Sharing 40 years of memories with Detroit radio legend Jim Harper
If you drew up a list of Michigan’s top radio talents, one name at the top of that list would be Jim Harper. For decades, metro Detroiters got their day started with Jim each morning on stations like WNIC-100.3, WDTX-99.5, and WMGC-105.1.
It was 1980 when Cynthia Canty joined Jim Harper and Jerry St. James as a newscaster and sidekick on their top-rated morning show. She said her time on the St. James and Harper Show on Detroit’s 100.3 WNIC shaped her career in radio.
“People don’t I think realize you were actually the first woman to be the part of a morning radio show in a big city anywhere,” Harper said. “There were no female news anchors at that time in the morning, none, absolutely none.”
Cynthia said she was starstruck and terrified walking in for her first day on the show. Just a few months before, Harper’s voice was the daily wake-up call from her radio alarm clock. But Harper said he didn’t notice any of that. With her confidence and energy, Harper said, Cynthia became a role model for other women in the radio business.
“I think every woman in broadcasting, whether it’s on the air or off the air, behind the scenes, writing, producing, whatever, they owe you a little bit of a nod because you were a groundbreaking performer at that time.”
One of the things that made their show special, Cynthia recalled, was how much of their personal lives they were able to bring into the studio. When Cynthia had her son Brendan in 1984, he became a recurring character on the show, being interviewed by Harper. Even things as mundane as what they ate for breakfast became a way to connect with listeners.
“People are prone to be interested in other people, in all aspects,” said Harper. “So if it’s genuine, I think it’s a homerun.”
After a little bit of traveling and rest, Harper said he doesn’t expect Cynthia to be fully retired. Instead, he said, she’ll just be moving into a new chapter.
“I think in a very short period of time, I would give it less than a year, you will find yourself doing something else.”