It’s a scene that happens millions of times a day in workplaces across the country. But for Johnny Elmore and Woody Wilson, there’s one difference: for the past nine years, the two disc jockeys’ “Morning Chat” segment has been broadcast on radio throughout Walker County.
“The Chat thing just evolved,” Elmore recalls now, from his chair in the studio at WJLX-FM, Oldies 101.5 on Highway 195. “One morning we were sitting there talking off-air about football, as it turned out, and it was time for Woody’s show, so we decided to finish our conversation at the microphones.”
“Football is our most common ground,” says Woody, the mid-day DJ, “but we also talk about community events, we read announcements people have sent us. We have local guests come in. The district attorney, the mayor, representatives from the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Girl Scout cookies, the Walker County Community Action Agency, dozens of folks. But usually it’s just Johnny and me.”
“Sometimes I get on a rant about politics,” adds Johnny, the morning-shift DJ. “Usually when I’ve heard a politician say something on radio or TV that’s set me off. But the Morning Chat is sort of a division of labor. Woody is the calming influence, and I’m the loose cannon. I put my foot in my mouth, and he helps me extract it. That’s the basic scenario.”
The radio Chat goes into high gear during football season each year. And while gridiron opinions are plentiful everywhere, Woody’s and Johnny’s carry more weight than some. Both do play-by-play commentary of local high school games on air, and both have seemingly encyclopedic recall of Crimson Tide games — reaching back to the ones they listened to at Woody’s house in West Jasper as teenagers, and even to the Denny Stadium games Johnny sold programs at when he lived in Tuscaloosa as a grammar-schooler.
“Johnny and Woody have spent more than 40 years in radio,” says Brett Elmore, station owner and Johnny’s son. “They’re not only knowledgeable about sports but about the city’s history. They’ve got a ton of great stories, and they can evoke old downtown Jasper, the businesses that used to be there, and it’s something listeners appreciate.”
Some of Johnny’s and Woody’s Morning Chats are a trip down memory lane, and it’s an especially good fit for our Oldies format. The two of them are really the heartbeat of the radio station.”
Johnny’s and Woody’s thoughts on the just-completed roller coaster that was the 2013 college football season?
“It was a special situation,” Woody says, “the chance to win a third national championship in a row during the AP-poll era, which started in 1936. As the year went along, Alabama won game after game and the pressure-cooker built and built. And people have no idea of the burden that’s on these kids, and on the coaching staff.
“Until in the Auburn game, the pressure-cooker blew. Both teams were really good. Alabama was under the pressure, they missed a couple of assignments, and the whole game came down to Auburn making plays when Alabama didn’t. I didn’t get the feeling Alabama wanted to be in the Sugar Bowl, and Oklahoma had a chip on its shoulder, which was a big factor. Whenever you’ve got a guy in a football game who’s ticked off, he’s going to have the edge. But still a great season. Any other team that had a 10-2 season, the fans would still be excited about it.”
“My perspective has changed over the years,” says Johnny. “I remember when I would literally get sick if my team had a bad game and lost. It was totally depressing. But I’m older now.
“At the start of this year I told the guys, ‘I know you think we’re gonna three-peat, and we may, but it’s very unlikely. It’s just too hard. Too many good teams, including Auburn. I’m certainly not an Auburn-hater, and I congratulate them on what they’ve achieved. When the year got down to its end, Auburn had the magic season and Alabama had some disappointments.
“But still a very successful year, for both teams. And if football can’t be fun for me, I don’t want to be a fan any more.”
Which brings us — and the Morning Chat — to Super Bowl territory.
“My interest in the NFL usually picks up around playoff time,” says Johnny. “Although I always love to watch the guys from our state who are playing in the NFL on Sundays. Eddie Lacy, and so many others. As for this year’s Super Bowl, I think it’s really neat that Seattle’s in there. I like their coach. He’s sort of a laid-back, West Coast kind of guy, but he knows what he’s doing. I don’t know anybody at the beginning of the year who picked Seattle to get this far.”
Peyton’s comeback route
“And Peyton Manning is a great story, his whole comeback. I think I’m going to be pulling for Denver.”
“I’m a life-long Cleveland Browns fan, myself,” says Woody. “But I think I’ll have to go with Denver, here. I think that Peyton Manning, pre-snap...and I emphasize pre-snap...is the best. There are so many decisions that have to be made in those 20 seconds. He’s better than anybody at that, and he has such an intricate knowledge of how to put players where they need to be.”
Regular listeners of Morning Chat during football season get a free bonus in the game analysis department. A number of players and coaches have names that are unfamiliar in these parts, and Woody and Johnny simplify the process by assigning them code names. (“Woody comes up with those,” Johnny points out.)
For example, the shorthand system converts San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick to “Cappuccino,” and coach Jim Harbaugh to “Coach Hairball.” Fortunately for Seattle fans, the 49er contingent was knocked out of a Super Bowl berth by the Seahawks 23-17 playoff victory two weeks ago.
“I don’t think Denver has as good a defense as Seattle,” Johnny says. “I’m just impressed by Seattle’s whole team. They’re physical, they’re tough. But my heart’s with Denver and I think one little edge they’ll have is playing in New Jersey. Which might sound crazy. But Denver’s accustomed to cold and terrible weather. Seattle has bad weather, but I’ve been there and it’s more of the rain and fog variety. Another edge is, Peyton’s playing in his kid brother’s stadium, and every playing surface is different, has its intricacies. I’m sure Eli’s giving him some insight on this one.”
“I have to go with Manning over the much younger Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson,” says Woody. “It’s the classic old, seasoned pro against the bright-eyed young kid.”
“I don’t even have a clue,” says Johnny. “In this one, my mind tells me that Seattle’s too good for them. But my heart picks Denver. So I don’t know. It should be a good game, and I think it could be close.”
“I have to take Denver by a couple of touchdowns,” Woody says. “Maybe 35-21, for the Broncos.”
And do the morning/afternoon DJ duo dread the vast months of no football that will stretch ahead after tomorrow’s Super Bowl wrap-up on Morning Chat?
Woody shrugs and grins. “Nah,” he says. “We talk about football all year long.”
Dale Short’s e-mail address is email@example.com