WPLJ (95.5 FM) is a radio station in New York City owned by Citadel Broadcasting Corporation. WPLJ shares studio facilities with sister station WABC (770 AM) and former sister stations WEPN (1050 AM) and WQEW (1560 AM) in midtown Manhattan, and its transmitter is atop the Empire State Building. The station currently plays Hot Adult Contemporary music format also known in the radio industry as the "Hot AC" format. It is the home of the Scott and Todd in the Morning show.
The station went on the air in 1948 under the call sign WJZ-FM. In 1953, the station's call letters were changed to WABC-FM.
During the mid and late 1960s, WABC-FM programmed Broadway Show Tunes on an automated basis and carried New York Mets Baseball games. They also simulcast AM sister station WABC during various dayparts, like morning drive time.
In June 1968, 24 year old Allen Shaw was hired from WCFL radio in Chicago, by ABC Radio Stations President, Hal Neal, to program all 7 of the ABC Owned FM Radio Stations in a new album rock format. There was very little budget for ABC's FM stations at that time, so Shaw was told that the new rock format would have to be totally automated. Shaw designed the "LOVE" format, with John "Brother John" Rydgren as the only DJ on the air 24 hours a day. 25 hours of long-form tapes were recorded at WABC-FM for playback on the ABC FM stations. WABC-FM played rock bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and Chicago. Village Voice columnist, Howard Smith, was hired to do recorded interviews with the counter-culture icons of that period: John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Andy Warhol, Abbie Hoffman, Bill Graham, Peter Fonda, and many others. In 1970 Shaw hired Bob Lewis, known as "Bob-A-Lu" on WABC/770, to do a live evening show on WABC-FM. In the late fall of 1968, he played some cuts from a pre-release tape of the Beatles White Album. Later, Shaw hired Dave Herman from WMMR in Philadelphia, Tony Pigg from KSAN-FM in San Francisco and Jimmy Fink, a native New Yorker to do additional live show on the station. In September 1970, Allen Shaw was named Vice President of the 7 ABC Owned FM Radio Stations as ABC decided to separate the AM and FM stations in terms of management. WABC-FM broadcast a live radio concert by Elton John on November 17, 1970, which was issued as the 11-17-70 album the following year by Uni Records, and it also broadcast live the closing concerts of the Fillmore East theatre on June 27, 1971.
In late 1970, Allen Shaw decided to install a 100% live "free form" rock format and hired John Zacherle, Vin Scelsa, and Michael Cuscuna (from WMMR and WXPN in Philadelphia) to do live shows on the station. On February 14, 1971, the station changed its call sign to WPLJ after Allen Shaw noticed the call letters as the name of a song on the Mothers of Invention record, "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" (1970). The song, "WPLJ", was originally performed by the Four Deuces in 1955 and stood for "White Port and Lemon Juice". The station became a politically radical and musically eclectic voice of the counter-culture. It received positive critical reviews from the "underground" press, but did not generate a large enough audience to become financially viable.
In September 1971, Allen Shaw and ABC Programming Executive Bob Henaberry designed and pioneered the very first AOR (album oriented rock) format, playing only the best cuts from the best selling rock albums with a minimum of disc jockey talk. The slogan of the station was "Rock 'N Stereo". The station would play the music of artists such as Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Elton John, Deep Purple, Rod Stewart, and The Allman Brothers. The station would also play pop songs from artists such as James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Carly Simon. The station was different from Top 40 stations (such as co-owned WABC) in that they played more album tracks. The audience ratings shot up dramatically, and WPLJ became New York's most listened-to FM rock station for most of the 1970s.
In 1973, Allen Shaw brought Willard Lochridge, the General Manager of sister station WRIF in Detroit, to New York to manage WPLJ. Lochridge then brought Larry Berger, Program Director of WRIF, to WPLJ.
Larry Berger took over as Program Director of WPLJ in 1974, and the station adopted the slogan "New York's Best Rock". Some of the personalities on the station during this period included Jim Kerr, Pat St. John, Jimmy Fink, Carol Miller, Tony Pigg, John Zacherle, and Dave Charity. Berger himself hosted a Sunday night call-in show, during which he would discuss the station with listeners, but would decline to discuss the specifics of the music playlist, something many listeners were concerned with. During these call-in segments, callers suggested that the station sped up or "pitched up" the music so that they could fit in more commercials while still being able to claim that they played a large number of songs per hour. Berger repeatedly denied that this practice was in use at WPLJ. In the 20 September 1999 episode of Crap from the Past, host Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber suggested that music was sped up on WPLJ to make the same music sound less dynamic on other stations.
Another Sunday night show begun in 1975 was then-Father Bill Ayres' long-running On This Rock, which mixed spirituality and social consciousness together with the music of Harry Chapin, Bob Seger, and others. Bill Ayres was a Roman Catholic Priest with the Archdiocese of New York City. The show also aired on its sister station WABC on Sunday mornings within the last years of its Top 40 music format. Bill Ayres eventually left the priesthood in the 1980s but continues to host a call in Sunday night show today on the station. The WPLJ logo from the late 1970s.By 1977, WPLJ tended to emphasize hard rock artists such as Led Zeppelin (there was a nightly "Get the Led Out" segment), Black Sabbath, Rush, Kansas, Boston, and Queen, who happened to get less airplay than on competing station WNEW-FM. At this point, the station stopped playing pop songs, and their audience ratings remained good.
During its album-oriented phase, the station was noted for its promotional montages, snippets of classic-rock songs spliced together emphasizing a particular subject, such as gasoline (during the gas shortages of the 1970s).
In 1982, WPLJ got a direct competitor in WAPP, which adopted a near-identical AOR format to WPLJ (WAPP launnched its rock format commercial-free and remained so for the summer of 1982). WAPP beat WPLJ in the ratings in the Fall of 1982, and WPLJ reacted by adding more New Wave such as A Flock of Seagulls, Dexy's Midnight Runners, The Go-Go's, Elvis Costello, Men at Work and Soft Cell, mixed in with the usual AOR fare. WPLJ's ratings ended up being better than those of WAPP after WAPP started playing commercials in the Fall of 1982. In early 1983, the station added "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, playing it several times a day (note that many AOR stations including WNEW-FM added that song and it did chart on the rock tracks chart). In March, WPLJ added "Beat it" by Michael Jackson, which received very positive reaction. While Jackson was not a typical AOR artist, that cut was played by many AOR stations due to Eddie Van Halen's role in the song. The station also dropped most 1960s songs by May and was cutting back on AOR artists while playing more modern rockers.
In the Spring of 1983 the station began a transition from AOR to CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio). With word that a Top 40 hits format was coming to 100.3 FM, WPLJ moved further into a CHR direction. Though the station began playing artists like Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, Larry Berger stated that he did not make the decision to move to a CHR format until the last week of June, and WPLJ adopted a Rock leaning CHR format on June 30, 1983. At this point the station played predominantly AOR and New Wave rock cuts but would mix in two or three rhythmic pop cuts like "Flashdance"/Irene Cara, "Time"/Culture Club, "She Works Hard for the Money"/Donna Summer, and a few others. The station maintained its "New York's Best Rock" slogan, even though the station moved away from playing predominantly rock songs. Larry Berger discussed the changes on his call-in show in July of 1983, to the disapproving reaction from the rock audience. (Competitors WNBC had been a defacto Top 40 AM station while WYNY had been the de-facto FM hits station throughout the early 1980s, playing many current songs as part of their hot adult-contemporary format). WPLJ's airstaff, which stayed on during the early transition months, would gradually change, as WNEW-FM picked up some of the station's best-known rock DJs, such as Carol Miller and Pat St. John. (Morning man Jim Kerr and sidekick Shelli Sonstein would remain with the station through the end of the decade.) Jimmy Fink, Tony Pigg and Marc Coppola eventually moved to Infinity Broadcasting's rock K-Rock (WXRK) when it debuted a couple of years later.
In August 1982, at the same time WHTZ (Z100) was launched across town, WPLJ was known as "The Home of the Hits" and in October added top-forty-type jingles. So in a way it was "New York's Hit Music Station" just before Z-100 went on the air. The following spring, WPLJ identified itself very briefly as 'The new Musicradio PLJ' before switching to 'Hitradio 95' WPLJ just a few days later. In 1985, the station became known on-air as "Power 95". Ratings went up after switching to CHR, though they were still just behind Z100 most of the time. The double-whammy of Top 40 on one end and light-music WLTW proved the kiss of death for the AC format on WYNY, which eventually went country.
In December 1987, the station changed its call letters to WWPR (to complement its "Power 95.5" slogan), but flipped the call sign back to WPLJ the following year when research indicated that listeners still identified 95.5 as WPLJ. (It has been said that competitor Z100 joked before WPLJ's call letter change that the "PR" in the calls stood for "Puerto Rican" and that the station planned to flip to Spanish.) 105.1 in New York City later adopted the WWPR-FM call sign for its urban pop format.
WPLJ continued to be successful until 1990, when ratings started to decline. With significant pop competition - Hot 97 playing dance and urban pop songs, and Z100 playing mainstream pop music - WPLJ began to lean towards pop-rock hits. Larry Berger departed the station in 1988, replaced in early 1989 by Gary Bryan from KUBE in Seattle. Bryan served as program director and ultimately morning show host, ousting 20-year WPLJ morning host veteran Jim Kerr. Bryan lasted barely a year at WPLJ, then crossing the street to competitor Z100 for Morning Zoo host duty. Bryan was replaced by Tom Cuddy as VP of Programming, who installed Rocky Allen from WKSE in Buffalo for morning drive. WPLJ began to regain some momentum but in a stunning move in the Spring of '91, Cuddy and general manager Mitch Dolan hired Scott Shannon, who had just left his rock hits LA radio project, Pirate Radio. Shannon, the architect responsible for Z100's early success and their first legendary Morning Zoo host, took over as WPLJ's program director and morning show host (replacing Rocky Allen) in April 1991. The station began referring to itself as "Mojo Radio" in the spring of 1991.
Since 1991, the morning drive slot at WPLJ has been hosted by Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill, and is known as the Scott and Todd Big Show. It has about one million listeners per week, and its trademark segments include "Knuckleheads in the News", "Phone Scams", and song parodies. By the fall of 1991, the station played mainstream pop music, and ratings went up slightly. This period also saw the formation of the standard bearer hot adult contemporary format - at about the same time a slightly different version was being pioneered in Houston at KHMX. In an attempt to differentiate itself from its competitors, WPLJ adopted the slogan "No Rap, No Hard Stuff, No Sleepy Elevator Music, Just the Best Songs On the Radio."
The station playlist featured many songs familiar only to New Yorkers and "oh wow" type oldies that would not have been normal for the format in other markets. (In a bit of irony, WPLJ may have helped pioneer many of the concepts made popular by the diverse playlist, music-intense Jack FM format of 2005.) WPLJ now mixed in liberal doses of disco and did regular theme weekends featuring "One Hit Wonders" and "#1 Songs" among others. Eventually, it also dedicated Monday-Saturday nights to playing nothing but 1970s music, with former WKTU legend Al Bandiero, a practice that continued for the next few years. In the mid-1990s, Rocky Allen returned to WPLJ, this time to do afternoon drive for several years until moving to WABC for the morning drive slot. Allen returned again to WPLJ in late 2005.
In January 1999, WPLJ abruptly moved to a modern adult contemporary (Modern AC) format, a variation of the Hot AC format. The station eliminated all 1970s music from the playlist and used the slogan "New York's Hit Music Station Without the Rap" in an attempt to distance themselves from competitors that played rap music. But, the "modern AC" had peaked in 1997-98 and the station transitioned back to a hot adult contemporary format, with its playlist consisting of songs from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
In 2005, with ratings in decline, WPLJ once again started to play more music from the 1970s and 1980s. Given its heritage as both a rock station in the 1970s and for championing a novel hot AC mix in the early and mid-1990s, many people in the radio business saw this move as a precursor to the station switching to a "Jack FM"-type format. However, they were beaten by WCBS-FM, which abruptly switched from oldies to the 'Jack' format on June 3, 2005. WPLJ returned to playing music of the late 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and the present.
While not an overall ratings success, WPLJ has for years been among the more financially successful stations in the New York City market, billing in excess of 40 million dollars per year. WPLJ does extremely well with adult women in the lucrative nine northern New Jersey counties adjacent to New York City.
During its Top 40 hit years, WPLJ used jingles from JAM Creative Productions, some of which were packages previously used on sister station WABC during its Top 40 days, but since becoming a Hot AC station, WPLJ has used jingles from TM Studios.
In late February 2008 the Rocky Allen Showgram featuring Rocky Allen and Blain Ensley was dropped as part of a company-wide series of staff cutbacks at Citadel. WPLJ's digital HD2 channel broadcasts programming from Scott Shannon's The True Oldies Channel from ABC Radio, while their HD3 channel is a simulcast of WABC. On February 16, 2009 WPLJ started airing the syndicated program The Billy Bush Show.
In April 2009 WPLJ adopted a new slogan, "Scott and Todd in the Morning and Today's Best Music."
WPLJ introduced a new logo in July 2009. This logo of WPLJ was used from the mid-2000s until July 2009.In October 2009, Scott and Todd introduced a new feature on their morning show called "Coop's Sandwich Shop." The feature airs on Thursday mornings.
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Former On-Air PersonalitiesEdit
Saturday Night '80s (1998–2010)
- ^ An aircheck of this was aired on WABC's Rewound 2008 show, hour 11
- ^ Fybush, Scott (2008-03-03). "Thie Week's Bloodbath: Citadel". NorthEast Radio Watch. http://www.fybush.com/NERW/2008/080303/nerw.html.
- ^ "Radio Stations". Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel. Archived from the original on July 28, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080728203304/http://www.trueoldieschannel.com/html/stations.html. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
- ^ "Billy Bush: Radio Stations". 2009-02-16. http://www.billybushshow.com/stationfinder?state=NY&ACTION%28stateSearch%29=Search. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
- ^ "Facebook - Coops Sandwich Shop". http://www.facebook.com/CoopShop. Retrieved October 2009.
- ^ http://www.plj.com/staff.asp