24 years ago – Labor Day Weekend – The Buzzard/Baboon War ends!

000_01711We looked forward to our long three-day summer weekends: Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. We’d kick our programming and weekend specials up a few notches to guarantee a solid soundtrack for our listeners.   On Friday nights, we’d do eight hours of live music from the WMMS archives.  It provided us the occasion to dig into our library and find live versions of our most requested tracks.

On Saturdays, it was regular programming with a slight twist.  We’d toss in a few surprises and go off format a bit to pull out what we called “oh wow!” tracks – songs that hadn’t been heard for awhile – and we’d encourage our listeners to call in and request their forgotten favorites.

On Sundays, we’d extend Boom’s Solid Gold Sunday Morning to a full day of rock and R&B oldies from the 50s, 60s, and early 70s.  We’d even add a touch of reverb to give the programming a genuine feel.

On Mondays, it was a full “all-request day” with our Sunday night line-up of concerts and specials moved to Monday evening.

When we declared war on WGCL on Memorial Day Weekend 1985, our goal to rid Cleveland of that Baboon-infested radio programming department by Labor Day Weekend.

The backstory on how it started: CLICK HERE.

Our beef with WGCL was not with their airstaff – but their program management.  They reported to trade papers that they were playing songs they weren’t – pop, bubblegum, and dance hits – when they were actually playing a rock and roll hits and going song-to-song against us.  Their music was closer to that of a rock station than top 40, which they claimed they were to the trades. The labels often treated top 40 stations better than rock stations because they played more current music in a higher rotation – and they were getting promotions, like the Slade concert, from labels, which they didn’t deserve.  Other times they would try to block us from getting a Coffee Break Concert or other free appreciation day concert performer by threatening to pull all product from the performer’s label.  The technology to monitor radio stations for accuracy in reporting had not been invented.  Stations were on an honor system and we felt WGCL was anything but honorable.

We took our war on the air and openly attacked WGCL. Our weekly radio play, The Temple of Baboons, was based on real-life events taking place at WGCL, which were being leaked to us by dissatisfied employees at the station and record label promoters who were tiring of the station’s payola policies.

We didn’t schedule the episodes.  Whenever we had enough updated content, we’d produce one up and run it the next morning on the Buzzard Morning Zoo.

The episodes’ gist became too hot to handle for the management of WGCL.  The insinuation of payola and other improprieties began to affect their reputation and sales.

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Through a political connection, WGCL had secured sponsorship for the three long summer holiday weekend parties in the parkThe Labor Day weekend party was scheduled for Burke Lakefront Airport as a kick-off to the weekend’s Cleveland National Air Show.

On that Friday morning before Labor Day, Kim Colebrook, the general manager of WGCL fired program director Bob Travis. We had realized the goal we had set on Memorial Day weekend – to have Travis out of WGCL by the end of the summer.

We presented our final Temple of Baboons episode, the sacking of Bob Travis, on the Wednesday after Labor Day.  In it, we sent Bob Travis to Hell, where he was forced to listen to a tape loop of WGCL playing Slade’s “My Oh My” for eternity.

Though we have not been able to locate the audio of that final episode, we present a free download of the episode that preceded it that ran a couple of day before that fateful Labor Day Friday.

The post-Bob Travis new WGCL debuted almost immediately.  The station hired consultant Randy Michaels (later best known for his association with Clear Channel and Sam Zell’s Tribune Corp. disasters) and C.C. Matthews, his close friend, as program director.  The playlist was slashed to 20 current tracks in high rotation.  From that point on WGCL’s music practices were under close scrutiny.

We had beaten our rivals.  It was our best summer, and we were having a record-breaking year.

Download the Temple of Baboons episode here

BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALLMuch more on the most vicious radio war in Cleveland can be found in Chapter 25 of The Buzzard

Special thanks to Jim Davison for successfully dubbing the cassette’s contents and Chuck Matthews for housing it.

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One Response to “24 years ago – Labor Day Weekend – The Buzzard/Baboon War ends!”

  1. Wow I’d forgotten about this. How radio changes. Now it’s just WNCX doing a pretty good immitation of WMMS, but that’s all that’s left:(

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