Larry Kenney's History in Broadcasting
and other life events
1960 to today
Larry Kenney has had a long and interesting career working in radio and television, from small stations in New England to one of the top television stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here is his story of his career in broadcasting along with side stories about his friends and family.
I grew up listening to WBZ, 1030, Boston, Massachusetts:a power house, clear channel station, while living in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and from an early age I knew that I wanted to work at a radio station. While I never got to work at WBZ, it was the station that got me started looking into a career in broadcasting.
During high school, from 1960 to 1962, I often visited two of the local stations, WKNE, 1290, and WKBK, 1220, both in Keene, New Hampshire, often sitting in the booth with the disk jockey and carefully watching their preparation. I still keep in contact with John Kirshner, one of the DJs at WKNE. He is retired and now lives in Florida.
During my senior year of high school in 1962 I worked with the school yearbook committee. When photographs were taken, I got to "play DJ" myself operating the control board in the school office and calling various groups to the gym for their pictures.
Upon graduation I attended Northeast Broadcasting School in Boston and was hired for a part time job at WMEX, 1510, in Boston working the control board and playing the commercial breaks during the 10 pm to 1 am "Jerry Williams" program. I would often go in early to work with Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsberg taking "make it or break it" phone calls for him where listeners would call in to approve or disapprove of a new record Arnie played. I also got to meet several musicians who came in for interviews to promote their record on Arnie's show.
I gained a lot of experience in broadcast operations at WMEX, which was the #1 station in the market, while working with the various DJs and newsmen. It was very valuable experience in my career!
I shared a small apartment, just a few blocks from the school, with four other Northeastern students and I've remained in contact with them over the years. One was Ernie Farrar who got a job in Vermont that he had for about 50 years before retiring.
I graduated from Northeastern in June of 1963, but continued working at WMEX until August when I was hired at WSJR, 1230, Madawaska, Maine. What an experience that was! Madawaska was the northern-most town in Maine, located right on the Saint John River which is the international border with Canada. The city of Edmunston, New Brunswick, was directly across the river and it had its own station, CJEM, which broadcast in French. There never was a lot of competition between stations due to the different languages. I had two daily on-air shifts at WSJR, 11 am to 2 pm, and 8 to 11 pm. I established the nightly "Week's Wax to Watch" program at 8 pm, sponsored by the Pizza Palace there in Madawaska, where I played the top 15 records on "Billboard's Top 100" survey, and the show became quite popular.
Here's a 30 minute recording from my 1963 Halloween evening program:
I got to know Kathy Bridgeo, the person in charge of record sales at the Rice Furniture store in Edmunston, and together we maintained a listing of local record sales so we'd know what people were buying and that influenced what I played on my evening show.
I first stayed in a one room apartment in Madawaska, but through Kathy I met Butch Boudreau, a person who, like me, was interested in broadcasting while still attending high school, and he visited the station often. I got to know his family and they invited me to move in to the spare room in their home in Edmunton. The arrangement worked out great -- they got rent from me and I saved money, and I had a family to share my life with. I even started to learn some French through them. They lived not far from the bridge that crossed the river between Edmunston and Madawaska so I was able to just walk back and forth across the border for work.
All was going along fine until I got a letter, forwarded to me by my Mom, from the Selective Service office. I was about to be drafted into the Armed Services but no specific dates were indicated. I kept in touch with the Selective Service office and it looked like I would be drafted in September, 1964, so I had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to do. I quit at WSJR and went back to my hometown of Jaffrey, New Hampshire. I ended up taking a battery of tests and did well in all of them. On August 10, 1964, I joined the US Air Force. This put a four year hold on my broadcasting career!
I was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for Basic Training, and then to Keesler Air force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, for computer technical training. I spent 42 weeks there on the Gulf coast before I was transferred to Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, just 60 miles from home. I spent the last three years of my Air Force career at Westover. I often drove home to Jaffrey on weekends and, occasionally, one of my friends from my squadron would go with me. One of them, George Tyler, from New Mexico, became my brother-in-law in 1969 after courting my sister, Patty, for a couple of years.
My interest in broadcasting continued, so when i was discharged from the Air Force in August, 1968, I signed up for school at DeVry Technical Institute in Chicago hoping to combine my technical training from the Air Force with a job in radio or television. Upon graduation from DeVry i passed the test for the FCC First Class license and was hired at WCIU-TV, channel 26, in Chicago, working on audio production for the station. One of the highlights was the evening I was assigned to do the audio for the Marty Faye Show where Tony Bennett was the guest. I was proud of the audio on the program and wish i had a recording from the show as the mix of Tony with the piano sounded wonderful!
After a year at channel 26, I heard of an opening in the television department at Northeastern Illinois University there in Chicago. It offered much better pay and hours, so i applied for the position and was hired. By coincidence, I started working on August 10, 1971, exactly three years after my Air Force career ended. I enjoyed the job and enjoyed working on student projects and classes doing mostly audio for TV productions. There was a closed circuit student radio station at Northeastern and I got involved with them as well.
The university was in the process of building a new classroom building which was to include a well equipped audio studio and i was chosen to select the equipment for the studio. Also, the students at the radio station wanted the university to apply for a low power FM license. I ended up being the one who completed the application for the license. In the summer of 1974 the audio studio in the new building was finished and I was moved from the TV crew to the studio, referred to as the ARF, Audio Recording Facility, to do audio production there. Also, the FM license for the university was approved by the Federal Communications Commission, and on July 24, 1974, WZRD, 88.3 FM, Chicago, signed on the air! I was very busy with my work in the ARF and at WZRD, and I loved it!
On October 20,1976, I met Bill Choisser at a meeting of the Chicago FM Club, the ham radio club where I was a member and Secretary. Bill and I became good friends and found that besides being licensed ham radio operators we had many other common interests, and one of them was radio broadcasting. He had worked at several college stations and a few commercial stations in Illinois and New Mexico. On January 1, 1977, he became my roommate when he moved into my apartment at Foster and Kimball Avenues in Chicago. Later, in May, we moved together to a larger split-level apartment in Des Plaines. It was convenient for both of us, as he worked for the Federal Aviation Administration at O'Hare Airport a few miles away and it was an easy commute for me to Northeastern. Over time we became more than roommates, we became life partners.
As time progressed, with the snow blowing by and the temperature near zero, we got talking about a move to a warmer location, mainly somewhere on the west coast. Seattle and Portland were too rainy, Los Angeles was too smoggy and San Diego was all military based and not appealing to us, so we decided on San Francisco! We took a weekend trip to San Francisco over President's Day weekend in February and fell in love with the city. In March we went back, looking for employment, and in two days Bill was hired as an electrical design engineer at Glumac and Associates. We went apartment hunting and found a nice place on Gardenside Drive up near Twin Peaks.
We returned to Chicago and both gave our two week notices. For me, it was going to be a big move, leaving the ARF and WZRD with no job lined up. On Easter Sunday, 1978, we headed west with all of our belongings in our U-Haul truck along with three students from Northeastern in a separate car. We arrived on April 18 as San Francisco celebrated the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fire. I still remember a comment from one of our friends when they saw our new apartment, "You're going to live here?" Yes, we had a wide view of downtown San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay from our living room window. It was beautiful!
Over the next couple of weeks I pounded the pavement going from station to station looking for possible job openings. A lot of vacation relief positions would be opening in early Summer, but there was a temporary opening now at the ABC-owned FM station. I interviewed with the Chief Engineer and was hired at KSFX, later KGO-FM, 103.7 FM, in San Francisco. I started working bright and early at 5:30 am on May 30, 1978, as an engineer! I became permanent after 90 days.
We moved from our Twin Peaks apartment to a house at 20th and Douglass Streets the next year, then on November 12, 1982, we bought our four bedroom home at 4145 21st Street, where I still live today.
In 1982, ABC sold their FM station and I, along with a few other engineers, were transferred to ABC-owned KGO, 810, San Francisco's number 1 rated radio station. In 1985 I was transferred again, this time from radio to television, going to ABC-owned KGO-TV, channel 7, San Francisco. I worked at KGO-TV for the next 20 years as cameraman, video tape engineer, audio engineer and, finally, as a Technical Director in Master Control. It was a great job and the best work you could get in broadcasting! I officially retired from ABC in September, 2005, with more than 25 years of service with the company.
Prior to and following my retirement, Bill and I did a lot of traveling. We took several trips around the US and Canada, including a three week drive to Alaska, two trips to the East Coast including one along the Lincoln Highway from San Francisco to New York City, along with visits to New Hampshire, Boston and even to Madawaska, plus one to Florida and South Carolina. We also took a few trips to Europe to visit England, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France, and one "down under" to Australia and New Zealand. We had some wonderful trips together!
In 2008, Gay Marriage was approved for all US citizens! We got a license, wedding rings and an appointment at San Francisco City Hall, and on July 31, 2008, we married and became wedded partners. It was one of the happiest days of my life!
After Bill retired he took up long distance hiking around the Bay Area. His longest hike was in 2015, one, done in segments, around San Francisco Bay from San Francisco south along the peninsula to San Jose, then up the east side of the bay to Fremont, Oakland and Berkeley. While on his way to Vallejo he heard something snap in his leg and called me to come and pick him up. He had broken his leg. Polymyositis, a chronic muscle disease that attacks the organs, had been bothering Bill for several years, and his leg muscle simply gave out on him. He then had to spend a lot of time at home unable to maintain his muscle strength. He'd go out for occasional walks, but they had to be limited to the local neighborhood.
Bill died in his sleep on May 17, 2016, at age 69, due to kidney failure following his 10 year battle with Polymyositis.
To read about Bill's final days, please visit: https://choisser.com/bill/about.html.
Following Bill's death, I became extremely lonely livimg alone and was looking for someone to move into my home with me. I found that Erik Katz, aka Lexx, a longtime friend, was looking for a place to move to here in San Francisco. He moved into the house in late June. In October Lexx met Kevin Helvie who later joined us. In the Spring of 2018 Lexx asked if a good friend of his from Seattle, Brandon "Ruffy" Skiles, could move into the guest room while looking for an apartment here in San Francisco. Ruffy turned out to be a great friend and became part of our family, so I invited him to move in permanently. He was soon hired as a salesman at Mr. S Leather here in San Francisco. Kevin moved to Arizona in 2019, and when the pandemic hit in 2020, Lexx moved to property he owns in West Point, California, up in Calavaras county in the Sierra foothills. He got a job there working in real estate and now lives there permanently. Kevin has joined him there. Ruffy and I now reside as housemates at 4145 21st Street.
Ruffy and I talked several times about adding to our family by adopting a dog. On December 3, 2021, we vistied the San Francisco SPCA offices, and a couple of hours later left with Scruffy Dugan, a three year old Terrier mix. He's turned out to be a very smart and loving dog for us!
Last Updated: February 4, 2022
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