Last week marked the high season for baseball editor Larry Keith—World Series time. He supervised the coverage that begins on page 26 and, because he's also our TV/RADIO editor, assigned Bill Taaffe to assess NBC's handling of the Series (page 42). To our coverage of broadcasting Keith brings a rare perspective indeed. "It's in his blood," says his father, Larry Sr., a retired veteran of 39 years on the air and behind the scenes at 12 radio and four TV stations in the South. "Everything he saw, heard, smelled or ate as a kid concerned radio and TV."
The elder Keith began his career in 1942, at 17, when a fellow moviehouse usher dared him to audition as an announcer for WDAK radio in West Point, Ga. Keith was hired, and for 45 hours—and $14—a week did news, sports and interviews, and commercials for Stanback Headache Powder. In '51 he landed in Mobile, Ala., at WKAB, an AM station that played rhythm and blues for its black audience. There Keith became Jivin' Man, a DJ the audiences at first erroneously assumed to be black. (In '53, Keith won a medal from a black VFW post as the white citizen who had done the most to further the cause of blacks in Mobile.) He also hosted an R & B program on WKAB-TV, emceed shows in nightclubs—rubbing elbows with such musical giants as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and Big Mama Thornton—and did the public-address announcing for Mobile's baseball teams, black and white. In 1954 Keith moved on to WIST in Charlotte, N.C., where in 1956 he interviewed Elvis Presley. "To me he looked like just another rock-'n'-roll singer," recalls Keith.
Later, at WGIV in Charlotte, Larry Sr. began coaxing Larry Jr., then sports editor of his junior high newspaper, to the microphone, to do commercials and commentary on high school football broadcasts. No wonder Larry Jr.—or Jivin' Man No. 2, as his father called him—went on to work as sports director for Chapel Hill's WCHL radio in his senior year at North Carolina, and his first job after graduation was as a special assignment reporter for WAYS in Charlotte.
In the end Jivin' Man No. 2 opted for the print side of journalism, but it gratifies J.M. No. 1 that J.M. No. 2 has been able to draw on his broadcast experience for our TV/RADIO feature.
October 21, 1984
As our Keith says, "This is one way for me to tell Dad that I appreciate the influence he had on me, and to thank him."