Tampa Bay Radio's Top 40 Format Held for Ransom - The Birth of A 100,000 watt Baby Power Pig
WRITTEN & CONTRIBUTED BY BRIAN HOLMES & THEPOWERPIG.COM
It started out being real easy. A simple business proposal made in late Sept. 1989:
Oldies station Z93 told Top 40 giant and long time king of Tampa's radio ratings, Q105 to just simply pay them $1 million dollars and they would not change their format to Top 40. The gang at the Q kicked back & didn't pay them any attention, even though The Tampa Tribune, the St. Petersburg Times, & the now-defunct Clearwater Sun daily newspapers, plus local TV news, were ALL over the story.
So Z93 stepped it up a few notches....gave Q105 a deadline to meet & started a clock ticking in the background of most everything they did on air. For fun one day, they even flipped formats to "93 Jamz" for about an hour, then back to oldies. The tease & psych games were in full force... now pressure was on at the Q.
On Sept 20th, 1989, both Dr. Don & Jack Harris in the morning and Mark Larsen in Z93's afternoons were now demanding $2 million ransom to be paid by 5pm.
Q105 doesn't make the 5pm deadline with the money, only a desperate plea phone call. Q calls begging for one more day. Mark Larsen grants them the last extension.
Fast forward a few days to Monday, Sept.25th. The ransom has now soared to $4 million & on the previous Friday, listeners got a small taste of what was coming when Z93 became 93 Jamz for an hour. Jack & Dr. Don are losing patience, trying to reach Q105 owner Gary Edens by phone to give him one final chance to pay up. Edens isn't home, but we were tipped off to what hotel Mr. Edens was staying in.
(LT TO RT: Morning co-host Dr. Don Carpenter launches Tampa Bay's newest Top 40 radio station - Power 93 The Power Pig - while morning co-host Jack Harris, Jacor Broadcasting COO Randy Michaels, Program Director Marc Chase and Jacor marketing guru (and actual man who came up with the name "The Power Pig") Michael Albl. If you're wondering why this doesn't look like the Gandy Blvd studios, that's because they launched at the old Jackson St. studios.)
Ever Witness The Live Birth of a 100,000 watt baby Power Pig before?
Jack & Dr. Don give Q105 owner Gary Edens, now on the phone & live on Z93 air waves. This was his last shot to pay up. Gary tries scaring them by mentioning that he is "friends with" & had just recently had lunch with one of their BIG bosses. Unfazed, Jack & Doc, with the help of Gary himself, live on the phone still, launch one of the biggest Top 40 radio wars, if not THE biggest, in history....
...with these famous last words: "COME ON GUYS, LOOKIN FORWARD TO IT,
LET'S GO, HAVE A HAPPY DAY!" - Gary Edens
No one on the Z93 or Power Pig staffs had any idea they were witnessing the very beginning of a legendary station that day, but it soon sunk in. Within days, listeners mobbed the on air jocks on the streets, within a week or two came the newspapers & trade magazine interviews. Then just 74 days since the Pig's launch, the latest Birch radio ratings service were released & they couldn't believe it, there they were - The Power Pig was right at the top at # 1. They had kicked Q105's ass already - and hadn't even started!
"Help! The Q Is Taking Us To Court"
Ahhhh yes, the infamous "Screw The Q" t-shirts started popping up EVERYWHERE. The Pig had collected a "$10 donation for each shirt to help keep the Pig on the air". So not only was The Pig promoting itself AND promoting that Q105 was bad, but it made $10 each time too. So Q105 asked The Power Pig to not only stop selling the shirts but to destroy any shirts they had left as well because the use of their trademarked logo was infringement.
So sure, The Pig said they'd stop selling the shirts but of course they did not. Very shortly after, the debut ratings for The Pig were released and every top news & TV headline around indeed confirmed the Pig had "Screwed The Q" right out of their #1 spot. Then came the lawsuit from Q105, also making bold news headlines locally and nationally. Public opinion was that the big giant Q105 was only suing little upstart Power Pig because they were mad about the ratings loss.
Now when the lawsuit was announced, sale of the shirts ceased until they got their day in court. So how would the underdog Power Pig pay for it's defense in court?
The Power Pig Mentally "Mind F***" Q105
That, point blank, is the best and only way to describe what started happening.
The on air promos and parodies never stopped coming. Pointing out Q's flaws was the Power Pig's favorite and EASIEST pastime. Flaws like loooong commercial breaks, DJ's that seemed to never stop talking & playing music from the 60's & 70's, all things that Top 40 stations just couldn't do anymore. It seemed like every day, The Power Pig had the competition by their gonads. Q105 just ignored the Pig, listeners were leaving Q105 and fast. The Pig would poke harder & harder. Ratings weren't Q's only problem. Most people (even Mason) agree that if Q105 would have kept doing what they were doing, they would have survived as a popular adult radio station. But the decisions they ended up making, made you seasick.
For months after firing their top DJ's and management, NO ONE was even steering the ship there. There were NO DJ's for over three months in some shifts. When the new DJ's started, the Q decided to battle the Power Pig by playing the same music, even calling it "A Better Mix of Music". The Pig started in on the new Q staff with new promos & almost couldn't keep up with the revolving Q door. Some promos even turned into a reoccurring theme or series there was just so much material.
The POWER PIG HIDDEN MICROPHONE, the POWER PIG LIE DETECTOR,
AS THE Q BURNS and MOMENTS WITH LOW RENT were the most popular.
Listeners saw the "new" Q as just a bad copycat of The Pig. The Pig never blinked a second as the Q went through many different DJ and line-up changes, program directors, morning shows, tons and tons of research, plus meaningless slogan changes. They had been:
"Tampa Bay's Radio Station"
"A Better Mix of Music"
"Rededicating The Q to You"
"Tampa Bay's Hit Music Station"
"Tampa Bay's Brightest Music" (what the hell is BRIGHT music?)
...until they finally became "W-Garth" and started playing country music in 1993.
- This award speaks for itself: The Power Pig debuted in Sept. 1989. In LESS THAN 12 MONTHS, they were named Billboard Magazine's "Top 40 Radio Station of The Year".
We know that there are amazing stories we haven't (yet) included and would LOVE to. We need your help! If you have stories, audio, video or photos that you would like to contribute, please send an email using the address below.
In 1989, the mission was simple, TAKE DOWN Q105 AT WHATEVER COST. Who would have guessed back when we were putting "QSux" bumper stickers on our car in 1990, that WFLZ was just beginning a 25 year run as Tampa Bay's Top 40 station - a run that still continues today?
This blog serves to preserve the audio and visual history of WFLZ's fun, innovative, entertaining, compelling, personality based Top 40/CHR radio from the last 25 years.
Thanks to Gabe Hobbs, Brian Holmes, Dom Theodore, Drew Hall and Marc Cerniglio for their work building this page.