"KQLZ", "Pirate Radio 100.3" was a United States, Los Angeles, California area FM radio station that broadcast from March 17, 1989 through April 2, 1993. The station was launched with much attention from both radio and music industry trade publications.
KQLZ was owned by Westwood One, one of the largest producers and distributors of radio programming in the U.S.A. KQLZ was one of three radio stations the company purchased in 1989 in an attempt to expand its business to include radio station ownership. Westwood One paid $56 Million USD in early 1989 for 100.3FM in Los Angeles, then known as "KIQQ-FM" with the branding "K-Lite". In addition, the company hired noted New York City based radio programmer and on air personality Scott Shannon as the new station's program director and morning drive time host. The station paid Shannon a then industry high yearly salary of $2.3 million USD.
After briefly registering successful ratings during the stations first six months, KQLZ soon experienced ratings too low to bill advertising rates high enough to sustain operation costs. Scott Shannon was fired on February 13, 1991, and the station tried various format adjustments to help raise advertising revenue. In 1993, Westwood One sold KQLZ at a loss for only $40 million USD, $16 million less than what the company paid four years earlier. For these reasons, KQLZ is often cited by many in the radio industry as one of the most high-profile failures in the history of commercial radio in the United States.
Contrary to its brand management based moniker, the original KQLZ on 100.3FM wasn't an actual pirate radio station. KQLZ was fully licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, a regulatory agency that oversees telecommunications and radio frequency communications in the United States.
Despite its commercial failings, by 1999, a nostalgia for "Pirate Radio 100.3 FM" developed among people who were teens and early twenties in age during the stations early era. A "100.3 FM KQLZ Los Angeles, Pirate Radio" tribute website was started in April 1999 at www.KQLZ.com. In 2001, a second webmaster re-launched KQLZ radio as a fan produced automated internet radio station at www.kqlz.org. The format of the commercial free internet station emphasizes heavy metal music as played on the original FM radio station between 1989 and 1991 as well as much of the imaging. On December 31, 2015, the KQLZ.org streaming station went off the air.
On the first day as Pirate Radio, the station was launched with no commercial interruptions. One song by the heavy metal music act Guns N' Roses was played each hour. Guns N' Roses hit song "Welcome to the Jungle", Pirate Radio's first song upon signing on, was the most favored song as its title was also the new radio station's slogan. Pirate Radio continued commercial-free for several weeks after sign on.
Pirate Radio started as a "Rock 40" station playing rock and heavy metal mixed with upbeat Pop music, some alternative music in a manner similar to Top 40 stations. At first their range of music was eclectic, and the station proudly proclaimed they played everything from Madonna to Metallica to Milli Vanilli. An hour of music on Pirate Radio in the spring of 1989 could include early crossover hip hop artist Tone Lōc, electronic music from Depeche Mode, a pop music ballad by Martika, a Pop rock song by The Bangles, satirical Punk rock by the Dead Milkmen, all mixed with music from such rock and heavy metal acts as Iron Maiden, Billy Squier, and Winger.
The station was programmed by Scott Shannon, who was famous within the radio business for his work at Z100 in New York City in the 1980s. Shannon left his New York City job to move to Los Angeles and compete against top-rated station KIIS-FM "KISS-FM" as well as then Dance music-leaning Top 40 KPWR "Power 106". At the time, he claimed he would "show L.A. how to do radio."
Along with its local 100.3 FM broadcast in Los Angeles, KQLZ could also be heard via satellite transmission (SatCom 1R, transponder 3, channels 5 and 6). This service was primarily for the delivery of the syndicated program "Pirate Radio USA" (see below) to affiliates but it also gave the station wide exposure outside of the local listening area. Employees of several radio stations around the country listened to and airchecked KQLZ's satellite signal.
The original Pirate Radio billboards featured a close up head shot of Shannon's face. Some of these billboards were soon defaced with "El Diablo" in spray paint and it was reported in the local news that some members of the cities Hispanic, Latino and Chicano communities viewed Shannon's picture as a caricature of the devil. Some media sources reported that the acts of vandalism were done intentionally by the radio station to generate free publicity. In 1990, the station adopted a mascot for advertising. The stations new mascot was the "Party Pig", a cartoon pig with a trucker hat. The "Pirate Radio Party Pig" replaced Shannon's likeness on billboards and was used on other promotional items such as t shirts and bumper stickers.
A popular feature during the stations first few months, Pirate Radio would invite listeners to call the station and "flush your former station" on the air. Callers would tell the on air personalities what Los Angeles area radio station they used to listen to before KQLZ signed on. After saying the competing radio stations id moniker or call letters, the sound of a toilet flushing could be heard. This was meant to insinuate that the listener dumped their former station and made the switch to "Pirate Radio 100.3FM".
By the autumn of 1989, the station focused more hard rock and heavy metal music (mostly metal in the more pop oriented Glam metal genre), putting it more in competition with metal station KNAC and rock station KLOS.
On February 14, 1991, the station switched to a more traditional album rock styled format. With this switch, Shannon and most of the original on air personalities were let go.
The "Pirate Radio" name eventually was dropped on Monday, December 28, 1992, and a revised format that was a hybrid of rock and alternative music was adopted. The station from this point forward was known as simply "100.3FM" with the slogan "Southern California's Cutting Edge".
"100.3FM" existed until Friday, April 2, 1993, at 3 p.m., when it became KXEZ "EZ 100.3", an Easy listening station. (Shannon, on the phone from WPLJ in New York, returned to the station's airwaves for a few moments to give the station a proper send-off and closed out the old format with, "Goodbye, Pirate Radio.")
Since then, 100.3 FM has changed formats and call letters several times. In 1996, the station became rhythmic AC KIBB. In 1997, it became "Jammin' Oldies" KCMG, "Mega 100." In 2000, the KCMG call letters and format moved to 92.3, and 100.3 became urban KKBT, "The Beat", which had previously been heard on 92.3. In 2006, the station became KRBV, "V 100.3". Since April 8, 2008, the station has broadcast a rock format as KSWD, "The Sound."
Pirate Radio U.S.A.
Westwood One nationally syndicated a live KQLZ produced show "Pirate Radio U.S.A." on Saturday nights from November 1989 through October 1993, when the show ceased production several months after the Los Angeles station changed its format.
KQLZ afternoon drive DJ Shadow Steele was the original host. Following the 1991 departure of Scott Shannon, the show was hosted by Jeff Jensen and later by Jamie Osborne and music journalist Lonn Friend.
- The Pirate Radio Tribute Site
- Pirate Radio 100.3 Internet radio station WWW.KQLZ.ORG
- The Pirate Radio Facebook Page