(By Art Vuolo) It was probably at one of the many radio conventions I attended back in the 1970s that I first met Scott. We’ve known each other through slim days, overweight days, beards and clean-shaven, single and married, through failure and success. However, my biggest stunner came the day I found out that Scott Shannon, Jeff Smulyan, and myself were all in high school at the same time, and in the same city — at three different schools in Indianapolis. None of us knew one another, but we all do now. Scott was an “Army brat” with a dad in the military and moved around a lot. Indy is where he attended high school and he considers it his hometown (he was actually born in St. Louis).
Personally, my greatest affection for this multi-talented broadcaster is due to the fact that it was he who in the mid- 1970s dubbed me “Radio’s Best Friend.” It was, however, voice talent supreme John Leader who first put it in print, in May of 1985, when he was writing Street Talk in Radio & Records.
Because of my deep love of some oftmissing elements — entertainment and personality — I admired what Mr. Shannon did for radio. He made it fun again during an era when CHR, especially, was in a slump, and music was nearly absent from AM radio as the vast majority of the audience was shifting to FM.
But there was life before WHTZ (Z100)/ New York. When he was Super Shan, a screaming nighttime jock at WABB-AM in Mobile, Alabama, Shannon had a 72 share in the Pulse ratings! After a stop at WMPS-AM in Memphis, the highenergy DJ hit Nashville at WMAK-AM, and then the legendary WQXI/Atlanta (known as “Quixie in Dixie.”) Next was WPGC in
In 1979, Shannon migrated to Tampa’sn WRBQ (Q105) and teamed with Cleveland Wheeler, and the two developed the concept of the seemingly outta-control morning fun fest known as the Q Morning Zoo. As this insanity exploded into massive popularity in the Sunshine State, it caught the attention of Milton Maltz, CEO of Malrite Communications, which at the time owned WMMS and WHK up in Cleveland.
Malrite was purchasing sleepy WVNJ-FM in Newark, New Jersey, and since WABC had bowed out as Top 40 “Musicradio 77” with a flip to News/Talk, they felt the time was “Mal-right” for a change and that 100.3 FM could dent the pop music scene in America’s biggest market. So they went after Scott Shannon.
Tampa listeners were literally in tears and there was considerable TV coverage as Scott flew off to the Big Apple, where he faced criticism from writers who felt this “Southern hillbilly” shouldn’t even try to make it in Gotham. Columnist George Maksian in the New York Daily News wrote, “I hope he bought a round-trip ticket.” Shannon’s subsequent success in NYC is well-documented, with 18 number one books at Z100.
That led to an attractive offer in 1988 to do the same thing in L.A., at KQLZ-FM (Pirate Radio), but the demographics of SoCal and Manhattan are worlds apart, and after a gallant attempt, Scott was back East — at the very station he’d mocked as “Wimp Radio,” WPLJ-FM. He re-branded it as MoJo Radio for 90 days, then teamed up with Todd Pettengill and wound up staying there for nearly a quarter-century. He’s now a certified radio icon, doing mornings at America’s most popular Classic Hits station, WCBS-FM/New York (so he didn’t need that round-trip plane ticket). Scott also maintains a syndicated radio format known as “True Oldies,” which has been the saving grace for a number of struggling AM stations. When asked about his days at WPLJ, Shannon says, “I had 22 great years there. Unfortunately, I was there 23 years!”
Shannon has been married to his wife, Trish, for 32 years, lives in Westchester County, New York, and has one daughter, Kathleen, who works as an attorney in DC. On his way home he often listens to last month’s profile, Phlash Phelps, on the SiriusXM ’60s channel. Scott Shannon sounds good, looks good, feels good, and is as good as they get as he continues to have fun in a business he still loves.
Art Vuolo can be reached at [email protected]