Farewell to WPLJ — a look back at my time at the iconic station
For those of us who knew and loved 95.5 WPLJ, our hearts are heavy. Friday, May 31st, this iconic radio station will sign off forever. As cliché as it sounds, the end of PLJ is truly the end of an era. I was a huge fan of the station way before I ever even dreamed of being in radio.
The summer that I was lucky enough to grace the airwaves of PLJ was in 1995. As I stepped off the train at Penn Station to get ready for the overnight shift, I was so nervous that I stopped to throw up in the Penn Station bathroom. (You know you’re sick if you’re using a Penn Station bathroom!) I mean, this was the home of SCOTT AND TODD!! NEW YORK’S BEST ROCK!! I could hardly believe my good fortune.
This was a moment in radio when you know you’ve truly made it. The PLJ studios sat, just like the announcer said “high atop Madison Square Garden,” so the train literally pulled into the building. The first night I was there, they put me up in a hotel of questionable quality right across the street. But who cared? A New York station was actually paying for my hotel room!
I remember the feeling of playing the theme song from Don Juan de Marco, Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” and then segueing into the friends theme song “I’ll be There for You” by The Rembrandts. Prior to this, my only radio experience had been at an oldies station so playing current hits for the first time was such a thrill. The first time I popped the mic and said “Ninety-Five-Five, Double-You P L J!” was like an out of body experience. I couldn’t believe I was actually saying those words.
That “W” pronunciation was paramount!! It couldn’t be “dubba-you”, or “dubba-ya”. I instinctively knew that wouldn’t cut it. The next day, in an air check meeting (where a program director goes over the tape from a show with you), Program Director Scott Shannon told me that as part of their new branding, they preferred to leave the “W” off altogether. How had I made that mistake?!
VP of Programming, Tom Cuddy was a great guy who gave me pre-show pep talks, and tried to ease my anxiety. The next night, I thought I nailed it. I said it so smoothly: “No rap, no hard stuff, no sleepy elevator music... just the best songs on the radio. 95-5, ‘PLJ! Then I played Seal's “Kiss from a Rose” followed by TLC’s “Waterfalls” (I’m bringing you back aren’t I?), a segue which in the next day's aircheck session was met with “have you ever segued two records in your life?”
I thought he was too tough. I realize now that I was in boot camp for big city radio. He taught me a lot. I’ll never forget my quick weather wrap up, “It’s 72 and rainy in New York City”, followed by an immediate flashing of the hotline in-studio phone. I pick it up and who’s on the line but Mr. Shannon. “There’s a window in your studio, right?”, he asked in a low, husky, annoyed drawl. “Yes, Scott”, I answered. “Ok why don’t you go look out of it and tell me where you see rain.” I gulped. It was 1:00 in the morning. I was reading a weather report. It never occurred to me to check!
As intimidating as Scott Shannon was, he was right to be pissed. This was the big time. New York is the number one radio market in the country, and here I am, not looking out the window!!! PLJ made me proud to be in radio, proud to be a disc jockey. And made me feel so lucky to be one of the few that gets to do what we do. I still have my first paystub from WPLJ in my memory box somewhere as a reminder of my first NYC radio experience—a sign that I had truly “made it” in my career. So not only will I never forget playing the hits on PLJ that summer, I’ll never forget listening to that legendary station, either. And most importantly, in the ensuing 22 years, I’ve never once forgotten to look out the window.
More from New Jersey 101.5: