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Morning zoo is a format of morning radio show common to English-language radio broadcasting. The name is derived from the "wackiness and zaniness" of the activities, bits, and overall personality of the show and its hosts. The morning zoo concept and name is most often deployed on contemporary hit radio (CHR-Top 40) radio stations.
The morning zoo was named by KZEW (The ZOO) Dallas program director Ira Lipson in 1976. When Charlie Kendall was morning DJ his friend Scott Shannon visited and liked the phrase and vowed to use it when he programmed his next station, which happened to be Z-100 in New York City. When that station became a huge ratings success, the name "The Morning ZOO" was copied by stations across the USA.
The station in Australia referred to was possibly Adelaide's "Double-SA-FM", later shortened to "SAFM". The breakfast show at this then new station featured many short humorous sound grabs, and an enterprising listener recorded many of these and incorporated them into a song he recorded in his bedroom called "FM Breakfast". The last line of each verse of the song was "..I tune in every morning to the morning zoo". The phrase was picked up by announcer John Vincent and soon became the moniker of the program.
The zoo concept developed and matured during the 1980s, with many elements of the zoo formula continuing as benchmarks of morning radio today. Currently, few of the original radio stations promoting morning zoo morning shows continue to do so, with many abandoning live morning shows in favor of satellite/syndicated offerings; others simply have retired the concept. However, while the name morning zoo is not in as much use today, the concept itself remains the general template for most morning shows across the country.
A "morning zoo" typically consisted of two or three personalities, usually capable of comedic discourse as well as competent delivery of news and service elements. Most zoo programs involved call-in "stunt personalities" (usually, but not always, created by the staff), on-air games and regular contests. All of these elements were in place, for instance, on LaBella and Rody's show.
Perhaps the industry's leading example of consistent, long-term morning zoo programming can be found by studying the history of WHTZ Newark/New York's Z100. In Australia, it is heard on Triple M as 'The Cage', amongst other stations. The Don and Mike show originated as a Morning zoo show in at WAVA in the 1980s, and retained some elements of the format. KKBQ-FM in Houston had a highly successful run throughout the 1980s with its "Q-Morning Zoo" headed by John Lander until 1990. Scott Shannon was on hand for the shows premier in 1982. KKBQ (now country) reinstalled the format to its current morning show. Austin-based Dudley and Bob Show on KLBJ-FM regularly announce their 'house party' format, especially noted on Fridays.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, LG73 (call sign CKLG) adopted this format for its popular morning program, led by Dean Hill, from 1985 to 1993. Personalities of note included "Jon Bon Bichin'", "Constable Bob", "Uncle Angus", and "The Coach". The LG Morning Zoo featured a house band "The LG Morning Zoo Cement Heads", who recorded parodies of popular songs, such as "Yack Yack", a spoof of the Paul Lekakis hit "Boom Boom", "Change of Socks", poking fun at Cyndi Lauper's "Change of Heart", and "(Baby You Can't) Drive Your Car", mocking the provincial government's automobile insurance monopoly ICBC, to the tune of the Beatles' "Drive My Car".
In Quebec City, CJMF-FM 93.3 had "Le Zoo du 93" from 1985 to 1990. Not only the show still holds a number of records in terms of ratings and market shares (a quarter hour of 148 000 listeners), but it also skyrocketed the station to now unreachable numbers, with 573 200 listeners on a weekly basis (according to the BBM summer 1987 survey).
In the UK, Steve Wright (currently of BBC Radio 2) is famous for revolutionizing British radio by introducing the format when he started his Steve Wright in the Afternoon show on BBC Radio 1. Chris Moyles and "Comedy" Dave Vitty also used the zoo format with great success. Their audience was measured at eight million listeners by RAJAR.
Morning zoo jocks have often have a reputation for being immature, unintelligent, and risque, and have often been cited as one of the top least respected occupations along with politicians, telemarketers, lawyers, and journalists.