Friday, January 15, 2010

R.I.P. Larry Weir, 1953-2010

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2010 at 5:24 PM

  • Sara Finke/KDHX

Officially, Larry Weir was the longtime operation manager at KDHX (88.1 FM) and host of the program "Songwriters Showcase," which brought some of the best singer-songwriters to the attention of discerning St. Louisans. Unofficially, he was the station's guiding spirit, a constant, benevolent presence in the studio on Magnolia Avenue.

He died last Wednesday, January 13, at 1 a.m. nearly two weeks after he suffered a traumatic brain injury on New Year's Eve. He was 57.

"It's hard to think of the station without him," says Chuck Lavazzi, a KDHX volunteer who had worked with Weir since the station's inception.

Weir joined the KDHX staff in 1985, before the station was even on the air. A graduate of Southwest High School and Drury University, he'd spent the previous ten years working as a DJ at radio stations in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Salem and Dexter, Missouri. "He was the only one on staff with commercial radio experience," remembers Beverly Hacker, the station's co-executive director.

He broadcast the earliest episodes of "Songwriters Showcase" from a radio shack beside the transmission tower at the end of a dirt road in Arnold. Originally, he'd wanted to do a blues show, but decided his expertise lay in songwriters who performed their own work.

"Larry thought it was fun to find people who were really good, who threw a guitar in the back of the car and toured 300 days a year," says Ed Becker, Weir's close friend and, for 21 years, his "Songwriters Showcase" co-host. "He marvelled at how tough their life was and thought they deserved more recognition."

Among the singer-songwriters Weir promoted over the years were Tom Russell, Terry Allen, Guy Clark, Peter Case, Christine Kane, Ellis Paul and James McMurtry. Weir would invite them to appear on "Songwriters Showcase" when they passed through St. Louis. He was a gifted interviewer, able to make his guests feel at ease.

(Click here for a playlist of some of Weir's interviews.)

"He presented so well, his personality was so good-natured, people who never met him felt like they knew him," observes Steve Pick, another KDHX host. Listeners trusted his recommendations and turned out for shows.

"He was so instrumental in introducing so many people to musicians they'd never heard," says Hacker. "Here, people would play the Pageant or Off Broadway while in other towns, they'd play a small bar."

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