Before he was No Limit Larry, he was No FCC License Larry

No Limit Larry remembers when Obama called the show

No Limit Larry talks about his most memorable moments on his Morning Maddhouse on Power 98.
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No Limit Larry talks about his most memorable moments on his Morning Maddhouse on Power 98.

Before he landed the WPEG internship that eventually evolved into the marquee role he has now – before he even knew what he was doing with the microphone, really – Larry Mims was the star of his own morning radio show.

The show, which aired live from Charlotte’s Johnson C. Smith University campus, where he was studying telecommunications, combined music and talk, school news and school sports, contests, pranks, and bits like the “Best Looking Girl on Campus of the Week.”

There was just one problem: Johnson C. Smith wasn’t authorized to have a radio station.

“The FCC came in and told us, ‘Well, y’all are basically running a pirate station. You oughtta have a license,’ ” recalls Mims, a Charlotte native who attended Rama Road Elementary, McClintock Middle and East Mecklenburg High. “It costs money, and our school didn’t want to spend the money for it. So we got a call from the president of the school, and ... they made us shut it down.”

His position with Power 98, meanwhile, has been much more stable.

It started with the internship, which he scored almost 20 years ago, after then-afternoon host and music director Nate Quick came to JCSU to talk about radio and asked if any of the students were interested. Mims and a couple of classmates said yes. “None of those other guys lasted, but I did,” Mims says.

Within months, Quick was paying him under the table to help on the air as a sidekick, and Mims had developed a reputation around the station for being multitalented, earning him the nickname “No Limit Larry” (as in, “there’s no limit to what you can do”).

Within the year, the station officially put Mims on the payroll. That was 1998; in 2002, he took over as host of WPEG’s evening show; in 2004, he was tapped to lead the morning show, after Quick took “Breakfast Brothas” host B.J. Murphy with him to a station in Atlanta.

“No Limit Larry and the Morning Maddhouse” was born.

No Limit Larry (3)
When he took the lead on the morning show in 2004, it was called the “All New Morning Show.” But it needed something with more character. So he thought about what the show was like and decided it was a bit of a madhouse, paving the way for a new name: “No Limit Larry and the Morning Maddhouse.” Jenna Eason jeason@charlotteobserver.com

It’s been through a few different iterations – Mims started with co-hosts Tone X and Janine Davis, co-hosted with Yasmin Young from 2010-15, then picked up Jessica Williams in 2015 and Jeremy Alsop in 2016 – but with him in charge, the show has stayed energetic and trades on gut-busting bits that would have done well at JCSU’s pirate radio station.

Among the most popular: Williams’ celeb-centric “Nosey Neighbor News”; Alsop’s “No Adult Left Behind” segments, in which he shares off-beat “life lessons” with listeners; and “Cousin Clarissa’s Phone Check,” a daily prank call that doesn’t originate locally (the station pays for this bit from syndicated radio personality Clarissa Jenkins) but never ceases to entertain.

There’s also, of course, plenty of hip-hop sanitized for terrestrial-radio appropriateness. The profanity-free versions of the songs stand out as a bit unusual in the age of streaming music services and satellite radio, both of which can get away with being uncensored.

But Mims doesn’t feel like having to keep it clean puts his show in a box at all.

“Nah, I don’t care about playing the censored version. And even sometimes the censored version, we’ll go back and re-censor it ... so it’s super-, super-clean,” says Mims, whose team frequently records the morning PA announcements for schools around Charlotte. “I mean, we know kids are listening.”

Plus, he knows as well as anyone not to test the government.

Asked to share the most important lesson he’s learned over the course of his radio career, Mims answers, without hesitating:

“Number one, have a license from the FCC!”

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No Limit Larry & Morning Maddhouse

Host: Larry “No Limit Larry” Mims, 40.

Station: 97.9 WPEG-FM, aka “Power 98.” (Format: mainstream urban; owned by Beasley Broadcast Group.)

When the show was founded under the current name: August 2004.

Supporting cast: Jessica “Miss Jessica The Girl Next Door” Williams, Jeremy “Comedian Burpie” Alsop and music director Brian “Mr. Incognito” Robinson.