New York’s Legendary WPLJ-FM to Sign Off Friday

Legendary New York radio station WPLJ — which launched in 1971 as a pioneering AOR (album oriented rock) station, then embraced the MTV-inspired new wave movement of the early ‘80s and eventually morphed into a hot adult contemporary outlet — will go dark Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

The frequency, acquired from Cumulus Media by leading religious programmers Educational Media Foundation earlier this year, will immediately transition into a contemporary Christian music station, an affiliate of the national K-LOVE network.

WPLJ was one of several stations EMF picked up for more than $100 million from Cumulus, along with such familiar call letters as news/talk station WYAY in Atlanta; Hot AC outlet WRQX (Mix 107.3) in Washington DC; Triple-A station KFFG in San Jose, Calif.; Hot AC station WZAT (102.1 The Sound) in Savannah, Ga.; and Classic Rocker WXTL (The Rebel 105.9) in Syracuse, N.Y.

This week, the station celebrated its almost-half century-long run by hosting former DJs and staffers on the air, while offering commemorative T-shirts boasting the outlet’s logos over the years. Among the on-air personalities who called in were Scott Shannon (along with co-hosts Patty Steele, Joe Nolan, weatherman Bill Evans and Brad Blanks) and Jim Kerr, now the morning man at iHeartMedia’s New York classic rocker WAXQ (Q104.3). Others who visited the studio included former WPLJ President/GM Mitch Dolan, ex-PD Tom Cuddy (now at crosstown WOR-AM) and past APD/.MDE Louie Diaz (now Cumulus VP Contemporary Programming and PD at WWWQ Atlanta).

The station has been marking its imminent demise by playing classic drops, station IDs and promos.

The last time WPLJ went off the air, it was for 15 minutes after John Lennon’s murder in December 1980, at the request of Yoko Ono herself.

Fans took to Facebook to express their feelings. Posted Randy Shaffer, “WPLJ has been a part of my mornings for the last 20 years and I feel like I’m losing a limb. I will miss you all.”

Current morning show host Todd Pettengill will record the station’s final goodbye, which he says, “should be a thank you for your loyalty and for listening all these years… See you later.”

WPLJ’s call letters came from the name of the first track on the 1971 Mothers of Invention album, “Burnt Weeny Sandwich,” based on a song by one of Frank Zappa’s favorite northern California R&B doo-wop groups, The Four Deuces, which stood for “white port and lemon juice.”

Using the tag line, “Rock ‘N Stereo,” the then-ABC-Radio-owned station was one of the first of the emerging AOR formats, playing such classic rockers as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Steely Dan, Elton John, David Bowie and the Allman Brothers, along with softer pop-rock by James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Carly Simon, separating itself from the Top 40 of the time by playing deeper album cuts under the direction of legendary program director Larry Berger, who passed away last October.

The station segued into a CHR/Top 40 direction in 1983, temporarily changing its call letter to WWPR (Power 95) before switching back to WPLJ a year later after listener research showed the audience identified with the well-known moniker.  By 1992, the station adopted the Hot AC format with the slogan, “No Rap. No Hard Stuff, No Sleepy Elevator Music. Just the Best Songs on the Radio,” with Scott Shannon and Pettengill manning the morning show until 2014, when Shannon retired after 22 years at the station, leaving Pettengill to go it alone until Jayde Donovan joined him as co-host in 2015.

Tweeted current WPLJ on-air personality Race Taylor: “It’s official. Goodbyes are hard. This one’s going to hurt a little. Okay, a lot #EndofanEra.”

More Music

  • Marc Byers

    Execs from Motown, Live Nation, Recording Academy Set to Speak at Culture Creators' Inaugural C2 Summit

    Culture Creators, the organization which recognizes minorities in film, television, music and fashion, is holding its first-ever C2 Summit on Oct. 21 in Washington D.C. Its mission: to engage, mentor, and provide recruitment opportunities to students of color attending historically black colleges and universities. Students were selected from an application process and will participate in [...]

  • Rami Dawod SESAC

    SESAC Toasts Rami Dawod as Pop Songwriter of the Year

    Camila Cabello’s “Never Be The Same” and “Electricity” by Mark Ronson and Silk City featuring Dua Lipa are just a few of the co-writing credits celebrated during an October 16 dinner at Nobu Malibu hosted by SESAC in honor of Rami Dawod. Named Pop Songwriter of the Year by the performance rights organization, Dawod is [...]

  • Luis Fonsi Erika Ender Latin Grammys

    The Second Latin Explosion: How 'Despacito' Ushered in a New Generation of Stars

    Music is an ever-evolving art, and for the Latin Recording Academy, that’s meant riding multiple waves of attention. The most recent arrived with the stratospheric success of “Despacito,” which kicked off a second Latin Explosion with full force in 2017. The Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee hit, later featuring verses by Justin Bieber, made Latin [...]

  • Ricky Martin Celia Cruz Gloria Estefan

    From Idea to Legacy: Latin Grammy Awards Mark 20 Years of Global Recognition

    The idea of creating a separate organization to honor the diversity of Latin music was a discussion that took place for years before it actually happened, but an event driven by one of pop music’s most important crossover artists solidified it. During the 41st Grammy Awards ceremony, a young Ricky Martin was scheduled to perform [...]

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

  • BTS 'Good Morning America' TV show,

    BTS Show Love for Lauv and Their Army of Fans in Video for Reworked 'Make It Right'

    Early Friday morning (Oct. 18), BTS gave fans a taste of what their upcoming “comeback” (Korean pop terminology for new music) may be like with a reworked version of “Make It Right.” The Korean boy band collaborated with the American singer-songwriter Lauv, who starts the soulful ballad off with a verse in English. Advocates for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content