After 30 years, one of the longest-running radio programs in the St. Louis area and perhaps one of the longest-running outdoor programs in America is still going strong.
In 1984 the Dreith family bought local radio station WOKZ 1570 AM. The new call letters became WBGZ (the Big Z) and adjustments were made to the station’s format. In the spring of 1986, station manager Lewis Dreith contacted local outdoorsman and Alton High School teacher Larry Reid to discuss “an opportunity.”
When Mr. Dreith called and asked if I’d be interested in doing an on-air, half-hour outdoor program, I was surprised, honored and a little confused.
My response was, “I have no experience in broadcasting. I don’t think I’m qualified.”
The station manager persisted and in March 1986 a new career began for yours truly. The program aired every Saturday morning and was titled Hook, Line and Sinker. Riverbend outdoor folks would join Larry in the broadcast studio and exchange stories and focus on promotion of local outdoor events. At first I was pretty nervous, wearing the headsets and staring at the microphone, but having coached athletics for 17 years and teaching driver education classes at Alton High, it was easy getting over the nerve problem.
The radio station added a night signal in 1987 and began expanding its coverage of high school athletics. Thus, in 1989 the H, L & S program was moved to Wednesday evenings so as not to conflict with the Saturday sports coverage. The same year, The Big Z moved from the Godfrey location to the Ramada Inn on the Beltline. Again, I had to make a decision; continue my “talk show” or move on.
Outdoor writer the late John Stetson probably had the greatest influence on my radio career when early on he said, “If you’re having fun, keep going; you’ve only scratched the surface of sharing and promoting the outdoors.” Thanks for your advice, “Big John.”
Sam Stemm became general manager of WBGZ in 1990 and continues to support and promote the outdoor program. Sam suggested the show’s name be changed to “Outdoors with Larry Reid” and changed the airtime to noon Sundays to be followed by two hours of Tom Gresham’s “Gun Talk.” That format still remains.
In the early ‘90s my wife, Jan, was added to the program as co-host and recording artist Lisa Snuggs’ “Chunkin’ and Windin’” became the show’s theme song. In 1994 at the National Hunting and Fishing Celebration at John A. Logan College, we were honored to receive the Illinois Outdoor Broadcasting Award.
During our years on radio, we’ve traveled America from Maine to Alaska, from Canada to Key West, interviewing famous athletes, scores of celebrities, and had guests from every state except Hawaii; but our favorites are the local folks and my fraternity of “River Rats and Rednecks.”
In 1997, WBGZ moved back to the roots of Alton radio, the lower level of the historic Stratford Hotel, where broadcasting began more than 65 years ago. From the broadcast studio our guests can view America’s greatest river, the Mississippi.
Thanks to one of my mentors, the late John Madson, in 2000, I expanded my outdoor career by writing and sharing outdoor adventures in magazines: Heartland Outdoors, American Waterfowler, Mark Twain Tourism, Wildfowl and now AdVantage News.
In short summary, God has truly blessed me — married to my college sweetheart for more than 50 years, two great children, Todd and Amy; and their spouses, Amy Lynn Reid and Rob Turell, as well as four wonderful grandkids. Add to that a life in the Riverbend hunting and fishing, 32 years as an Alton educator and 30 years talking about the outdoors on the radio. God willing, we’ll continue our journey.
On behalf of the station, Jan and I would like to thank the listeners, sponsors, supporters of local businesses and folks of the Riverbend for the journey. Who would have ever believed the experiment?
Larry Reid is host of “Outdoors with Larry Reid,” which airs at noon Sundays on WBGZ Radio, 1570 AM/94.3 FM.