Hats Off to Larry*

*... with apologies to Del Shannon

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

Larry Brett

Who better to feature in the launch of our periodic column on moonlighting than Business People-Vermont's own Larry Brett? In his day job, Larry is one of our advertising sales representatives. After dark, he marches to a different drummer literally as a recorded-music entertainer doing business as LBJ (Larry Brett's Jukebox).

"I'm living my boyhood dream," says Larry, who started practicing for his avocation in 1946, at age 2, playing his father's 78 rpm cowboy records.

As a four-year radio and TV graduate of the New York Institute of Technology in New York City, Larry entered broadcasting in 1968 at a "little 1,000-watt radio station in Gardner, Mass." In 1970, he was hired by WJOY in South Burlington. In 1981, he went to work for George Goldring at WVMT, where he stayed until 1997.

After considering his employment options, Larry approached Business People's publisher, Jack Tenney, who hired him for a startup project called "Our Vermont Wedding." Eventually, an opening occurred in the magazine's sales department, and in early 1998, Larry came aboard.

Larry says his is the "longest-running DJ service in the state." He began his moonlighting career spinning records for '50s and '60s hops in 1968, then seriously entered the DJ business in 1978 with John Nichols' DJ service, Discomania. Larry Brett's Jukebox started playing the hits in 1981.

He has watched the industry evolve from 45s and vinyl albums to cassettes, then compact discs and, eventually, to MP3s and the computer. Larry has a library of 101,000 songs and growing, covering every era of recorded music every Top 40 number-one hit back to 1940, as well as the latest chart-topping, hot dance music.

"You always know when Larry's back in the office," says Edna Tenney, the editor of Business People, "because he's humming songs, and we all agreed that we'd probably never heard the same tune twice."

Larry works weddings, company parties, fund-raisers, bar and bat mitzvahs and special occasions of all kinds. He is careful to dress his 6-foot-8-inch frame for the occasion, for example, a snazzy tuxedo for dressy affairs, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt for a luau. He was the house DJ at Sh-Na-Na's on Main Street in Burlington from the time it opened in 1988 until a big fire in November 2003 closed it.

"I always say, 'It's not a business, it's a life.' I love my job. Every time I go to work, it's a party. My wife and best friend, Tricia, has been a real trooper. How many women could keep a marriage together with their husband booked every weekend?"

Originally published in January 2004 Business People-Vermont