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WPLJ (95.5 FM) is a radio station in New York Citymarker. WPLJ is the flagship FM station of Citadel Broadcasting Corporation. WPLJ shares studio facilities with sister station WABCmarker (770 AM) and former sister stations WEPNmarker (1050 AM) and WQEWmarker (1560 AM) in midtown Manhattanmarker, and its transmitter is atop the Empire State Buildingmarker. The station currently plays the Hot Adult Contemporary music format also called "Hot AC". It is the home of the Scott and Todd in the Morning show.

Station history

Early years

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 automatedbasis and carried New York Mets Baseball games. They also simulcast AM sister station WABCmarker 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 hoursof 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 Voicecolumnist, Howard Smith, was hired to do recorded interviews with the counter-culture iconsof that period: John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Andy Warhol, Abbie Hoffman, BillGraham, Peter Fonda, and many others. In 1970 Shaw hired Bob Lewis, known as "Bob-A-Lu" onWABC-AM, 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 Eastmarker theatre on June 27, 1971.

AOR years

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, andWPLJ became New York's most listened-to FM rock station for most of the decade of 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 to discuss the station with listeners, but would refuse to discuss the playlist, which was the primary thing most listeners cared about. During these call-in segments, Berger was also accused by many callers of "pitching 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 of course repeatedly denied these accusations. In the 20 September 1999 episode of Crap from the Past, host Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber (unrelated) suggested that this practice was actually used to train listeners' ears to find the same music played on other stations to sound strange, thus returning them to WPLJ.

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 WABCmarker 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 1970's.
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 that point, the station stopped playing pop songs, and their audience ratings were very good.

During its album-oriented phase, it was most noted for its "montages"; snippets of classic-rock songs were spliced together around a particular subject, such as gasoline (during the gas shortages of the 1970s).

In 1982, WPLJ got competition with WAPP, which happened to have identical AOR format (WAPP was commercial-free in the summer of 1982). WAPP beat WPLJ in the ratings that fall, and WPLJ reacted by adding more New Wave such as A Flock of Seagulls, Dexys Midnight Runners, The Go-Go's, Elvis Costello, Men at Work and Soft Cell, mixed in with the usual AOR fare. Their ratings would end up being better than those of WAPP, after WAPP started adding commercials. 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 he 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 1960's songs by May and was cutting back on AOR artists while playing more modern rockers.

During this time WPLJ's logo was very similar to its sister station KLOS in Los Angelesmarker.

CHR and Hot AC years

In the Spring of 1983 the station began a transition from AOR to CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio). As 1983 progressed, and with word that a CHR format was coming to 100.3 FM up the dial, 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. It finally crossed the line from AOR to Rock leaning CHR 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. In a sense WPLJ was the first FM station since 1979 to go to a Top 40 format of some sort. However, the station still called itself "New York's Best Rock", even though the station was going to be moving away from playing a lot of rock songs. That July, Larry Berger discussed the changes on his call-in show, to a disapproving reaction from the traditionalist rock audience. (Competitors WNBCmarker had been a defacto Top 40 AM station while WYNYmarker had been the de-facto FM hits station throughout the early 1980s, playing many current songs as part of their hot adult-contemporary format). The station'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 DJs, such as Carol Miller and Pat St. John. (Morning man Jim Kerr and sidekick Shelli Sonstein would remain with the station into the end of the decade.) Jimmy Fink, Tony Pigg and Marc Coppola could be heard a couple of years later at Infinity Broadcasting's K-Rock (WXRK).

That August, 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-100marker 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 (World Wide Power Radio), but the call sign reverted back to WPLJ the following year, because the change had caused confusion among listeners. (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.) Today, another station in the market, 105.1, uses the WWPR-FM call sign.

The station continued to be successful until 1990, when ratings slowly went down. While Hot 97marker at this time tended to play more dance and urban songs, and Z100 played mainstream pop music, WPLJ leaned slightly towards rock. Larry Berger had left the station in 1988, replaced in early 1989 by Gary Bryan from KUBE in Seattle, who was program director and ultimately, morning show host, having ousted 20 year morning host Jim Kerr. Bryan lasted barely a year, before giving up and crossing the street to Z100 for Morning Zoo host chores. 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 novel attempt at LA radio, Pirate Radio. Shannon was the architect responsible for Z100's success and legendary Morning Zoo host, and took over as WPLJ's program director and morning show host (replacing Rocky Allen) in April 1991, as the station's ratings were on the decline. The station referred to itself as "Mojo Radio" in the spring and summer of 1991.

The 1990s

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 was playing mainstream pop music, and ratings were up slightly. In the fall of 1991, began to develop one of the standard bearer hot adult contemporary formats, at about the same time a slightly different version was being pioneered in Houston at KHMX. In an attempt to differentiate itself, WPLJ adopted the slogan "No Rap, No Hard Stuff, No Sleepy Elevator Music, Just the Best Songs On the Radio."

The station was on the leading edge, including many songs familiar only to New Yorkers and "oh wow" type oldies that would not have been normal for the format. (In a bit of irony, WPLJ may have pioneered many of the concepts made popular by the Jack FM format of 2005.) It mixed in liberal doses of disco and did regular theme weekends featuring "One Hit Wonders" and "#1 Songs" among others. Eventually, it would also dedicate 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 PLJ in late 2005.

Modern AC years

In January 1999, WPLJ abruptly morphed to a modern adult contemporary format (or modern AC), (a variation of the Hot AC format) eliminating all 1970s music from their rotation in the process. The station at this time had 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 bloom was off "modern AC" which had peaked in '97-'98 and over time, the station returned to a hot adult contemporary format, with its playlist consisting of songs from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

With ratings in decline, WPLJ started to play more music from the 1970s and 1980s in 2005. 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 for the station to switch to a "Jack FM"-type format. However, they were beaten by WCBS-FM, which switched from oldies to Jack FM on June 3, 2005.

While not the obvious ratings success, WPLJ has for years been among the more financially successful stations in New York, billing in excess of 40 million dollars per year. While shunning the audience in New York City proper, (which is highly ethnic) WPLJ does extremely well with adult women in the lucrative 9 northern New Jersey counties, thus soldifying their financial status as one of New York's stronger stations.

During its CHR years WPLJ used jingles from JAM Creative Productions, some of which were notably jingle packages that had previously been used on WABC-AM, but since becoming a Hot AC station has used jingles from TM Studios.

WPLJ, along with sister station WABC-AMmarker, were included in the sale of ABC Radio and the ABC Radio Networks by the Walt Disney Company to Citadel, announced in February 2006 and finalized on June 12, 2007.

WPLJ today

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 HD2 channel broadcasts programming from Scott Shannon's The True Oldies Channel from ABC Radio, while their HD3 channel is a simulcast of sister station WABCmarker. On February 16, 2009 WPLJ started airing the syndicated program The Billy Bush Show.

WPLJ introduced a new logo in July, 2009.
This logo of WPLJ was used from the late 1990's until July, 2009


On-air personalities



References

  1. An aircheck of this was aired on WABC's Rewound 2008 show, hour 11


External links




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