Program Director Larry Berger Explains New Format, WPLJ New York | July 1983

95.5 New York WPLJ AOR

Those who’ve been in the radio industry for a long time probably remember the day WPLJ flipped from Rock to CHR. Many even remember former WPLJ jock Carol Miller’s comments to a trade publication of the day (which escapes your webmaster at the moment) saying that WPLJ wanted to switch formats while on top – it WAS the top rated AOR formatted station of the day.

“Lets Hear It” was a forum in which Program Director Larry Berger could talk to the audience and get a feel for what they were thinking about WPLJ at the time. What station would do that today? Back in 1983, Berger used this forum to explain the impending format change to CHR, and why the station was going in that direction. Whether this was the real reason or not, he sure made the case that WPLJ needed to change, as the times were changing along with it.

Courtesy of our old site contributor friend Neal Bowden, whom we haven’t heard from for a while, this really is a MUST LISTEN… it dispels many myths of not only WPLJ, but many former AOR stations that either went CHR or to Classic Rock. You won’t learn this in college…


  1. MGD4Ever

    This was a very intriguing listen. Thanks so much for posting it. This is only my opinion, but I think Berger’s main mistake when switching from AOR to CHR was not going for it full force right from the get go. During July 1983, many of the AOR jocks were still on WPLJ, presenting the new CHR music in a very AOR way. It was extremely awkward to listen to. I think that, if on July 1, they came screaming out of the box with a full-blown CHR presentation, they would have had a real leg up on Z100 by the time they hit the air in August, but because they were still trying to hold on to their AOR listeners while trying to be a CHR station, Z100 ran over WPLJ like a steam roller.

  2. chris t

    I think what Larry Berger did not understand is the loyalty that the WPLJ rock fans (audience) had for their rock station. It was a cultural thing for many New York youth in the 1970s and early 1980s. Granted, rock and rock n roll are broad terms that encompass a wide variety of music. And music as with tastes change and grow. Perhaps a better way for the station to have grown with the audience would have been to mix the old with the new more extensively than it did. But that does not mean that the station should have sold out by playing flash in the pan pop songs for the sake of comercial expediency as it did. I believe this was a big blow to the cultural identity WPLJ’s former rock listening audience and the reason why so many were disappointed.

  3. Seederman

    I remember this broadcast, and listened to it as it happened in 1983. I felt it was such a betrayal. I realized they had no choice really, but it stung me, as a young rock listener. I hated how Berger seemed to belittle the very music his listeners liked, almost calling them narrow-minded. When I changed the station after this broadcast, I never turned it back to 95.5 again.

  4. ShamanX

    I grew up in NJ and was Just shy of 18 that summer. WPLJ was my favorite radio station and I remember tuning in while driving one day and yelling WTF is this $#!t!

    It was my first experience with corporate music and its utter betrayal of listener loyalty. WNEW was there… and although I could enjoy progressive rock it wasn’t enough all by itself.

    Then there was the commercial-free summer with the new WAPP.. but I don’t know whatever happened to that.. The whole thing was a drag. Bad memory.

  5. don roberts

    I grew up in Fair Lawn NJ across from Larry Berger’s house. He had a one tube transmitter that he built from aLafeyett Electronics kit. He would transmit radio shoes on weekends in town. We both went to YMCA camp I Stockholm NJ.He would transmit music shoes on parents visitersaturdays.. The last I heard from Larry wAS back around 1980. I called him to play a song for my Wife. That was the last I heard from him. Several years later I was told he was replaced and mo
    ved to San Francisco. Has any one heard from him?

  6. Gary Kerns

    Yes it did. However, I think WABC will be THE Top-40 station of all time. When it (WABC) went news/talk in ’82, WNBC (AM) was the only top 40 station in NYC until ‘PLJ flipped. I read the other day at Wikipedia that WHTZ averages a 7 share, so that would tend to support what I said at the beginning of my post, about WABC. WBMP (92.3) was CHR for a few years, dropping the format earlier this year, averaging only a 2 share. Z100 will be NYC’s main (if not only) CHR outlet for the next several years at least.

  7. Jon Brooks

    Nailed it. Larry should’ve changed the calls to WABC-FM, hired a team of talented CHR jocks from other markets, and held off Z-100.

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