By Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff
Midnight long past and dawn far from sight, Larry Glick picked up the phone in 1973 during his radio show on WBZ-AM, one of his homes for the nearly three decades he ruled the wee small hours of Boston radio with a talk show that drew listeners and callers from across the country and Canada.
"It's 2:35 so let's take our next call," Mr. Glick said in his rich baritone. "Yup, this is Larry! How am I feeling? Well, wait a second and let me check." A brief pause. "Fine."
His audience knew to expect the unexpected. If conversation lagged, he might cue up sound effects of bullets flying. If a caller droned, he'd play a tape of a loud yawn and snoring. Mostly, though, people tuned in because they were eager to hear what Mr. Glick would say next. Erudite one moment, droll the next, only two things were certain: Mr. Glick would be funny and listeners would laugh.
A pioneer of talk radio, he died Thursday in Florida of complications from open heart surgery, according to Peter Casey, director of news and programming at WBZ radio. Mr. Glick was 87 and in retirement had lived in Boca Raton, Fla.
"His radio show just made him a legend in New England, no question about it," said Gary LaPierre, former morning news anchor on WBZ, where Mr. Glick spent nearly 20 years on the air. "He was just a delightful man to be around and he found fun in everything. He didn't take anything, including himself, that seriously."
"He would always tell people, 'I may not give you a correct answer, but I'll give you a snappy answer,' " said Mr. Glick's daughter, Nannette Glick Cote of Natick. "He was engaging and charming and fun-loving, an amazing person who never met a stranger."
Said Dave Rodman, Channel 7's first on-air news anchor and later spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office: "Larry could talk about anything and was interested in everything."
From the early 1960s to the early 1990s, it seemed as if every radio listener in Greater Boston and beyond was interested in Mr. Glick -- at least those who were awake because they worked overnight hours or simply couldn't sleep. His fans were known as Glicknics, or Glicknicks, depending on who did the spelling. They've kept his memory alive on the Internet, where clips of Mr. Glick's voice and TV promos for his show reside.
"Larry was an automatic when I was driving home from a concert, a movie, or a party," Boston radio great Charles Laquidara wrote today in a posting on Boston.com. "His wise-cracking voice would stay with my car from one end of New England to the other; a late-night companion with no equal, and an absolute must for helping smiling at-home listeners go to sleep and for keeping night-time drivers awake and entertained."
Growing up in Roxbury, where he graduated from Roxbury Memorial High School, Mr. Glick didn't want to be the voice that soothed insomniacs and inspired night owls in some 40 states. "My first choice was in the criminal justice system," he told the Globe in 1988. "I wanted to be a special agent in the FBI. No kidding. But to do that you have to first be a lawyer or an accountant."
He studied at Burdett College, a business school in Boston, but said that "those accounting courses were so boring!"
Instead, he decided to try broadcasting. "We both went to Emerson College at night," Rodman recalled.
During World War II, Mr. Glick had served in the Army and suffered back and leg injuries in Germany. He also worked on a kibbutz in Israel.
With Rodman, he began his radio career at WLMH in Laconia, N.H. Mr. Glick then worked with the Armed Forces Network in 1950, and moved to Florida a few years later. Through the rest of the decade, he stayed in the state at radio stations WIVY, WINZ, and at WZOK, which he owned for a couple of years.
From 1960 to 1964, he developed his style as a talk show host through the night at WINZ in Miami before jumping to WMEX in Boston for four years.
Then came WBZ, which Mr. Glick joined in 1968. In a run that lasted until 1987, he developed a national following until a salary disagreement led him to switch to WHDH, after staying off the air for a year to honor a non-compete clause in his WBZ contract. He remained on WHDH until 1992, when he left Boston's airwaves for good.
Though tame by today's standards, Mr. Glick's material could occasionally raise an eyebrow or two in the 1960s and '70s.
"Some of his humor was subtle, some was subtle as a sledgehammer, but he just had a way of getting away with it," LaPierre said. "And I don't think he was getting away with anything bad. Our standards were fairly puritanical at that point."
Celebrities found their way onto Mr. Glick's shows, often when he tracked them down by phone. He featured local characters, too, such as cab driver Charlie DiGiovanni, who sometimes brought coffee to the radio studio.
"Larry was just synonymous with fun, and I think people felt that listening to him on the radio," Casey said. "There was no place he'd rather be than on the radio talking to them."
Mr. Glick thought the real stars were those who called in, regulars who ranged from clever to off the wall. While on WMEX in 1966, he told the Globe his show gives "the average man a chance to voice an opinion, and he can do it in his undershirt in the comfort of his living room."
Through most of his years on the air, Mr. Glick also became a pilot and performed as a hypnotist, entertaining crowds and helping many people quit smoking. But to legions of listeners, he remains the voice that made being awake at night worthwhile.
In September, Mr. Glick traveled to Dedham for his induction ceremony into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, which is located at Massasoit Community College.
His acceptance speech "brought the house down, and we had 250 people there that night," said Arthur Singer, president of the organization. "By the time he was finished, we had a room full of Glicknics -- it was a love fest. He reminded everybody that you always need to leave a little room for some fun in your life, and I think that's what he gave to his listeners. That's a great gift."
In addition to his daughter Nannette, Mr. Glick leaves his wife, Lisa of Boca Raton, Fla., and her daughters, Tali Israel and Tirana Mamur; a brother, Edwin of Denton, Texas; and a step-granddaughter.
WBZ said Mr. Glick's family will hold a private service on Sunday in Florida. Mr. Glick's daughter said a public memorial service in the Boston area will be announced.