Remembering Larry King’s Impact on American Media [VIDEOS]
Larry King (Nov. 19, 1933- Jan. 23, 2021) recently passed away. He is best known for his work on CNN, where his one-hour nightly show attempted to bring the intimacy of radio to television through high-profile interviews. The times I would watch King on CNN I usually felt there was never enough time between King and his guest. The segments seemed so short, that if more than two questions were answered, it was a miracle.
I'm not old enough to have heard Larry King's radio show, but in the aftermath of his death, details of his radio show via the Mutual Network (now-defunct and folded into the modern day WestwoodOne) were recounted. At one point King was on the air, nationwide, for over five hours, five nights a week. He'd have between one to three hours set aside for a guest and then the rest of time was open phones [Houston! Hello!]
After King had transitioned from overnight radio to prime-time on CNN, Art Bell's original version of "Coast to Coast AM" began to take over the overnight airwaves. One similarity both shows had, the open phones segments in which listeners could hear callers from any part of the country.
Jim Bohannon took over Larry King's radio show in the 1990s, kept the show in Washington, D.C., but the timeslot was moved from overnights to late-nights (9pm-Midnight, Central). Bohannon was a fill-in for King, before taking over the show permanently, and I remember listening to Bohannon while growing up in Houston. Bohannon is still hosting the show to this day, and in the video below, he talked about his relationship with Larry King on WGN's NewsNation.
Not too many radio shows attempt regularly scheduled long-form interviews anymore, like King or Bohannon. I'm sure it's a combination of things: shorter attention span for the audience; more information than ever-before about politicians, and celebrities, readily available on the Internet; and fewer hosts that have the discipline to to let guests answer questions without interrupting and then following up on the answer, rather then just moving on to the next question on their list.
The final video in this post is an aircheck of David Letterman appearing on King's nationwide radio show while he was still hosting "Late Nite" at NBC. You could tell the vibe was different back then. Just two guys having fun on the air, and making listeners' night's by letting them talk to Dave.