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No Limit Larry still going strong after 10 years of wake-ups

Looking back, the decision about basketball was a turning point in his career.

It was 1997 and Larry Mims was trying to figure out how he could continue playing point guard for Johnson C. Smith University and put time into an internship he’d been offered at WPEG-FM (“Power 98” 97.9), Charlotte’s leading urban hip-hop station. It became obvious that one of the activities had to go.

Mims talked it over with his coach and settled on the internship. “Basketball is here for today, but I knew I wasn’t going to the NBA,” says Mims, better known by his radio name, “No Limit Larry.” “I took the internship and stuck with it.”

Good decision. Today Mims, 37, is one of the most prominent personalities on Charlotte radio, hosting the popular “Morning Maddhouse” show on WPEG alongside Yasmin Young and Travis “Church Boy” Gilliam.

This week, Mims is celebrating 10 years at his high-energy “Maddhouse,” the No. 1 morning show in the 18-to-34 and 18-to-49 age demographics advertisers covet. His ascent in Charlotte radio has been steady and sharp.

Mims grew up here, attending McClintock Middle School and East Mecklenburg High. He graduated in 1995 and went to JCSU as a communications major.

He got the internship at WPEG when it was still in a rickety building in Concord (it moved into the swank CBS Radio studios on South Boulevard in 2000). His first boss was Nate Quick, an afternoon host and music director who was one of the best-known personalities of his generation at WPEG. Quick took a liking to Mims and became his mentor.

Quick put him through the various departments, including promotions. Then Quick decided he needed a sidekick and put Mims on the air with him, paying him out of his own pocket.

Mims seemed talented at everything in the office. One day the fax machine broke down and no one could figure out how to fix it. When Mims came in, he got it working. B.J. Murphy, host of the morning show, was astonished.

“You do everything,” he told Mims. “There’s no limit to what you can do.” After that, people started calling him “No Limit Larry.”

On the morning of Dec. 4, 1998, Mims – still in his boxer shorts – was awakened by the kitchen phone. Come in and do some paperwork, he was told. Your internship is over. We’re putting you on the payroll in a part-time job as Quick’s assistant.

He continued his work on Quick’s show and began doing weekend shifts while still attending JCSU. In 2000, the station did some research, asking focus groups who their favorite hosts were. Mims came in No. 2 behind Quick and just ahead of Eddie Owens, who now does afternoons on WOSF-FM (“Old School” 105.3).

More importantly, Quick’s afternoon show shot in popularity from No. 12 to No. 5 among listeners in key demographic groups as Mims took a larger role.

Mims was hot and WPEG moved him to the evening show when an opening came along in 2002. He did that for two years, living the saucy life of a young broadcaster.

“When you’re a nighttime jock, you can do whatever you want and still get to work on time the next day,” says Mims. But he would soon be faced with another choice – wild times or a 4:15 a.m. alarm.

In 2004, big changes came to WPEG. Quick left to take a job in Dallas and took Murphy, host of the “Breakfast Brothas,” with him. That left a key opening. Operations manager Terri Avery decided to take a chance and fill it with Mims, barely out of college.

“He definitely had the talent,” Avery says. “He’s one of the guys in this business that you wish you had 10 of them. He was so passionate about radio.”

He took the lead on the morning show with then co-hosts Tone X and Janine Davis, both of whom had more experience. After a few months, they turned into a pretty good team and the next issue came along: It was time to give the show, which was being called the “All New Morning Show,” a real name.

It was Mims’ show, so it was Mims’ problem. He thought about what the show was like and decided it was a bit of a madhouse. In August 2004, he gave the show its new name: “No Limit Larry and the Morning Maddhouse.”

Mims and his sidekicks keep the show energetic and focused on the kind of topics that people can identify with – family and life. It is intensely local and pops with the latest hits. Mims and his team are known for making numerous public appearances, even recording the morning PA announcements at schools.

He also operates his own nonprofit, Children of Murdered Parents, founded in 2005 and dedicated to helping children through various social issues associated with the violent death of a parent. Each year, the group sponsors the Great Neighborhood Swim event, the Warm Coat Project, the Daddy Daughter Dance and finds help for those who need services, like covering day care payments.

Mims started it after a cousin’s father was murdered and he saw the various family problems that grew from it. “In the community, we never talk about our grief, never talk about the full process of grief,” Mims says. “Children are the real victims.”

He also passes along something that his old boss, Quick, gave him – advice and experience. He mentors the young talent that comes into the station.

“It’s good,” says Avery. “Kids coming up see his energy and his work ethic.”

Media Movers

A committee looking for a successor to WFAE-FM’s (NPR, 90.7) Roger Sarow has begun interviewing candidates. Sarow has been president of the station since 1988 and hopes to retire early next year. Ira Cronin moves from mornings to weekend anchor at WCNC (Channel 36). He will be doing enterprise stories during the week. Ben Thompson moves to mornings joining Anjanette Flowers.

Matt King joins WCNC as news director, replacing Corrie Harding, who departed in January for a job with NBC in New York. King moves from Gannett‘s NBC station in Atlanta, where he’s been assistant news director for two years.

WBTV (Channel 3) anchor Molly Grantham had her second baby, Hutch Thomas, on Monday, 8 pounds, 13 ounces and 21 inches long. Everyone healthy. Kary “Doc” Bowser Jr. moves up from “The Matt and Ramona Show” to the evening shift at WLNK-FM (“Link” 107.9).

Geof Knight, producer of “ Paul Schadt in the Morning” on WKKT-FM (“Kat” 96.9) and part-time actor, returns to the stage this week in the role of Editor Webb in “Our Town” at the Matthews Playhouse. John Hancock, afternoon host on WBT-AM (1110) returned to his native Colorado on vacation, strapped a GoPro camera to his skull and went marijuana shopping. Legally. His exploits are captured on the station’s website. “My heart was beating like I’d just turned over a Miami heroin deal,” says Hancock, who told his listeners about the odyssey on Monday.