On This Day: Larry King Ends His Radio Show in 1994

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Although most remember the late Larry King for his work on the Cable News Network (CNN), it was on the radio where he got his big break. 

Long before his fans watched him nightly on their televisions, they heard him on the radio. His first radio job was at a small station in Miami, Fla. At first, he was hired for off-air work. King later began his career as a DJ, news, and sportscaster in 1957. 

In 1978, The Larry King Show made its debut on the Mutual Broadcasting Network. With that, he began cultivating his national audience from midnight to 5:30 a.m. During his show at 3 a.m., King would take calls to discuss any topic they chose called Open Phone America. Listeners from across the country could call in, adding to King’s popularity. 

King’s show became extremely popular and eventually had over 500 affiliates. At first, it did not get carried on all those stations solely because of its content. At its inception, the show’s appeal was that it was free, and stations could trade advertising time for the opportunity to carry the show. After garnering a fan base, King caught the attention of media mogul Ted Turner, who later hired King to host his own talk show on CNN in 1985.

During his show, King’s primary guest host since the early 1980s had been Jim Bohannon. Bohannon began hosting his own Saturday evening call-in show on Mutual in 1985, with a format similar to King’s program.

Larry King’s Radio Show Captures Ted Turner’s Attention

 In 1993, as King decided to work on radio less and less, Mutual moved his show to a shorter afternoon time slot and gave King’s late evening time slot to Bohannon. At the time, most radio stations with a talk show layout had an established policy of broadcasting local programming in the late afternoon time slot, that Mutual now offered King’s show. 

Due to this, many of King’s overnight affiliates declined to carry the daytime show and could not garner the same audience size. As a result, after sixteen years on Mutual, King decided to resign from the program. His final broadcast aired on May 27, 1994. 

Later, Mutual gave King’s afternoon time slot to David Brenner. Mutual affiliates were also given the option of carrying the audio of King’s new CNN evening program on CNN. Today, the George Washington University, in Washington D.C., holds the archives of this show.