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Looking Back At Scott Shannon’s Impact & Legacy

Scott Shannon Z100 WHTZ Z Morning Zoo Pirate Radio KQLZ 95.5 WPLJ True OldiesIt’s Time To Wake Up…

With those words Michael Scott Shannon changed the course of radio, not just in New York but throughout the world. As Z100 charged “from worst to first” led by Shannon as not only their Program Director but leader of the “Z Morning Zoo”, it changed the shape of Top 40 and Morning Radio forever. Outside of perhaps Howard Stern, no person did more to change the tone of a daypart.

After already a long career in Top 40 at stations like WABB Mobile, WMAK Nashville, and WQXI Atlanta it would be the morning zoo, developed by Shannon and Cleveland Wheeler at “Q105” WRBQ Tampa that would be cloned at stations all over the world and played a major part in the Top 40 boom of the 1980’s. After leaving Z100 in 1989 he attempted to replicate its success in Los Angeles with Rock 40 “Pirate Radio“.

Returning to New York in 1991, Shannon quickly rebranded WPLJ as “Mojo Radio” in an attempt to go after Z100. That would then give way to what was at first a very 1970’s centric Hot AC format emphasizing the WPLJ call letters. Todd Pettengill joined the station at that time as Shannon’s morning co-host, a pairing that would last through Shannon’s retirement today.

With a career that also included consulting gigs at stations like WPLY Philadelphia, imaging for other stations and programs including the Sean Hannity show, and launching the syndicated “True Oldies Channel“, Shannon made it clear during his final show that while he was retiring from WPLJ, he is not done with radio.

Once he’s free to do so, you would hope that there would be room for Shannon somewhere in New York. While he may finally wish to break free from having to do a daily morning show, perhaps a weekend show at 101.1 WCBS-FM or even News/Talk 710 WOR would be a fit for him. Any radio company anywhere could do worse than having Scott Shannon as an extra voice to consult programming or to coach personalities.

And if I were Cumulus, I’d strongly consider taking the time now to rebrand WPLJ. Over the past few years, the station has evolved to bear little resemblance to the station as it was during the years it was programmed by Shannon and Tom Cuddy during its ABC and Citadel ownership. Its not fair to ask new PD John Foxx nor the new Todd Pettengill led morning show to have to follow in Shannon’s footsteps. Give the station a new identity free from the shackles of its connection to Scott Shannon.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

3 Comments

  1. Profile photo of stelly


    I could potentially see Cumulus using this opportunity to skew PLJ back to CHR, kind of like what happened with WRQX in Washington—the success (or lack thereof) of that particular move notwithstanding. All the Hits 95.5? Honestly, that was the first thing that came to mind when I heard of Scott’s retiring.

    It’s been sounding close enough to CHR the past few years, anyway.

    • Profile photo of Nathan Obral


      Just like WRQX gets it’s breakfast, lunch and dinner handed to them by Hot 99.5, a CHR-formatted PLJ would get pummeled by CC’s wall of Z100, KTU and Power… and even CBS’ Now 92.3.

      I’d blow up PLJ totally. What do the calls stand for? Certainly not rock, and not even Top 40. Hot AC is debatable, because Scott literally WAS WPLJ… and now he’s gone.

      Quite frankly, with the Hot AC format being a total mess musically and stations like Lite and Fresh have carved out specific niches in NYC, it actually WOULD make sense for Cumulus to relaunch 95.5 as a modern rock outlet.

  2. Profile photo of Bizzle


    There’s too much CHR & Hot A/C’s here in NYC! They should go Rock but keep the PLJ name like they did back in the day!

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