Gary Corry, best known on Atlanta radio as “Red Neckerson,” died Tuesday night at his home in Cumming. He was 74.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Illinois native was program director and creative services director for former top 40 station 790/WQXI-AM and head writer for the popular Gary McKee Morning Show. There, Corry created the Neckerson character, who would make daily commentaries. He’d play off the news or just make funny observations like why bugs always hit the windshield right in the driver’s line of sight.
“It was the country-based version of Paul Harvey,” said Don Benson, who worked with him from 1974 to 1986 and now oversees Star 94 and other radio properties. “It was grounded in honest, homespun simplicity.”
Eventually, Corry would syndicate his commentaries to more than 300 stations nationwide. The character would become so much a part of Corry, he’d answer to the name Red and stay in character during radio appearances.
“Gary Corry was a very private person, an almost introverted guy off radio,” said John Long, who put Neckerson’s commentary on his Memphis station in 1979, a move that led to syndication. “The character and the real person couldn’t be more different. But he loved the attention of being Red Neckerson.”
Kelly McCoy, a B98.5 radio jock who worked at WQXI from 1978 to 1984, said Corry “came across as a big old grump, but he was really a teddy bear underneath.”
Every year, on McCoy’s birthday, he’d gruffly say, “Don’t embarrass me,” and hand him a bonus check.
McKee, who worked with Corry when McKee’s show was No. 1 in the Atlanta market, said Corry had an instinctively quick wit. “But it was very difficult to make him laugh,” he said. He recalls doing bits with listeners trying to get Corry to chuckle. They seldom could. ”If he did laugh,” McKee said, “I’d cut the mike. I wanted him to win every time!”
After leaving WQXI in 1986, Corry moved to WYAY-FM, a country station at the time called Y106. He helped out morning host Rhubarb Jones, who said Corry by his very presence made his show better.
“If I needed five jokes for a speech, he’d write them out for me in five minutes,” said Jones, now a media teacher at Kennesaw State University. “There were times in our control room, you heard nothing but laughter because of him.”
Off air, Corry was a dedicated family man and loved his horses. He lived on a farm in Forsyth County. “He was an absolutely frustrated cowboy like me,” McKee said. “He’d breed Arabians and show them. He had the prettiest stallion I’ve ever seen.”
Herb Emory, traffic reporter at AM 750 and now 95.5FM News/Talk WSB, was the last person to work with him on air with his weekly NASCAR talk show from 1997 to 2007.
“I have been able to take what he did and apply it to my own career,” Emory said. “He taught me to let loose every now and then and be myself.”
Corry released an autobiography last month called “Keep the Needle Peaking.”
Corry is survived by his wife Dixie, his sons Russ and Brian and his daughter Susan. Funeral arrangements are with Ingram Funeral Home in Cumming. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, said Long, who runs the operation.
Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this article.