Mornings will be less ‘magical’ in Detroit after Friday

19 Dec

Those of you who know me personally know of my passion for radio.

Three people who played key roles to the development of that passion span many years of my life.  

When I was in first grade, the sports director of the radio station at my high school, John Kreger, invited me on a station tour.  I spent probably an hour there, recorded a drop-in for the station’s sports show, and fell in love.

The station manager of that same station — both in first grade when I had that first tour and once I made it to high school — Bill Keith, was my mentor through high school and beyond, and I owe what accomplishments I’ve had in radio in large part to him and chances he’s taken on me along the way.

My last influence, probably falls more into the category of “celebrity” but he held a consistent part of my development as a radio fan and then a broadcaster.  This “celebrity” is Jim Harper, morning-drive voice at WMGC-FM (105.1 in Detroit).  Harper will be retiring after Friday’s show, after a 45-year broadcasting career, that began when he was just 13 years old.

When I was in elementary school, I’d listen to Harper and the “Breakfast Club” on 100.3 WNIC with my mom while I was getting ready for school.  When Christmas of 3rd grade came along, my parents got me a karaoke machine.  Instead of ever using it for its intended purpose, I immediately (starting that morning) began broadcasting radio programming from that machine, in my bedroom or living eroom (broadcasts from the living room were often termed “remote broadcasts”).  I used to play music (on tape at the time) interspersed eventually with jingles and drop-ins that I had recorded from Harper’s morning show and other WNIC programming.  The parts where I talked were often “Vacation Breakfast Club” broadcasts (as broadcasts at the time were termed when a substitute, normally Chris Edmonds would fill in for Harper).  Such broadcasts continued into middle school, almost until I stepped behind a “real mic” of my own at WSDP.

Shortly before the following Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to meet Harper, along with Breakfast Club cohorts Linda Lanci, Stacy DuFord, Dave Lockhart and Mike Bradley, at a Capuchin Soup Kitchen remote for the station at the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit.  DuFord interviewed me and my mom on the air, and then I got to visit with Harper and other members of his team throughout the remainder of their broadcast.  I even got to introduce the Breakfast Club when they appeared on the air with then-WJBK-TV (Channel 2) reporter Michael Collins.  It was a day I wouldn’t soon forget or stop talking about.

A commercial for Harper’s Breakfast Club that aired in 1998.

My next Harper-related memory does not involve a personal contact with him.  In December 1996, my grandmother underwent emergency surgery while visiting my aunt in Nashville.   That morning, my mother did not tell me of my grandmother’s surgery because she didn’t want to ruin my school day, but she told me later that it helped her put a happier face on when she and I danced to Gayla Peevey’s “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas.”

Right before Christmas in 1998 (7th grade), I attended a WNIC remote at Morley Candy Makers in Clinton Township, Mich. (where my dad was the CEO at the time), and again met Dave Lockhart and his wife Tamie.  At this meeting, I was invited by Lockhart to the station’s studios in Dearborn to spend a morning shadowing him.  During this visit, I was invited by Harper into the main studio, where I spoke on the air and interacted once again with Harper and his “Club,” the same folks I’d interacted with three years previously, minus Stacy DuFord, who’d recently left the program.

The 2003-04 period saw my path cross with Harper twice more, both in a relatively brief period of time.  Right after Thanksgiving 2003, Harper was slated to appear, now with WMGC-FM, at the Penn Theatre in downtown Plymouth, for a holiday kickoff event for the station’s “Toys for Tots” campain.  I interacted with Harper and his castmates once again, now joined by Cynthia Canty, the program’s news director.  Once again, all involved were gracious and exceptionally kind to me during my visit.

A mere six weeks later, Harper’s father passed away, and I sent him an email expressing my condolences signed “Program Director,  WSDP” as that was my position at my high school station at the time.  I received a response from Harper soon after saying something to the effect that he appreciated the “well wishes from a fellow Program Director.”

Since the advent of Facebook, I’ve been friends and kept in contact with DuFord, Canty and Harper, along with recently-departed former morning show producer Fay Samona.  They enjoy my memories and I appreciate the opportunity to re-connect with them.

On Friday morning, Harper, Canty and Bradley will turn off their microphones at WMGC for the last time.  While I won’t get to fulfill my dream and supplant Harper when he retires, I will cheer from the sidelines as these talented broadcasters move on to their next challenges.

I close with this final remark.  Mr. Harper, thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you’ve done along the way to support and reinforce my love for radio.  It is my hope and my prayer that when I do finally get a radio job of my own, I will be the kind of broadcaster you are — making news not for shocking comments or suspensions, but because of wide reverie for a kindhearted man.  To Ms. Canty and Mr. Bradley, good luck in whatever life brings you after Friday.

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One Response to “Mornings will be less ‘magical’ in Detroit after Friday”

  1. Julie D August 18, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    Where is Linda Lanci now ?

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