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103.9 WWZZ/104.1 WWVZ - Z104

WWZZ/WWVZ (Z104) – Washington D.C. – 7/18/99 – Hollywood Haze, Billy Bush

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Recorded 17 years ago this month, here’s a great sample of the station that represented the Mainstream CHR format in our nation’s capital during the mid to late 90’s.  On this aircheck, Z104 offered a seemingly full-service approach, with traffic and weather elements alongside the music – which is particularly impressive considering that this was recorded on a Sunday evening.

Features a promo for the Bush League morning show, starring Billy Bush, who now has his own nationally syndicated program.

Z104, at least in its early days, offered a dance-friendly approach similar to nearby WXYV (102.7 ‘XYV) in Baltimore and KZQZ (Z95.7) in San Francisco; all three stations were consulted by Dan Vallie.

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  1. As an American University senior I wrote a report on the Top 40 void left by WAVA/Washington’s sale by Emmis to Salem in 1992-1994. My ideas were a bit, well, what you’d expect from a 22-year-old who thought he understood the radio business. While it won me a job at Radio & Records, my idea was to take WEBR, a Hot AC station that was born out of B/EZ WGAY, and flip it to CHR/Pop as “99.5 Web FM.” Of course the internet was new and hot and streaming audio was brand-new. My idea: marry radio with the ‘net and maximize dollars by going after teens and young adults who were left to go grunge with WHFS (whites did this) or embrace rap and hip-hop (blacks did this) with WPGC or Kiss. A few months into 1996, right after joining the R&R staff, Z104 was born out of Xtra 104, which had morphed to a bad ’70s hits formats after getting clobbered by Oldies 100 in the ratings. My first impressions were shocking: the research was the same as mine, but the execution was horrid because of 1) ownership by Bonneville, a.k.a. The LDS Church and 2) Dan Vallie, who went too young and too female and failed to make the station inviting to Mix 107.3 listeners who were tired of the safest station on the dial. Z104 went early on dance records that were unproven, yet did nothing to embrace the LGBT community. Billy Bush and L.A. Reid were good talents, but the station’s inferior signal (the addition of 103.9 in Frederick helped Montgomery County) and subpar programing were finally crushed when someone at Clear Channel got wind of my 1994 report and put “Hot 99.5” on the air. Using the same playbook as WBIG vs. WXTR, signal strength won the war. 104.1 is now gospel, under Radio One ownership, I believe. WIHT “Hot 99.5” today is a ratings monster, unchallenged and vulnerable to a “Payback’s a bitch” move. If I were Ken Steven’s replacement, I’d flip WIAD to “Wild 94.7” already since you have the call letters for such a name. 105.9 The Edge won’t to protect Mix, although it should. Meanwhile, Z104 will be largely remembered as a station that survived by going up against Mix with a good transition to Hot AC, and “George FM” was a great filler format that deserves a resurrection.

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