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Scott Shannon, Pioneering Radio Figure, Abruptly Departs WPLJ

Scott Shannon poses with singer/songwriter John Mayer. Scott was massively influential on the local music scene.

Scott Shannon poses with singer/songwriter John Mayer. Scott was massively influential on the local music scene.

Scott Shannon, one of the founding fathers of New York pop music radio, abruptly announced his retirement last week in New York City. Is this another case of commercialism triumphing over independent programming? Could be.

Shannon has been a pillar of New York radio since 1984 when he took New York’s Z100 radio station from “worst to first,” in a mere 73 days.

The ratings triumph still inspires awed tones in radio circles. He founded the Z Morning Zoo there as well and served as one of the first VJs on then fledgling cable music network VH1.

Shannon has radio in his blood. Born is St. Louis, he’s always claimed that he was destined for the medium. He lived in numerous cities as an army brat, gaining a perspective on culture that few rooted in one town have the opportunity to experience.

He made reel-to-reel tapes in the family basement and dropped out of high school to take his first radio gig. His career was interrupted briefly when he was drafted into the Army. But his military stint also helped lay the groundwork for his radio career.

His first real broadcast job came at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, where he worked the weekend shifts at WFBS.

From there he worked at several local stations and earned the nickname “SuperShan.” He next took Atlanta by storm at WQXI. He added to his growing reputation by taking the station to #2 in the crowded radio market.

In the late ’70s, he joined then-legendary Casablanca Records, headed by the late-visionary Neil Bogart.

He worked on projects from the likes of KISS, Donna Summer to then new group, The Village People. He also worked on film soundtracks like “The Deep,” “Midnight Express” and “Thank God It’s Friday.”

In 1989, he left Z100 to start Pirate Radio, a bold experiment to broadcast from an off-shore location to skirt censorship regulations.

When it didn’t pan out, he landed back in New York City on WPLJ. He became programming director and co-host of “Scott & Todd in the Morning” with Todd Pettengill.

He’s departure from the station marks another turn in the evolution of local radio, which hasn’t boded well for independent programming in the face of the industry’s extensive consolidation.

Over his career, Scott’s influence has been massive. He was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2003 and is among several radio personalities honored with a special exhibit at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Plus, he’s always been one of the nicer guys in radio. known for its shark-like corporate culture. And, I can tell you one thing for sure, Scott Shannon ain’t done with radio.

Names in the News

Paul Mormando, Nate Alpert, Lenny Beer, Roy Trakin, Deb Caponetta, Heather Moore, Randy Alexander, Anthony Pomes, Steve Walter, Debbie Gibson, Nicholas Lampiasi, David Salidor, Alan Rothstein, Ham Radio, Mark Alpert, Seth Siwrsky, Donnie Kehr, Jodi Blau Ritzen, Micky Dolenz.

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