Good chemistry keeps Larry and Willy going For morning duo, it all began in Thunder Bay . . . wherever that is
Sunday, July 06, 2008
CREDIT: Jason Payne, the Province Larry (left) and Willy have kept a partnership going for more than 20 years.
Their 20 years together in Vancouver have included a small package from Peter Frampton and talk of Gene Simmons' bowling balls.
That, and a solid friendship that has become a career for Larry Hennessey and Willy Percy. The two first came to Vancouver's morning airwaves as Larry and Willy 20 years ago on rock radio station CFOX. They've spent the past five years at JACK-FM, whose management have decided to mark the double-decade mark with a friends and colleagues roast at Coquitlam's Red Robinson Theatre this Friday. The event isn't open to the public, but video clips will be posted on the station's website, jackfm.com.
The pair attribute their career longevity to the un-faked chemistry they had ever since they first met in a radio station hallway in Thunder Bay 23 years ago.
"They teamed me up with another guy first and we lasted a whopping three days, the chemistry was so bad," says Willy. "With Larry, it was just instant. It's the reason that today, if we go to a function where it's our job really to go and meet people, I guarantee you that the last two or three hours, I spend hanging out with Larry."
The 48-year-old Larry, the more rumpled of the two, started in radio at 15 in his native Labrador. Willy, 44, was doing stand-up comedy in his late teens at Vancouver's Punchlines comedy club, alongside a group that included the then-unknown Jim Carrey -- another lesson in the unpredictability of show business.
"We all thought Jim Carrey wasn't that funny," says Willy. "He was frenetic . . . but probably wasn't going to make it."
Willy came to Thunder Bay from a radio job in Powell River. After the two paired up on air in Thunder Bay, the station once sent them to do a week of music and celeb interviews in a Los Angeles restaurant. It was a speed-dating round of match-ups between radio stations and mid-level names that included Lennie and Squiggy, Wolfman Jack and guitarist Robbie Krieger of the Doors, who kept dipping his nachos into his fruity drink.
"We're in a room with Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami," says Larry.
". . . and Thunder Bay," says Willy. "Everybody who came to our table is like, 'Where the hell is Thunder Bay?'"
That's when the young Larry and Willy kept Max Weinberg waiting because they didn't realize he was Bruce Springsteen's drummer.
The pair continued their loose interviewing style while spinning records in Vancouver, as when KISS rocker Gene Simmons was unimpressed with Willy's take on the group's merchandising empire.
"They sell a KISS bowling ball," says Willy. "So I said: 'Have you thought of changing the song to, me and the boys will be bowling all night?'"
"After that he was totally pissed off -- that's not funny, man," says Larry. "But all he exists to do is to promote his projects, his energy drinks."
When comedian Norm McDonald came on the air one morning, stumbling and ill-prepared, Willy offered to call him back later to give him time for a coffee. "Norm said, 'I thought we were on the air live.' I said 'We are, but it's going so poorly we thought we'd give you another chance,'" says Willy. "We phoned him back in 15 minutes, he was great."
Then there was the time rocker Peter Frampton was set to come into the studio to play a song on the air and his publicist told the pair not to ask Frampton about his small penis. Newscaster Kerry Marshall had to tell Larry and Willy that legendary groupie Pamela des Barres had specified Frampton's dimensions in her book I'm With the Band.
"So then, five minutes later, in comes Peter with his guitar, and all we can do is look down," says Larry.
The song was beautiful, though.
Larry and Willy were part of the braintrust when the idea for JACK-FM's eclectic music mix was developed, but they had to wait out their contract at CFOX before making the jump to the new station. When the JACK format proved successful, owner Rogers Media duplicated it at seven of their other Canadian radio stations.
"This was the first one, it was great fun to have it work," says Willy.