A Pennsylvania DJ’s rambling life captured in the classic Harry Chapin song.
I am the morning DJ at W*O*L*D
Playing all the hits for you wherever you may be
The bright good-morning voice who’s heard but never seen
Feeling all of forty-five going on fifteen
In 1951, a small radio station on Ash Street in the US city of Erie, founded with a tiny amount of cash by Myron Jones and William Fleckenstein, would go on to become Pennsylvania’s best known and most successful broadcasting company.
WJET premiered as the county’s first independent music station, and saw numerous additional firsts for the region: playing 45s; airing custom recorded station jingles; being on-air 24-hours a day; and using a roving mobile unit to broadcast instantly from any location, just like the big city stations of the 1950s.
Initially, DJ Jim ‘JC’ Conners (pictured above) was the midday host for WJET, rated #1 ahead of the morning drive team. He began his career as an announcer and PD on Armed Forces Radio, while serving in the Air Force, then continued that career in civilian life.
It wasn’t long before conners was promoted to the AM drive shift. While in Erie, JC met his first wife, Linda Prozan, and had two children, although the marriage eventually failed.
JC was one of WJET’s ‘Good Guys’, along with radio legend Frank Martin (such a fixture on AM drive radio in Erie that Mayor Lou Tullio gave him the title of ‘Morning Mayor’) and Randy Michaels.
Conners also had a knack for discovering and nurturing artists, one of them being singer/songwriter and activist Harry Chapin.
In 1973, Chapin released his third album, Short Stories, which produced the international hit, WOLD. A huge success, the single went on to sell over 1 million units.
The tune tells the troubled story of an aging DJ who has given up his life and family for the job, travelling across the US seeking happiness, which he believes is to be found in radio.
Chapin wrote the song when he listened to Connors calling his ex-wife Linda from WMEXstudio, a station in Boston.
In an interview with Fox Local News in Erie, Linda said “He let Harry Chapin listen to a phone conversation between him and myself, and he took it and ran with it. It was a sad, personal conversation that led Chapin to write the song.
“The conversation was about the way he did not come back to see his children.”
Linda Prozan married Conners on June 26th, 1965 when she was 17 and he was in his mid 20s. After the marriage disintegrated, Conners left Erie and made his way to work in Boston, and other stops around the country added to his career.
The impact of the song and its popularity hit Linda hard, as the local DJs in Erie used its contents to takes shots at JC and his life on air.
Eventually, Connors found a slot at WYSL in Buffalo, New York, so he could be closer to his children, and his program was rated nationally at #5. While in Buffalo, he met his second wife. Again, the marriage didn’t last.
Jim Conners died in a traffic accident in 1987, survived by four children.
The popularity of WOLD continues, with the biographical tune having wracked up 1.1 million listens on YouTube.
Linda recalled the first time she was told about the song. “He called and told me, ‘just to give you a heads up, there’s a song out about us.’ I said ok, and then I heard it on the radio”.