The Voice of a Hero Larry Keeney by Christopher Annino

Sometimes you meet someone you grew up emulating when you were younger. Sometimes they themselves don’t fully understand how much of a positive impact they had on your life. Broadcast, and voice acting legend Larry Keeney is one of those people. Larry is also the father of Emmy nominated Kerri Kenney who is up for an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a short form comedy or drama series 2021 for her role as Officer Trudy Wiegle for the hit comedy TV show “Reno 911.”

There were few people I could look up to when I was younger so I turned to literature and television. I was diagnosed at a young age with severe learning disabilities and Asperger syndrome. As a result many of my extended family and peers would see me as strange or nonexistent. What I mean by this statement is they saw the disability and not the person. When I was in the third grade I had severe depression because I was constantly surrounded by negative people and influence. Too many people especially adults would focus on what I couldn’t do rather than what I could do.

When I was in the third grade I would watch on a snow filled black and white television hearing the words “Thunder, thunder, thunder cats!!” echo out of the one working speaker. The cartoon “Thunder Cats”” was about a giant cat with humanoid features wielding a sword fighting mutant bad guys.  As a kid and an adult “holy Christmas” this was amazing! There he was Lion-O the leader of the “Thunder Cats” and he was pure and did what was right. Lion-O was a hero, my hero that moment was shortly lived because all of a sudden my cousin kicked me to the side and turned the ball game.

The brief taste of this awesome character had me addicted so when I went home I began to watch the show religiously. Lion O going against the evil Mumm Ra always doing good as he welded his sword of omens with great power. Yet he was a morally good and fair leader.

Larry Keeney is the voice of Lion-O and if he knows it or not it filled the void of the older brother or cousin who could have taught me right from wrong. The genius behind that character was he wasn’t written to be perfect in fact his character and flaws and was still learning. Sometimes a hero can be someone who can just help make your day better and for myself and my friends growing up that was the case with “Thunder Cats” and later the “X-Men” animated series on FOX 61.

Many can say well this is just a cartoon. My answer is if something gives you faith and hope it doesn’t matter what the source is.

As I grew I would hit the weights work hard and studied I never partied. I lettered in high school in drama, football, track and field and was inducted into the national thespian society and honors society. I graduated Mitchell College competed in the NCAA , I was able to be a firefighter, a filmmaker and now the Co-Founder of the New England Music Hall of Fame You better believe that cartoon and Lion-O were one of my inspirations to pursue these dreams.

The man behind the voice embodies who Lion O is. I can attest after speaking with him he is every bit the hero I grew up watching on TV. I am grateful for this interview with him.

Q: How did you begin your career?

Larry: “I began my career in radio at 15 years of old in Illinois for WIRL. I later sent demo’s out and ended up traveling to Fort Wayne Indiana to Cleveland to Chicago to New York. Back then we had cassettes for commercials but we would play vinyl records. I was on radio until 2008 but for the last 35 years of that I was with “Imus in the Morning.” My career started back in the 60s. Back in those days FM radio was the equivalent to national public radio. What I mean by that is it was used for public service announcements and classical music. It was during the late 60s that they realized the quality was so much better with FM. FM was for smaller area but better quality so they started to switch.”

Q: It feels like radio has lost its flavor. What made radio great back then?

Larry: “I think a lot of it was the personalities. The disc jockeys at the time had a personality that could excite you. Now I turn on the radio and there are very few personalities. Back when I started you looked forward to hearing the on air personality during the breaks. Some DJ’s would do funny voices or some sort of a shtick it was a lot more entertaining.”

Q: What was radio legend “Wolf man Jack” like?

Larry: “Wolfman was a friend of mine his real name was Robert Smith from Brooklyn New York. The Wolfman knew there was a lot of music that was not the best out there. But what he was great at was building up the excitement by making every song sound like it was an event. “ohh baby you gotta hear this next song”. He and I were working in New York at the same time I was at a different radio station and he was at WNBC. He always would pull up in his will limo and yell out in his raspy voice “L-A-R-R-Y! ” (laughing). He was a great guy.”

Q: Do you think music or radio is any better than it was?

Larry: “Our culture always changes and I understand that I may not understand or like much of the music today. That being said I also don’t like the music of today (laughs). But I understand that there is nothing like the music that you enjoyed when you were young. I like the music from the 50-70s. When it changes and it’s no longer the same anymore it’s hard for people to adapt. But there is always going to be some music that is timeless and you can play 100 years from now “The Beatles,” Little Richard, and Chuck Berry.”

Q: Is there anything you ever wanted to do?

Larry: “One of the regrets in my career was I was supposed to do a Miller Beer commercial with Bob Uecker. At the time I did the voiceover for the Miller brewing company. They were going to fly me up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and two days before I was to go up Uecker was sick so they had to cancel. I was so bummed. He is incredibly quick witted as a comedian and knowledgeable baseball historian. ”

Q: What do you remember about Stan Lee?

Larry: “I would see him all the time at the comic con conventions. Stan loved when someone would tell them about their lives he would always ask “what do you do?” And I like him I am more interested a person’s life. I can’t say there are a lot of people in our line of work who were like Stan Lee. I’ll never forget that I was in Los Angela’s for a comic con and he was there. He was walking down the hall and we made eye contact and he was surrounded by his people. And he made it a point to say “come over here” and he chatted with me for about a minute it meant a great deal. ”

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