From August 2, 1983 through early 1989, he was a household name across the New York Tri-State Area as the “head Zookeeper” at the legendary Top 40 station he built from scratch under Malrite Communications ownership — WHTZ “Z100.”
From mid-1991 through February 7, 2014, he was the lead morning host, for many years with Todd Pettingill, at crosstown WPLJ-FM. On that date, Shannon “retired,” even noting that he would perhaps “pop back in from time to time and try to get Todd to play a Rascals song or two.”
That “retirement” turned out to be a deep fake. With WPLJ no longer owned by ABC, the company that hired Shannon, and under the leadership of then-Cumulus Media EVP/co-COO John Dickey, Shannon would reemerge on March 3, 2014 as the new morning host of WCBS-FM. Among the first songs he infamously played: “Backstabbers” by the O’Jays, seemingly in reference to his ex-employer.
Today, some 8 1/2 years after agreeing to host “The Big Show” with another market veteran, Patty Steele, Shannon is preparing for what will likely be his true retirement from daily morning radio.
Shannon announced this morning to listeners that he has decided to step down from his Monday through Friday wakeup role at WCBS-FM. His final show is scheduled for Friday, December 16.
In concert with the on-air announcement, Audacy Corp.’s New York Market President, Chris Oliviero, sent a memo to his staff.
“Scott is synonymous with FM radio in New York City, having achieved unmatched success at three spots across the dial,” he wrote. “The journey began first at Z100, then at ‘95.5 PLJ’ and of course for the past eight years right here with us at CBS-FM. Name a Hall of Fame and Scott is in it, from the NAB in Washington, D.C., to the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago. He even had his remarkable career chronicled in a recent documentary, “Worst to First: The True Story of Z-100.” We look forward to celebrating with Scott, Patty and the entire ‘Big Show’ in the weeks ahead.”
Shannon had signed a contract extension with Audacy Corp., then-known as Entercom, in September 2020. That deal saw Shannon also continue to host the syndicated weekend program America’s Greatest Hits.
This will continue, keeping Shannon’s voice on the radio for the foreseeable future. At WCBS-FM, the syndicated program airs on Sunday mornings.
Additionally, the Shannon-created and Shannon-voiced “True Oldies Channel” will continue. In New York, it can be found on WCBS-FM HD3.
FROM MOBILE TO THE BIG APPLE
Scott Shannon’s career began thanks to Bernie Dittman, the man who owned WABB in Mobile. Shannon hosted the nighttime program, and the ratings were astounding. This was in 1968. When he left, Shannon had an 82 share in the Pulse ratings, then an industry standard.
In the Summer of ’69, Shannon moved from Mobile to Music City U.S.A. There, as the fast-talking “Super Shan,” he took the nighttime slot at WMAK-AM 1300 in Nashville. That success led Shannon to be crowned “America’s Number One disc jockey” by 16 Magazine in 1974.
His tenure there would lead to a long tenure with Mooney Broadcasting. In this role, he led programming for WERC/Birmingham; WKGN/Knoxville; WBSR/Pensacola, Fla.; and WUNO in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
By October 1975, with a more refined delivery, Shannon was the Program Director and afternoon host at gold-driven Top 40 WQXI-AM 790 in Atlanta, with longtime friend Coyote McCloud in nights.
In fall 1977, Shannon said goodbye to radio programming and hosting, taking a role with Casablanca Record & Film Works and Ariola Records. This saw him work with acts including Amii Stewart (“Knock on Wood”) and KISS, as well as Donna Summer and The Village People.
On March 26, 1979, that all changed, as Shannon was appointed Program Director of WPGC-AM & FM in Washington, D.C. under First Media Corp. ownership. With Jim Elliott and Scott Woodside in mornings and Don Geronimo brought on for nights in Fall 1979, Shannon supercharged the station, which was engaged in a fierce battle with Rock-fueled WRQX “Q107.” Shannon even hosted a Sunday Night Oldies Show, perhaps the precursor to his development decades later of the “True Oldies Channel.”
As 1981 began, Shannon resigned from his WPGC role. OM Steve Kingston took over on an acting basis. His next role: Teaming with Cleveland Wheeler to create the “Q-Zoo” at WRBQ-FM “Q105” in Tampa, Shannon’s programming prowess created a ratings monster, battling Rocker WYNF-FM with a successful Top 40 format in an era when Contemporary Hit Radio had hit a post-Disco low.
By February 1983, with Q105 segueing from Ronnie Milsap to Duran Duran and Mason Dixon in afternoons, the Gary Edens-owned station dominated Tampa Bay.
That caught the attention of Milton Maltz, whose Malrite Communications had successfully purchased WVNJ-FM 100.3 in Newark, N.J., which had the ability to relocate its transmitter to the top of the Empire State Building. In late June 1983, Malrite announced that it had hired Shannon to program the forthcoming FM, which would serve the New York metropolitan area under new call letters “WHTZ.”
Malrite President Carl Hirsch commented on Shannon’s appointment by telling Radio & Records, “We did an extensive research job to verify what our number one programming concept was for New York, and CHR was the obvious choice. We then looked to the obvious choice to program the station, and it was Scott Shannon, both in our eyes and in the eyes of the industry. We’re the kind of company that attracts individuals who are capable of doing their own thing, and Scott fits right into our company. We’re very confident that we’re going to become the most listened-to station in America.”
That prophesy turned out to be correct, as Z100 debuted on August 2, 1983, signed on its “Flamethrower” transmitter in New York days later, and famously went from “worst to first.”
Shannon would exit Z100 in January 1989 to take on a role with Westwood One. That saw him sign-on KQLZ-FM “Pirate Radio 100.3” in Los Angeles on St. Patrick’s Day 1989. However, that project was ultimately unsuccessful, and two years later he was back in New York, at WPLJ — the station he lampooned while at Z100.
Now, after decades of 3:15 am wake up calls, “he has earned the right to sleep in,” Audacy’s Oliviero said.