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Death of Rock N Roll: WZZQ




JACKSON, Miss. – On the evening of July 2, 1981, WZZQ ended the evening’s set with Todd Rundgren’s “Death of Rock N Roll” and the Doors’ “The End”. At midnight, they signed off with the words: “This was WZZQ Jackson”, and then dropped the signal.

Six hours later, at 6 a.m., newsman Bill Ellison signed on, reading “This is WMSI-FM” from an index card before delivering the news as usual. WMSI is now known as MISS-103.

Now for the first time in over 40 years WZZQ is getting a much-needed send off in a new documentary.

WZZQ the Movie” aims to serve as a final goodbye and a celebration of what Jackson didn’t even know it had at the time – a vanguard of album-oriented radio.

Directed by Jackson native Ann Ford, the movie will feature first-person interviews with those associated with and affected by ZZQ102. It will delve into the history of the station, from its origins in a backroom of the WLBT building on Jefferson Street as WJDX-FM, through its glory days as WZZQ in a new studio, to its transformation and eventual absorption into mass-market radio.

The Rock of Jackson

In 1968, Jackson radio station WJDX-FM switched from easy listening to progressive rock, calling itself “WJDX, the Rock of Jackson”. In 1973 the station took on the call letters WZZQ. The station was a homegrown take on the growing format of album-oriented rock. All captained by a small group of DJs whose antics became local legend. The station included its own blend of deep cuts, blues, folk, local artists, news, even comedy tracks and radio dramas. Unlike today’s tradition, WZZQ DJs had creative freedom, and would often play several songs in a row by the same artist. Especially if it fit a particular theme.

Songs were chosen that sounded good together, that segued well into each other and, most legendarily, that had a similar theme or made a statement when placed together. Some sets had a lyrical theme in common, some had a musical connection, some sets were more complex. Almost every song played related in some way to the previous song, and to the rest of the songs in the set between breaks. Sometimes they were obvious, a ‘car set’ or a ‘dog set’, sometimes incredibly obscure, but always very thoughtful.

Miss 103

In 1981, new owners changed the station to a country music format, rebranding it as WMSI-FM, or “Miss 103”.

When the format change was announced, listeners protested vehemently. A group called Save Our Station circulated petitions and threatened advertiser boycotts. However, WZZQ’s executive vice president and general manager, Marshall Magee, stood firm. Believing a country music format to be a “good business practice.”

“We’re in the business to make money. Most diehard ‘ZZQ people know the same. The key to any successful business is what is most profitable for that business.” said Magee in a 1981 article from the Clarion Ledger.

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