Larry Nelson Steps Away From KOMO-AM Morning Show

October 18, 1996 — Talk-news KOMO-AM (1000), Seattle’s oldest radio station, will turn 70 in December.
For 30 of those years, Larry Nelson has been its velvet voice. Since 1967, he’s been the mainstay morning personality. Two weeks from today, he will formally step aside to play an ancillary role at KOMO-AM, ending a transition that began in June. Nelson is the last of the Seattle morning-radio legends who ruled the airwaves back in the late-1960s and the 1970s, before FM radio began to dominate the ratings and radio formats fragmented. “I’d like to see who’s on `The Tonight Show’ – Jack Parr or Steve Allen,” Nelson joked yesterday. “Twenty-nine years of getting up at 4 in the morning is enough. “The station is going in a different direction,” he said. KOMO-AM has evolved in recent years from a mature music-and-news station to news-talk, and it aspires, says program director Rick Van Cise, to offer “NPR depth with Top-40 style.” It needs to reach more younger listeners to compete for ad dollars. Van Cise, who made a name in Seattle at news-talk KIRO-AM (710), and Gina Tuttle will continue to be the morning hosts, reading news and involving listeners over the phone. Nelson, 58, likes to gab, too, but he is a disc jockey at heart. “It didn’t make sense to contribute to a format I didn’t feel comfortable with,” Nelson said. He will continue to contribute a brief daily morning feature called “The Way I See It” and will broadcast live from various businesses on Saturdays following the University of Washington football season. Nelson’s cheerful chat otherwise will be heard on KOMO-AM only in commercials. His specialty is making personal pitches for products and merchants he believes in. Even one-on-one, he is a natural salesman. Yesterday he recalled how one client began advertising on KOMO years ago, with a single service truck, and has grown ever since. Before long, Nelson was leaning forward in his chair, enthusiastically describing the company’s miraculous new drapery-cleaning. His personal sales touch is a holdover from the era of so-called “full-service” radio stations, the AM giants that emphasized news, patter and middle-of-the-road music. Today, the notion of a station offering a little of everything is anachronistic. Advertisers prefer baby boomers and younger folks accustomed to listening to stations that specialize – in news, or in talk, or in music, but not a mix. KOMO has chosen to join the information niche. There are nine other area stations targeting those listeners: news-talk KIRO-AM, KIRO-FM (100.7), KVI-AM (570) and KHHO-AM (850);all-news KNWX-AM (770); local National Public Radio outlets KUOW-FM (94.9) and KPLU-FM (88.5); sports-talk KJR-AM (950); and business-news-talk KEZX-AM (1150). Nelson’s last weekday broadcast will be the morning of Nov. 1.He will broadcast live from the 13 Coins Restaurant in downtown Seattle. It’s a nostalgic place for him. He was there to cover its grand opening – in 1967.

Author: Victor Stredicke

Former radio columnist for the Seattle Times. --- View other articles by Victor Stredicke

5 thoughts on “Larry Nelson Steps Away From KOMO-AM Morning Show

  1. Larry and I enrolled in the same class at Ron Bailie’s in spring/summer of 1966. As I recall, one of our instructors who was working in radio in the area mentioned Larry to someone he knew at KFKF, then a daytimer at 1330 that had great talent including Jay Ward. KFKF gave Larry a job offer when class was barely underway. Later, when Jay Ward was PD at KOMO he hired Larry to work morning drive.

      1. But there is a little more story about Larry Nelson…as a student at Everett J.C., in 1958, he and a friend had the nerve to record a couple of “doo-wop” singles, and they promoted their efforts locally…after that attempt faded, they decided to sponsor their own label…and had some success with a few other local groups!…but Larry and his friend soon tired of all the business hassles involving record promotion…Larry decided to try his luck with radio….and yes, then the rest is history!

  2. Back in early 1976 at Park’s newly acquired KEZX, I was given the order to hire Larry Nelson away from KOMO. I don’t recall the VP who handed me this impossible task. He thought Larry would be a draw, and he would have been. I tried to explain that Nelson likely had a contract with Fisher, and that Park should be prepared to buy out the contract and face potential litigation. I did not know Larry well, but he agreed to meet me for coffee at the Denney’s on Aurora near KOMO.

    Without going into the numbers, there was no way that Roy H. Park Broadcasting of Washington could come close to Nelson’s deal with KOMO.

    There were other personalities I contacted, and no way to attract them!

    By the way as Operations Manager and engineer I was making $800 a month with no benefits, then.

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