In 1983, Z100 launched from the swamps of Secaucus, New Jersey, a place where they believed that no artist would venture. A station where the DJs had to buy their own records just to have music to play. And a place where Scott Shannon would rally listeners into going, as the title says, from worst to first.
Directed and written by Mitchell Stuart, who produced with Trish Hunter Shannon, Elvis Duran, David Katz, and John McConnell, this movie tells the story of how a small radio company from Cleveland teamed up with a rock ‘n’ roll- loving DJ from Tampa named Scott Shannon to create WHTZ. Within the 74 days that the station took to go from worst to first, they not only brought back the top 40 format, but they were the station that launched the careers of so many stars. A major part of the movie is how Madonna used to stand outside the station and beg to be on the air and paid back the station by letting them premiere her songs from Who’s That Girl.
With appearances by Shannon, Elvis Duran, Jon Bon Jovi, Nile Rodgers, Clive Davis, Debbie Gibson, Joan Jett, Taylor Dayne, Tony Orlando, Joe Piscopo, “Magic” Matthew Alan, “Professor” Jonathan B. Bell, Anita Bonita, Ross Brittain, Pete Cosenza, Michael Ellis, Gavin DeGraw, Cathy Donovan, Gary Fisher, Frank Foti, Sean “Hollywood” Hamilton, David Hinckley, Donnie lenner, Jim Kerr, Steve Kingston, Ken Lane, Kenny Laguna, Jimi LaLumia, Tom Poleman, Geraldo Rivera, Trish Hunter Shannon, Patty Steele, Claire Stevens, Mitchell Stuart, John Sykes and Jim Wood, this film feels like something that would be running in the lobby of the station or sent to media companies looking to buy time. Or, for radio geeks like me, it’s a great time capsule of a moment that will never exist again, when FM radio ruled entertainment.
Worst to First is available on all on demand platforms from Gunpowder and Sky.