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Originally published Friday, November 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Obituary

Larry Nelson, KOMO's voice in the morning

For close to 30 years, Seattle could count on the silky voice of radio broadcaster Larry Nelson to nudge them out of bed. To act as breakfast...

Seattle Times staff reporter

For close to 30 years, Seattle could count on the silky voice of radio broadcaster Larry Nelson to nudge them out of bed.

To act as breakfast soundtrack. To act as distraction during the morning commute. And, each Christmas, to shepherd the playing of the song "Stop the Cavalry." Locals still can't hear that song without recalling Mr. Nelson, aka "Captain Radio."

Mr. Nelson died Thursday (Nov. 29) at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 70.

Even after his retirement from KOMO Radio in 1997, his voice still surfaced on the airwaves as the pitchman for local businesses, such as Continental Furniture. And for those old enough to remember educational filmstrips, here's one other Nelson tidbit: he narrated more than 240 of them on all sorts of subjects, said Bruce Johnson of Seattle's Rowland Studios.

"He was Professor Rettil. Litter spelled backward. And Professor Rettil talked to grade-school kids about how long it takes things to decompose," Johnson said about some Department of Ecology-commissioned filmstrips.

What was so special about Mr. Nelson's voice?

"It was real," Johnson, a longtime friend, recalled.

"It enveloped you," his former KOMO radio colleague Dennis Kelly said. "You felt like he was talking to you and to you alone. Not many radio personalities had that great gift. But Larry was who he was on the air and off."

The local broadcast legend leaves behind scores of listeners who counted on hearing him each morning and during those renowned madcap Husky tailgate "parties" that aired before football games.

For a lot of people, Mr. Nelson — who'd recall growing up in Redmond, who'd poke fun at Ballard, read poetry and also spin music when he was on the air — was a faithful companion.

"My parents always had the radio turned to KOMO," Steve Wilson, now a producer and director at KOMO-TV, recalled. "I remember waking up and it was a bowl of mush, Larry Nelson and off to school!"

Mr. Nelson was born Oct. 16, 1937, the only child of William Nelson, who ran Nelson Trucking in Redmond, and his wife, Rose. He graduated from Lake Washington High School, attended Everett Community College and for a short while in the mid-1950s worked as a King County deputy sheriff, fingerprinting prisoners.

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But his broadcast career was honed early on when he played the drums with a group called The Shades. A passion for music prompted his decision to pursue a radio career, friends said.

In 1965, Mr. Nelson worked for KFKF Radio in Bellevue before KOMO hired him in 1966. He worked nights, then afternoons and eventually nabbed the coveted morning slot for the "full-service station" — music and news — that ruled the air.

As host of the KOMO "Breakfast Table," he took the show around the world, to Seoul, South Korea; Berlin; Geneva. And his friendly, funny, authentic delivery set a standard for other broadcasters to follow.

He defined Seattle radio for two generations, many of whom flooded the www.larrybnelson.com Web site in recent weeks as word of his ailing health spread.

"Larry Nelson was my favorite radio co-pilot every morning driving to work from Covington to Everett for more than 20 years," reads the memories of Larry Olson. "The radio of today is just a lot of talk and the same old thing every day. Larry brought a personal approach, a friend entertaining you with news and fun."

Nelson is survived by his wife, Gina Nelson, of Bellevue, and five sons: Jeff of Bend, Ore; Bill and Vince of Everett; and John and Paul of Bellevue.

Services have not yet been announced.

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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