TRIBUTE TO LARRY MUNSON FROM GARRY GLENN



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TRIBUTE TO LARRY MUNSON FROM GARRY GLENN`

I guess I first met Larry Munson prior to the start of the 1976 football season. I’d just graduated from the University of Georgia that spring with a degree in Broadcast News and was wrapping up my summer job at the Jefferson swimming pool where I was a lifeguard, when a mentor professor of mine called me at the pool and told me he knew of a job that was ”right up your alley.” WRFC radio was losing their Sports Director and needed somebody as the football season was rapidly approaching. I’d done some free lance sports work as well as being a local sportswriter for The Jackson Herald and wound up getting the job. At the time, WRFC was the flagship station for the Georgia Football and Basketball Networks. I met Munson when he came by the station and we all started talking about getting ready to cover Georgia football. At the time, he was still commuting from Nashville where he did an outdoor TV Show and it seems for a little while at least, still wore his hair in a crew cut. Thus began an association which would result in us working pretty closely together for a dozen years and a friendship which lasted more than 30.
A few things changed over those years. He moved to Georgia, grew out his hair(a little), got a job at the Georgia News Network and also hosted a TV show with Jesse Outlar of the Atlanta Constitution and Ed Thilenius, the man he replaced as Voice of the ‘Dawgs. Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal also may have been in on that as well. I spoke to him almost daily when he worked at GNN, supplying him with sound-bites from UGA activities and an idea or two for his commentaries. If it were an especially timely or cogent piece of sound, he’d come back on the line after I’d fed the interview and say, “That was a good lick.” Eventually, he would even quit cupping his hands around his ears and don headphones to hear himself and others.
During the football season, we’d play his calls of plays from the games, starting out with the Appleby to Washington pass that helped Georgia beat Florida in 1975 and then amassing a vast store through the subsequent years. We had a morning man at WRFC, Gerry Marshall, who became so adept at mixing Munson’s calls with music that he could do it on the fly and never miss a beat. Other radio stations may have had some of those fight songs, but they didn’t have Larry Munson.
I was a guest on some of his shows and filled in for him a time or two as well. After the news broke of his passing Sunday night, I got up this past Monday morning and dug up an old video tape of us on an Athens Observer TV show, which I’ll run this week on my own television show. As usual, he was worried about the upcoming version of the Bulldogs. This show was prior to the 1984 season, so that was about 27 years and 27 pounds and a lot more hair ago. Turns out all of that was a bit prescient, as I would work the 1984 Citrus Bowl tie with Florida State with him later that season when his normal color man, Phil Schaefer was off doing Georgia basketball. We were high atop the stadium, and I had to grab a half-time guest for one of those extra-long bowl half-times, Lee Corso had just been asked to leave Indiana and was headed for an analyst job, so I got him and must have talked to him for 20 minutes or so. Afterwards, Munson looked at me and growled, “You worked him over pretty good, didn’t ya?” I laughed and told him I really didn’t have a choice, we were up so high that there was nobody else around to talk to.
I would drop in on him in Atlanta occasionally, so we had a chance or two for a time when it was just me and him just to visit and talk.
“When’s the last time you just took a good long walk, Glenn?” And off we’d go, him with a cigar and me trying to keep up with those long legs. The stuff he told was always entertaining and told in his inimitable, curmudgeonly style.
He told of when he got off the bus for his first job in snowy North Dakota and being frightened when an American Indian came staggering toward him and fell over. Turns out some of the Native Americans had gotten off a nearby reservation and were drinking anti-freeze to get drunk. He said it killed a few. He talked about working professional wrestling matches involving NFL Hall of Famers like Bronco Nagurski, (“He had no neck!”) who were working that circuit to earn extra money, the pay structure in those days being light years from what it is now.
He got a job in the mid-80’s with the USFL’s Jacksonville Bulls. I was filling in as color analyst during the 1985 spring football game. A few seconds from the end of the game, Larry turned to me and said, “Garry, you’ve gotta finish up. I got a plane to catch. I gotta go!” And he got up and walked out. So I slid over to the play-by-play chair and finished the game. For a few, brief shining moments, I got to be the Voice of the Dawgs.
After I’d moved to Oakwood, he came to Gainesville and spoke to one of our Sports Banquets. My sons and I had a chance to have our picture taken with him and that picture and a story ran which was featured in this newspaper. I still have the story and the picture. Treasured memories for sure.
He not only influenced my broadcasting style but also had an influence on me in other ways, including culturally, introducing me to the aperitif known as a “Tia Maria” at dinner one evening.
Earlier I’d said that Munson had changed a few things, but some things stayed the same. It was about 4 years ago and must have been the last time I talked with him face to face. We spent a little bit of time catching up with health and family issues as so many people do when you haven’t seen one another in awhile. At the time, sort of interfering with the conversation, some of that awful rap music was blaring from the speakers at Sanford Stadium. Munson looked at me and after a malediction said, “You wanna do me a favor? Find the guy who’s playing that music and kill him!”
I smiled. Same old Larry.
He began his play-by-play with “Get the picture;” and that’s what he gave us-the feel of the game as much as the description of what was going on- from those bending girders to that freshman with those big thighs; from that exhortation to Lindsey Scott to run and the day the sky rained sugar. Suffice it to say those like him, the true legends of broadcasting, those colorful and unique individuals in a world of sound-alikes and wannabes, are a vanishing breed and we shall not see their like pass this way again. He was a homer, sure, but he also gave credit where credit was due. I hope he was well enough to see Georgia clinch the SEC East Saturday. May Larry Munson find some peace and a good fishin' hole somewhere. Prayers are with his family. Hunker Down and Go Dawgs.

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