History of WJPZ

Your Party Station has a rich history…

1973

WJPZ was officially signed on air in 1973 as a financially independent, commercial radio station. Our call letters were chosen to reflect those of WABC-FM, New York City: the #1 Top 40 radio station in the US. In 1977, WJPZ moved to the 990 AM dial for a better daytime frequency. 

1982

The station was knocked off the air for several months in 1982, due to antenna removal from its original location after alleged roof damage. On December 1st, 1982, WJPZ returned to air in agreement with Syracuse Cablesystems to offer the audio background to a weather text channel that was quickly discovered by teens in the city. 

1983

WJPZ Radio Inc. was created and an application with the FCC was filed. 

1985

At 6:00pm of January 30, WJPZ officially launched as “Future Hits Z89” on our FM dial at 89.1. Later in the spring, WJPZ Sports aired with its first live broadcast of Syracuse Women’s Basketball (which won the Big East tournament that year.) That fall, Z89 was recognized as the sole source in Syracuse to find out where Syracuse University Basketball tickets would be on sale. The station then repositioned itself as “Future Radio Z89-Playing The Hits First” in September. 

1986

January marked one-year since WJPZ’s launch on the FM dial – an anniversary celebrated with the “Z89 Weekend Birthday Party Blitz”. The celebration included a series of live remotes, parties, and the first Annual Birthday Banquet at the Sheraton to which listeners were able to win tickets. That summer, we repositioned ourselves again as “Power Hits Z89”, tightening up our format. 

1987

Pressbox, Central New York’s premier high-school sports show, was launched on WJPZ Sports in the fall.

1988

On January 1st, WJPZ Sports aired live from New Orleans, subsequent to the Syracuse Orangemen’s undefeated streak in the Sugar Bowl. In the spring, WJPZ ranked as the second highest rated non-commercial radio station in the United States. The station then broke programming on December 21st to report on the crash of Pan Am 103, a terrorist-downed flight that took the lives of 35 Syracuse students.

1989

1989 was not just the birth year of our girl Taylor Swift.

On April 21st, WJPZ was featured in music publication R&R with the visit of artist Karyn White at our 4th Annual Birthday Banquet. During that year’s 89 Days of Summer, listeners were invited to bring their 93Q bumper stickers to the Z89 booth at the New York State Fair in exchange for cool items. Thomas Young, the mayor of Syracuse at the time, declared “Z89 Day” on August 9th. Later that month, WJPZ mimicked MTV’s “Amok in America” promotion with “Amok In the Mall”, held in Marshall Square Mall. 891 prize envelopes were hidden all throughout stores in the mall, with nearly 500 listeners in attendance. On November 4th, WJPZ was featured on the front page article of Billboard Magazine.

1992

In August, our positioner was once again changed to “Central New York’s Hottest Music.” In October, WJPZ News fed CBS Radio with stories about the closing of the Syracuse General Motors plant for its nationwide affiliates. WJPZ switched to a digital programmer in the Fall, after requiring its DJ’s to navigate a hand-drawn programming clock.

1993

WJPZ public service department assembled spots highlighting a different African American for each day in February to honor Black History month. In April, we initiated ‘Koins for Kids’ to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House of Central New York.

1994

Repositioning, again! WJPZ now was known as “Z89, Your Stopless Music Station.” In the summer, the station received a visit from an unknown band titled The Fugees. The band turned out to be one of the largest hip-hop groups of the decade.

1995

On February 18th, the tenth Annual Birthday Banquet honored ten years of FM broadcasting for Z89. Our positioner changed again to “Today’s Hottest Music, Z89” that spring. On December 15th, at 10am listeners heard an endless loop of a heartbeat with an automated voice counting down the time on air. At 5pm, the heartbeat flatlined as WJPZ introduced 89.1, The Pulse. The first song played under this format was “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth” by R.E.M.

1996

The summer of 1996, a complaint with the FCC was filed towards WJPZ by the owner of K-Rock. The claim was that WJPZ violated FCC rules governing sponsorships, with spots that were too long and similar-sounding to real commercials. An out-of-court settlement was reached on the case.

1997

With the growth of electronica, WJPZ became known as “Your New Rock Alternative, 89.1 The Pulse” in February. Later in July, the station repositioned as “The Beat of Syracuse, The All New Z89.”

1998

Z89 partnered with Virgin Records to give away tickets to the Spice Girls at Madison Square Garden, transporting winners from Syracuse all the way to NYC. The 89 Days of Summer continued, with ticket giveaways to see the Backstreet Boys at Darien Lake. In the Fall, Z89 was the presenting media partner for SU’s Labor Day Street Jam featuring rap star Big Punisher, but the concert was cancelled due to a storm. This cancellation resulted in a loss of a $1,000 development fee for WJPZ. The station then restructured its board of directors to include more of an industry and community presence, making the General Manager position entirely a board decision.

1999

As a part of The 89 Days of Summer, we partnered with Jive Records to give away Britney Spears tickets at the New York State Fair. The prize also included a Meet & Greet for the lucky winners. Towards the end of the year, the world freaked out about moving into the 21st century. But not Z89. The station continued to play carts and CD’s, so WJPZ was not threatened by the bugs expected to occur in computerized technology.

2000

On March 5th, Z89 hosted “Shake Your Bon Bon for Ricky”: a talent show as a part of Banquet weekend in which listeners could compete for Ricky Martin tickets. In the summer, Z89 imitated the reality show wave created by Survivor on television by introducing the “89 Days of Summer Survival Pack.” Z89 playback later became entirely digital, with CD’s and mini-discs replacing carts. WJPZ Sports also formalized its relationship with Syracuse Sports Properties as the official home of SU Women’s Basketball.

2001

The 89 Days of Summer promotion continued with prizes of a spa trip, five bikes, and a car stereo installation. Z89 was the first station to give tickets away to the Ja Rule concert at the On-Center that fall. In September, WJPZ reached an important milestone as all of our production became edited and produced digitally on a non-linear PC-based editor. On 9/11, programming broke to report on the terrorist attacks. The reporting included news coverage from the SU Hill and a rebroadcast of the longform coverage on ABC News, courtesy of Citadel Communications’ WAX-FM (95X.)

2002

On March 2nd, XM Satellite Radio’s Lee Abrams was the Keynote Speaker at our 17th Annual Banquet. WJPZ marked the 2nd time in its history off air that summer: “The 89 Days of Silence.” Our engineering later facilitated a large technological overhaul, and began sending its signal via fiber-optics to its transmitter. This means that for the first time ever, WJPZ was able to broadcast in digital quality sound.

2003

Our Banquet Keynote Address was given by Erica Farber, Publisher of Radio & Records. In April, WJPZ finished its final phase of digital transformation: the addition of on-air assist and phoner computer units to simulate ‘real world’ broadcasting. The station upgraded from CD to Audio Vault later that year, and began to use Vox Pro to pre-record and edit phone calls efficiently. That winter, WJPZ Sports signed and broadcasted the Syracuse Stars.

2004

WJPZ began to stream legally on Z89.com! Our 19th Annual Birthday Banquet welcomed Pierre Bouvard as our Keynote speaker.

2006

The NexGen automation system was installed, which allowed the station to operate in the industry standard of a completely digital environment.

2008

WJPZ launches News show “Orange State”. For the first time, the station was given a fully-functional auxiliary airchain through the installation of a switching apparatus at a transmitter site.

2009

“Red Carpet Report” had its on-air debut!

2011

WJPZ installed state-of-the-art audio consoles and a digital audio routing system.

2012

The station went through a full studio renovation, moving production to a temporary location at the transmitter site and expanding from two studios to four. WJPZ relaunched from the new studio with “Diamonds” by Rihanna in December.

2013

WJPZ experienced a soft relaunch involving a new logo, new voiceover talent, and a playlist focused on Mainstream Top 40. The relaunch also included witty branding – with the birth of “Your Party Station!”. For the first time in years, the station broadcasted live at the Great New York State Fair with a listener activation. WJPZ later gave away tank tops at SU’s Mayfest, initiating a frenzy for the limited-edition college staple and kicking off summer. 2013 also marked the launch of what became the predecessor of our show “The Juice”.

2015

Z89 stunted as “Elf 89” on April Fools’ Day, playing Christmas music throughout the entire day.

2016

To welcome Syracuse University’s newly admitted students, Z89 takes on the role of DJing at Admitted Students Day in the JMA Wireless Dome (then known as the Carrier Dome.)

2017

The station applied to the FCC and was granted the first power increase since launching on FM, from 100 to 1000 watts. A new directional antenna was also installed to allow WJPZ to reach additional communities along the highway I-81.

2018

Our show “STEM Breakdown” was born.

2020

The week after the annual banquet, all shows came to a halt as this was when the world shut down from COVID-19. We returned on air on August 31st, yet with limited shows and studio space due to the pandemic’s restrictions. All DJ training and meetings became virtual. Shows then came to another stop on November 12th.

2021

2021 was a rollercoaster of a year for the station.

On January 28th, we returned to the air once again! Given all of the set-backs from the pandemic, the station underwent a major hiring process this spring with an addition of about 100 team members. The annual banquet was celebrated virtually this year, with Ian Eagle as the keynote speaker. In March, the new Z89 website launched! We were finally able to return to normal show action at the end of April, with a mask-optional policy. We recruited more DJs in the fall, with a total team of about 180 people. Outside of 12am-6am, there were only four hours without at least one person on-air – 122 hours of programming weekly! In November, we also held our first artist interview in over two years with Veronica Lewis, a 17-year-old blues artist. The fall of 2021 also marked the launch of “The Appraisal”, our newest show entirely dedicated to album reviews.

2022

WJPZ was offered VIP press passes to The Great New York State Fair, capturing content from performances by Tai Verdes, Nelly, and Ice-T. We also were given a sponsorship with BeReal: 2022’s trending new social media platform. Your Party Station continued our notable giveaways, partnering with Westcott Theater and Snakehips. In the fall, we tabled and shot content at Syracuse University’s Juice Jam featuring Yung Gravy, Flo Milli, Doechii and T-Pain. WJPZ also had the opportunity to interview Leah Kate (whose “10 Things I hate About You” reached #20 on Billboard‘s US Mainstream Top 40) and SG Lewis (best known for his new song “LifeTime”.)

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