Willy Percy son of Don Percy
Larry & Willy show Thunder Bay ON; morning co-host Larry & Willy show CFOX-FM Vancouver 1988-July 2003; British Columbia Association of Broadcasters Broadcaster Performer of the Year 1996; morning co-host Larry & Willy show CKLG-FM Vancouver October 2003-current.
BORN: Avondale, Nfld., May 21, 1960.
CFLW Wabush, Labrador - Larry & Willy show Thunder Bay ON; morning co-host Larry & Willy show CFOX-FM Vancouver 1988-July 2003; British Columbia Association of Broadcasters Broadcaster Performer of the Year 1996; morning co-host Larry & Willy show CKLG-FM Vancouver October 2003-current.
As another anniversary passes, dynamic duo takes a look back
They are, without a doubt, the hardest-working and most enduring morning team ever to grace the Vancouver airwaves.
On the occasion of their 19th anniversary as a morning radio duo, Air Traffic sat down with 96.9 JACK-FM's Larry Hennessey and Willy Percy to talk about where it all began -- and where it might lead.
We know radio is in Willy's gene-pool with his father being a morning man. Larry, how did you get started?
Larry: I had a friend who was in the mentoring program at a local radio station in the mining town of Wabash, Labrador. I had just finished Grade 10. They needed someone for two weeks in the summer so I went down and faked an audition. Two weeks led through the whole summer and, basically, I've been doing it ever since.
You've said before that your initial days as a morning team weren't great. If you were that bad as a duo, what were you like individually?
Willy: You realize early on that some people have it and some people don't. In our case, a guy named Ray Davies put us together, figuring that we might have something.
What do you think is the secret of your endurance?
Willy: When I first went to CKPR in Thunder Bay, Ont., the idea was to team me up with somebody. Certain people thought I was there to take their jobs, so almost to a man, everybody treated me with ill will -- except for Larry, who couldn't have cared less. Within the first few minutes of meeting him, we were joking around. I had worked the first three days on-air with a guy who certainly didn't enjoy working with me and was doing everything he could to sabotage what was going on. The program director called me in and told me that the guy had been fired and I would now be working with Larry. I can't explain it. We just get along and we've lasted longer than I've had friends who have gotten together and been married and divorced. To this day, if we go to a corporate function or a barbecue or whatever, there could be 3,000 people there, and Larry is the guy I'll spend most of my time with. It's not like I don't see him enough -- that's just how we are.
Radio has changed a lot over the years. How has it changed for better or worse?
Willy: So many channels are starved for content -- so anything is acceptable. People with really mediocre talent or no talent get jobs because there is such a void to fill. Also, multiple licensing ownership, which sounds like a good idea from a business level, but what that leads to is three big guys who own everything and they don't care about any of the little monkeys they have at our level.
Larry: One of the huge benefits for radio in the last while is the success of JACK, which has let every other station in Vancouver widen their playlists. It's given people a much better variety of music to listen to.
In all the time you've put into a working relationship, have your personal relationships ever suffered?
Willy: I've got a five-year-old son and a two-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter. For a long time, my responsibility was the show and three or four nights a week, Larry and I would be out until one or two in the morning and two or three hours later would be back on the air again. The amount of time we spent then didn't matter to me because I only had a girlfriend. It's only now that I recognize that Larry -- who had a home life with a daughter and a son -- had to suffer.
Larry: My guarantee to my wife was that I was going to be gone a lot, but every free second I have, I'm going to be here for you guys.
As we look ahead, a 20th anniversary for you guys is obvious. How much more do you see beyond that?
Willy: We don't often talk about contracts, but one day Larry and I were driving and I was projecting what happens when this contract ends, and I thought, maybe another five years. Larry says, "Nine years, six months." I said, "Well, that's what's left in the contract and that'll take us to 55," and Larry says again, "Nine years and six months!"
Larry: And that's now become nine years, one month and six days.
When Willy Percy was three years old, he says he managed to burn down the family home in Peterborough, Ont., playing with matches.
"My father comes home and there's big action down his street - fire trucks and police and crowds standing around," says Willy with a chuckle. "He thinks: 'Holy cow, what's going on?' And then he realizes his house is missing!"
As the younger Percy tells it, his dad was standing, hands on hips, staring at the chaos, when his son came and stood by him, struck the same pose and said: "Hi, dad. Boy, am I ever tired!"
"He wanted to strangle me - he knew I did it," laughs Willy, as he tells the story.
These days, Don and Willy Percy are blazing a different kind of trail in Vancouver.
They're the only father and son in Canada who work on competing radio stations in the same time slot.
Don Percy is the morning man with CISL, the "oldies" station that broadcasts from studios in Richmond, across the road from Fantasy Gardens.
And a few kilometres away in downtown Vancouver, Willy Percy is half of the wild and wacky Larry and Willy Show on CFOX.
Over at CISL, Don Percy, 53, works the 6-9 a.m. shift with traffic reporter Casey White.
A radio man of the old school, he has 34 years on air under his belt, working in Southern Ontario, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver.
He started out as a junior radio announcer in the days when that was "the guy who swept the floors and washed the windows and got one newscast a week at 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays."
His first day on the air, his landlady phoned in to say that "I was 'good and clear' and I've always tried to be that."
Today, he's busy fielding contest calls and offering his patented "Grrrrrrowl" to Susan Kirk, a White Rock listener who's celebrating a 40th birthday.
Don pulls out a couple of folders full of letters requesting the growl from women aged 16 to 60.
Willy phones in and they swap corny elephant jokes and make arrangements to meet at Don's Tsawwassen house for dinner.
"I'll bring the bungee cord," cracks Willy. "Love ya."
Don says he encouraged Willy when he decided to follow in his father's footsteps.
"It's a tough business but he has a flair for it."
Down on Seymour Street at CFOX, Willy, 27, and on-air partner Larry Hennessey, 30, are in full stride.
They've got a DJ on the line from a radio station in Honolulu and are kidding him that the Vancouver temperature is 97 degrees Farenheit.
According to Willy and Larry, they "started out as Mormon missionaries who got into radio when they knocked on the door of a radio station director."
And if you'll believe that, there's probably some prime desert land in Utah they could sell you.
They've been hitting the airwaves from 6-10 a.m. for 2 1/2 years, after spending a couple of years as a team in Thunder Bay.
Before getting into radio, Willy - who went to school in Surrey from age seven to 16 - was a stand-up comic at Punchlines and worked as a computer programmer.
But he says radio was in his blood and he learned a lot of what he knows from his father.
"He's a lot of fun to hang out with," says Willy. "We're taking an auto mechanics course together and we play golf. And if we're together at a media function, we get to badger each other."
The kidding goes back a long way.
When he was growing up, says Willy, there were two telephones in the house.
His dad used to string his kids along by making fake calls from one phone to the other.
"He'd call us up on one of the phones and pretend he was from the newspaper or something and he'd have us going for 10 minutes," says Percy.
These days, Willy says he sometimes gets his own back on his dad by calling him at work when Don's on the air at CISL.
"I know my father answers his own phone so we'll call him and say: 'Hello, is Don Percy there? We've been listening to you and . . .