In 1983, Madonna was just a girl knocking on doors and making an attempt to get her tune “Vacation” performed on the radio. She was so determined, she’d even make the journey out to Secaucus, NJ, the place the brand new radio station Z100 had simply elbowed its strategy to No. 1 in a crowded Large Apple market.
“In the future our music director got here in and mentioned, ‘There’s a girl out entrance who gained’t go away. She comes each Tuesday and he or she insists we’ve to play her report,’ ” recollects Scott Shannon within the new documentary “Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York.”
Shannon, who was this system director and host of the “Morning Zoo” present, mentioned the observe was standard within the golf equipment however hadn’t but hit the airwaves. Nonetheless, he mentioned he’d play it if she stopped calling on them.
“It turned a fairly large hit for us. We had been one of many first High 40 stations to play her tune. She was so appreciative she mentioned when she acquired massive, she’d pay us again. Nicely, we by no means thought she was going to be that massive,” Shannon, who now helms the morning slot at WCBS-FM, informed The Submit.
However the Materials Woman stayed true to her phrase.
After making the film “Who’s That Woman” in 1987, she struck a deal to permit Z100 to broadcast from the world premiere. “We had a stage constructed in the course of Instances Sq., and he or she got here out on this stunning white robe and greeted the group. There should have been 10,000 folks,” he mentioned.
It was a testomony to the facility of Z100, which turned a juggernaut and full-fledged anointer of pop and rock stars like Duran Duran, Bon Jovi and Debbie Gibson.
“We had been one of many first to play Debbie. Her mom was an excellent promoter. She drove me loopy,” Shannon mentioned of Gibson’s late mom Diane, who was relentless about making her daughter a star.
The last word underdog
However when the station launched in August 1983, it was the final word underdog. Led by Shannon — an outsider out of the Tampa, Florida, market — it was useless final within the Arbitron rankings. Initially, musicians wouldn’t enterprise out to its less-than-glamorous NJ location. Neither would the report corporations, so DJs had to purchase their very own music.
However in solely 74 days, the station went from worst to first.
The movie (now streaming on Apple and Amazon) explores how Shannon constructed a loyal viewers utilizing guerrilla advertising and marketing; a zany solid of characters on its morning present full with pranks and celeb impersonators; and smoke-and-mirror ways like boasting that they broadcasted from the highest of the Empire State constructing.
The reality was all of the radio stations did. “However no person says it,” he quipped.
Z100 had no advertising and marketing finances, so Shannon requested his listeners to make their very own bumper stickers and hold sheets with Z100 scrawled on it. They usually did it in droves. In essence, he created a viral second earlier than the idea existed.
“We invited our listeners to be part of our quest . . . It was a really informal and private strategy. It touched folks. We admitted we don’t have AccuWeather, so if it is advisable know the climate, look out the window within the morning. The opposite radio stations, pundits and consultants didn’t get it. It began out as a secret society,” mentioned Shannon.
Pranks with The Boss
On the station’s morning present, the crew concocted outlandish tales. One whopper was that Bruce Springsteen, who was wrapping up a tour on the Meadowlands, was nonetheless enjoying at 7 a.m. from the evening earlier than.
“We mentioned the band was sleeping onstage, and Bruce was enjoying his guitar. The parents on the Meadowlands known as and informed us to cease as a result of folks had been returning with their ticket stubs from the evening earlier than,” mentioned Shannon.
Once they did the inconceivable and hit No. 1, the story was splashed throughout the media. Shannon did the rounds with Regis and Oprah, and even landed on the duvet of New York Journal.
Quickly, the morning present turned a vacation spot for artists making an attempt to interrupt via. It was additionally the place Gibson acquired her trademark black felt hat — a present from fellow visitor and “Rock On” singer Michael Damian after she complimented him and tried it on.
“As soon as we acquired established, we turned the dominant pressure in report gross sales within the tri-state space,” mentioned Shannon.
They usually haven’t appeared again. Z100 stays wildly standard and influential and produces the Jingle Ball concert every year. For Shannon, who steered the pirate ship, its earliest days had been a whirlwind.
“It occurred so quick, I didn’t have an opportunity to get pleasure from it.”
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