
The 35th anniversary of my first WHAS radio show is next week and I can’t wait to go another 35 years.
It’s no surprise that I’m still enjoying cracking wise about society, politicians, and celebrities. Ron Clay, who died in 1991, is still laughing from above, finishing my sentences with me.
Thanks to all of the local newsmakers who have tolerated my impersonations of them. Only some of them threatened to punch me in the mouth.
People frequently ask about Joe B Hall’s feelings about my parody called The Beasman. He loves it! His best friend Terry McBrayer would chuckle about it and Joe knows it’s really a lampoon of fanatical UK fans. A Kentucky basketball coach understands that phenomenon more than any casual fan. And yes, he does call me Larry.
Even though he made me a Kentucky Colonel, I hammered Governor Wallace Wilkinson almost every day while he was in office. One evening we simultaneously walked through opposite sides of a doorway and the impact knocked him backward. Wilkinson turned to his security officer and shouted “ARREST THIS MAN!”
Another regular caricature on the show was UofL football coach Howard Schnellenberger. One night he stomped into my studio and backed me up against the wall.
“Did you say I was cheating on my wife?” he snarled.
It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about. I then described a bit I’d done the previous week where Schnelly’s boss Bill Olsen was urging him to get more involved in community service.
“Howard, I want you to be philanthropist.”
The Schnellenberger character voice replied, “You want me to cheat on my wife?”
Olsen: “No…that’s a philanderer. I said philanthropist. You need to give away some of your money.”
Fake Schnellenberger: “You got any other options?”
The real Schnellenberger backed away with a puzzled look and mumbled “OK.” We never spoke of it again.
Partnering with Rachel Platt on WHAS11’s Great Day Live and Good Morning Kentuckiana was one of the greatest professional gifts I never anticipated. Thanks to TV managers Donna Zapata, Bob Morse, Bob Klingle, Neil Kuvin, Linda Danna, and Christy Moreno for their support.
I’m so happy that I made the jump to WHAS. The parade of talented colleagues I’ve been lucky enough to work with is a who’s who of Louisville media. Thanks to every single person who’s taught me, helped me, and allowed me to grow up with them.
The absolute best part about moving to WHAS in 1985 is the chance to work for the WHAS Crusade for Children. Nothing moves my soul more than seeing tangible results of hard work that improves the lives of our special needs angels. Thank God for the Crusade!
Special thanks to my family for enduring all of the grief and ribbing that my job has caused for them over the past 40+ years. I’m so grateful for their patience and support. That’s everything to me.
Most importantly, thanks to each and every one of you who has listened to me on the radio or digital platforms, watched me on TV, or engaged in conversation with me somewhere throughout Kentucky or Indiana. I truly appreciate your input and support.
Louisville is the best media market in America.