It’s my turn to write a column for the Cookerly blog and I am going to use it to pay tribute to a man with whom I had the privilege of working many years ago. Gary Corry was one of the funniest people I ever encountered during more than a dozen years working in radio. That’s saying a lot because I worked with some very funny people!
Gary filled many different roles in radio. He was a newsman, disc jockey, promotions director and the creator of many character voices, one of which is legendary in the broadcast industry. If you’re under 40 years old, you may never have heard of Red Neckerson, but if you’re over 40 and lived just about anywhere in the U.S., you probably lived in a market where his commentaries ran on local stations in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Gary Corry was Red Neckerson, and every day he would opine on topics ranging from national politics and international affairs to mundane issues like a lawnmower that wouldn’t start when he wanted to cut his grass. His character was that of a stereotypical redneck, but his commentaries made everyone laugh. He was doing redneck humor before Jeff Foxworthy came along and elevated his comedy to national prominence.
Gary started out writing and performing his bit for WQXI radio – “Quixie in Dixie” as it was once known – and then decided to market it to other stations. It took off like gangbusters. Word spread throughout the industry that there was a “don’t miss” feature being made available in syndication. In short order, Red Neckerson News Commentary was a regular feature on more than 300 stations across the U.S. and the feedback those stations were getting from listeners was very positive. People looked forward to a laugh every day and ratings improved for the vast majority of stations running Red’s daily diatribes.
I vividly remember talking by telephone with a friend in Oklahoma sometime in the mid 1980s. He casually mentioned “this radio commentator out here who is really funny and that you would enjoy hearing if you ever come for a visit.”
I said, “What you’re describing sounds like Red Neckerson to me.”
My friend was astonished. It was indeed Red Neckerson to whom he was referring. He thought Ol’ Red was a local guy.
“You mean to tell me, YOU KNOW Red Neckerson?”
Sounding a bit like Barney Fife, I kind of snorted and said “Yeah, I know all the big stars. I don’t just know Red, I work with him.”
Just like his Red Neckerson character, Gary Corry was an original. Unfortunately we lost him very recently after a brief illness. He was a decent and honest guy who had an ability to make anyone smile and the world is a lesser place without him in it.
His legacy will live on in a book, “Keep the Needle Peaking” (published earlier this year shortly before his death) and in untold hours of recordings. I’m not promoting his book, but if you are interested, it is for sale on several Internet sites including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
The whole point of this little tribute is to point out that great marketing can come in many forms, from the traditional to the unconventional – and I guess it is safe to say Gary was a tad unconventional. However, there is no denying he was a great marketer. He took an idea, refined it, marketed it and rode it to fame and fortune.