Wayne Cannon: Johnny Williams started our days, inspired our nights

When I read that Johnny Williams had died, I had to stop for a while and think about all the Delmarva mornings when he was a part of my early life.

I did not know Johnny in person at that time.  I knew Johnny on the radio, WBOC 960 and 1470 WJDY to be exact. As a young bSDT026710-1_20151020oy growing up on Elizabeth Street in Delmar, it was Johnny’s voice that got me started every day as I prepared my Snap, Crackle and Pops and poured my Donald Duck Orange Juice.

He would tell me everything I needed to know: what songs were “Hot”, what I should wear on my journey to Delmar Elementary School and, later, Delmar High School.

When it snowed, it was Johnny Williams who uttered those wonderful words, “Hey Everybody!  Because of the heavy snow … all Wicomico County Schools will be closed today.”

I would be too young to go, but I would listen to him talk about his upcoming “record hops” and that he would be “ spinning the records” in Ocean City at the Pier Ballroom. I think Watson’s Smokehouse, on Main Street in Salisbury, probably liked Johnny a lot because, when he told me and all the other kids what the “Hot” songs were, we would all head to Watson’s and buy the RPM 45s before they sold out.

Later on, as a got older, I would listen to other DJs around the country, on a little transistor radio while lying in my bed before sleep would overtake me. In my little room, I listened to Joey Reynolds on WKBW in Buffalo, Dick Biondi, doing his thing on WLS Chicago.  At night, I would listen to DJ’s in St. Louis, Charlotte and Boston.

But the mornings always belonged to me and Johnny Williams.

His calm, clear, steady voice would get me ready for another day.

When I grew up, I became a radio announcer and spent 42 wonderful years in the business. At one time during the 1990s, I was the Operations Manager for WSEA radio in Georgetown for Great Scott Broadcasting.

One day, the secretary beeped me, “There’s a gentleman here to see you.”

I looked up … it was Johnny Williams.

He had a big smile on his face, was wearing a nice-looking suit and a resume in his hand. He was getting back in radio after taking some time off and wanted to know if we had any openings.

We talked for a while, and I had to tell the man that I used to listen to every morning on the radio that no spots were open at the time, but I would call him if things changed.

We talked for a while more, then we shook hands and I watched him leave. I wished we had an opening for him that day as it would have been a thrill for me to work with him as he was a radio man I always admired.

Through the years, I have listened to hundreds and hundreds of radio announcers. But once upon a time, on Elizabeth Street in Delmar, there was only one that made a difference to me … it was Johnny Williams who ruled my mornings.

Looking back, he probably was one of the best I ever heard.

Wayne Cannon lives in West Ocean City.


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