One of Frank Zappa’s more endearing quirks was his passion for doo-wop and R&B vocal groups, which he affectionately parodied and emulated throughout his career. This fixation spurred the 1968 album Cruising with Ruben & The Jets, which succeeded mostly in confusing Mothers of Invention fans, but for my money it found its most charming expression on the 1970 collection Burnt Weeny Sandwich and “WPLJ,” a loose cover version of “W-P-L-J,” a 1956 hit song by the Four Deuces, a vocal R&B group founded in Salinas, California, by Luther McDaniel and three Army buddies.
After they relocated to San Francisco, the quartet fell in with Ray Dobard and hs company Music City Records, which released “W-P-L-J” in February 1956. The title is an acronym for “White Port and Lemon Juice,” an improvised tipple that became nationally popular as the Four Deuces single became a hit. The group proved to be a one-hit wonder, and after a couple more singles tanked the quartet disbanded.
In 1970, programming manager Allen Shaw decided to rename the sister station of WABC-AM and showcase a free-form FM music format. Shaw knew “WPLJ” from Burnt Weeny Sandwich, and he decided to adopt the title as the call letters for WABC’s FM sibling.