Archive for the Buzzard Video Category

The WMMS John Cougar Mellencamp Coffee Break Concert

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on December 18, 2009 by John Gorman

Backstage at the Agora following John Mellencamp's Coffee Break Concert. L to R: Matt the Cat, John Gorman, Jim Marchyshyn, Kid Leo, John Mellencamp, Dia Stein

Never give up.

It started with a dinner, months earlier, either sometime 1983 or early 1984 at a restaurant in the Marriott Airport hotel on W 130th, where John Mellencamp was staying.   It could have coincided with a tour date or a promotional appearance.

John Mellencamp, a few of us from the station (Can’t remember who was there. My guess is Kid Leo and Jim Marchyshyn for starters),  a label rep and either his manager or road manager, were discussing artists with songs that sound equally good when performed acoustic or electric.   That conversation led to a discussion about the history of our Coffee Break Concerts – and how they started as acoustic studio affairs and evolved into a weekly afternoon live performance.   Somewhere in that conversation a pitch was made to John and his band to do a Coffee Break Concert show and broadcast.

It was a long shot.  John had been performing for a decade.  He started out playing clubs in Indiana over a decade earlier and was now able to sell out major venues, including the Richfield Coliseum.

We played John’s first album, Chestnut Street Incident in 1976, which was released under the name “Johnny Cougar” – against his better judgement by his mangaer, Tony DeFries, who was best known as David Bowie’s manager during his Ziggy Stardust period.  Though we gave it a fair shot, it didn’t catch on with our listeners. It was also around that time that music director Shelley Stile went to Bloomfield, Ind. to see John in concert.  We also played his second album, The Kid Inside, in 1977, but that album failed to ignite as well.

In early 1978, his third album (as “Johnny Cougar”), A Biography was not released in the U.S. Someone sent us an import copy, and we played the track “I Need A Lover” a few times – but it was up against some stiff domestic-release competition that year – and our listeners were anticipating the long-awaited, long-delayed (due to legal issues) release of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run follow-up album, Darkness at the Edge of Town.

1978 was also our tenth anniversary, which was packed with concerts and special events – and it was also a year filled with superstar album releases – and break-out artists like Meatloaf, Eddie Money, The Cars, Dire Straits, Van Halen, and Bob Welch as a solo artist.

But in 1979, MCA records released the self-titled John Cougar album, which included the “I Need A Lover” track from the import.  We started playing it again and this time it took off becoming one of our most-requested tracks – though it was the only track on the album to catch on.

The following year, John released It Doesn’t Matter and What if it Did – and the tracks “Ain’t Even Done with the Night” and “This Time” became top-requested tracks.

In 1982, when American Fool was released, Cougar went straight to number one on the strength of two tracks – “Hurt So Good” and “Jack and Diane.” It also helped that their radio airplay was augmented by their music videos picking up heavy spins on a new cable channel called MTV. A few weeks after hitting number one in Cleveland sales – it did the same nationally.

In late 1983, when Uh-Huh was released, John went from being an established artist to superstar.  That was also the year he added his real surname, Mellencamp.

It took a few months of heavy lobbying – but John finally agreed to do a Coffee Break Concert - but instead of doing it will a full band – he asked to do it as an acoustic performance – a throwback to the original version of the show.   We agreed to a one-time only broadcast, which was stipulated in the contract – nor were we to play any excerpted songs from the performance, which we often did with our other live broadcasts.

The opportunity of having John Cougar Mellencamp do a special Coffee Break Concert was a major coup for us.   He was now one of the biggest names in rock and roll.  For crowd control purposes, we gave away tickets for his Coffee Break Concert in advance of the show.

John took the stage at the Agora at 1 PM on Wednesday, August 25th and performed a 20-song acoustic set, which included a number of cover tunes, including the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda,” Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” John Prine’s “Sam Stone,” the Vogues’ “Five O’Clock World,” the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man,” and Elliot Murphy’s “Last of the Rock Stars.”

The show was one of our finest and proudest moments.

The concert broadcast has turned up on occasion at various Bit Torrent and bootleg trading sites.  There are also a couple of bootleg CDs of the show.  One can only hope that this concert sees a legitimate release in the near future.

Photo courtesy of Jim Marchyshyn.  A few interesting notes about this photo.  When it was first shown, the question was whose clothes were worse?  My shirt or Leo’s pants.  Related to that, a few months earlier I had kicked up my 3-½ packs a day cigarette habit – and gained a ton of weight.   Today, John Mellencamp’s 14-year-old son has a Facebook group campaign to help his father kick the habit.   He says, “I made a deal with my dad that if I get 1,000,000 to join this group he will quit smoking.”   If you’re a Facebook user – find his page, sign up, and help John Mellencamp ditch the smokes.

No video was made of John Mellencamp’s Coffee Break Concert but here’s one featuring John with Johnny Cash from the Concert Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in September, 1995.

For more on the Coffee Break Concerts turn to Chapter 16 in The Buzzard

WMMS TV simulcasts

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on December 13, 2009 by John Gorman

Here are a couple of David Helton ads promoting our stereo simulcasts.

Back in the seventies and much of the eighties, television audio was delivered in monaural sound.

We knew technology would eventually change that – but until then we took full advantage of providing the stereo soundtrack to musically-oriented television shows.

We did a number of network – and even early cable and pay-TV (remember Preview?) – stereo simulcasts.  It was a boon for us since television, which had a much larger audience than radio, would run a crawl on the screen inviting viewers turn to WMMS’s 100.7 frequency to hear the audio in stereo.

Locally, we also did a series of Live at the Agora concerts with WJW-TV, featuring artists from WMMS Nights Out at the club.

Note the hemostat, joints, and talon styled sneakers in the first ad and the two slightly hidden joints in the second.

Here’s Todd Rundgren from a Live at the Agora TV show.

The WMMS Fleetwood Mac Attack!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on December 5, 2009 by John Gorman

It was September 1973. We had just added the Buckingham-Nicks album and the track “Long Distance Winner” was picking up a few curiosity calls and requests.  At that time we did not have a relationship with the Agora, so we called Rodger Bohn at the Smiling Dog Saloon, where we sponsored “nights out” at and mentioned the act as a possible WMMS-sponsored show.   Rodger put in a few calls to see if they were touring.  They were – but their label Polygram, wasn’t really supporting the act because the album was getting only spotty airplay in a couple of cities.  Logistics for a “night out” didn’t work out. We played a couple of other tracks from the album (“Crying in the Night” and “Don’t Let Me Down Again”) before it faded into that limbo land of forgotten albums.

That same month Fleetwood Mac released the album Heroes are Hard to Find, whose title cut ended up being one of the most played and requested tunes on WMMS.  Fleetwood

Fleetwood Mac's mirrors designed and hand-painted by David Helton

Mac formed as British blues-based group that eventually evolved into the mainstream, but suffered from a steady stream of personnel and musical style changes.  Though it got extensive play, the track was largely a turntable hit and never translated into sales.

John Gorman, Mick Fleetwood, Rhonda Kiefer at WMMS

Fast forward to July 1975.  The Fleetwood Mac album is released – and we noted that Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, whom we remembered from that Buckingham-Nicks album, were now band members.

Fan banner at the Coliseum

The band went on tour in support of the album and played Kent State on a Sunday night.  As was customary at the station, our airstaff took turns on m.c’ing WMMS-sponsored concerts – and Kid Leo did Fleetwood Mac. Though I planned to go I had to bow out because of an early Monday morning department head meeting.  Later that day, Leo told me Fleetwood Mac live

Mick Fleetwood just returned from a vacation in Bora Bora and flew to Cleveland to surprise Christine McVie and Bob Welch. Christine was touring with Bob Welch as a surprise guest singer on "Sentimental Lady."

were nothing like the softer version on the album – and that the Buckingham-Nicks material rocked, citing a balls-out version of “Rhiannon” and a reworked “I’m So Afraid” that showed Lindsay as a guitarist to be reckoned with.

Around the same time, The King Biscuit Flower Hour, a syndicated concert show we carried on Sunday nights featured a live Fleetwood Mac performance – and like Leo said – it rocked. We swapped the softer studio versions for the live rock versions – and within days the live “Rhiannon” became our most-requested song on nights and weekends – and the other live Macs from that

All that Jazz: Bruce Ravid (Capitol), Len "Boom" Goldberg, Steve Lushbaugh, Dan Garfinkel, Bob Welch, Denny Sanders, John Gorman, David Helton, Barry Haughin (Capitol), Matt the Cat

concert were also in our requested top 15.

Mick checking out the artwork in my office

That set the stage for Rumours. Shelley Stile was music director and pulled off a daylong exclusive of the album in February 1977. The immediate reaction gave little clue of how huge the album would be.  But we new it was something unique and special – product that would draw more audience from AM to FM, and from other stations to WMMS. We cemented our relationship with the band, getting to know everyone in it and connected to it.  What gave us a solid edge with the band was our airplay of their pet side projects, which

Dan Garfinkel, Jeff Kinzbach, Denny Sanders, Bruce Ravid (Capitol), Mick Fleetwood, Bob Welch

were all gems – but usually neglected in other markets.

Walter Egan, formerly of the cult surf band the Malibooz, had one hit song nationally, “Magnet and Steel,” a duet with Stevie Nicks, off the Not Shy album coproduced by Buckingham and Nicks, who also played on it; in Cleveland he was a superstar, with a half-dozen tracks receiving airplay. Buckingham and Nicks also played on John Stewart’s Bombs Away, Dream Babies, with the song “Gold,” which was a major hit in Cleveland months before it broke nationally.  Rob Grill, the former lead singer of the Grassroots,

Another day, another penguin: John McVie, Cleveland Metropark Zoo official, John Gorman, Rhonda Kiefer

was a fishing buddy of John McVie, who produced his one solo album, Uprooted - with guest appearances by Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood. Most successful of all was Bob Welch, a former Fleetwood Mac guitarist, who scored three hit singles off his 1977 album, French KissCleveland was also one of the few markets that supported Welch’s earlier project, Paris, which had a popular track, “Big Town 2061,” in 1975.

At the zoo: Jeff Kinzbach, Matt the Cat, Steve Lushbaugh, David Helton, Debbie O'Donnell, Dan Garfinkel, Betty Korvan, Denny Sanders, John Gorman, Dave Lucas (Warner Bros.), John McVie, Christine McVie. Front: Unknown , Rhonda Kiefer

By the time Fleetwood Mac played the Coliseum in September 1977, the band supposedly sold a million copies of Rumours from the Cleveland distribution branch alone.  We launched what we called our “WMMS Fleetwood Mac Attack,” and took full ownership of what had become the biggest act in the world.   We landed exclusive interviews, and we had them cut station IDs. The day after Stevie Nicks flubbed on stage and accidentally thanked Cincinnati instead of Cleveland, she cut a humorous ID, which said, “When I’m not in Cincinnati, I’m in Cleveland, and listening to WMMS.”

John & Christine at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo with the donated penguin

We also landed an exclusive with advance tracks from the Tusk album, early fall 1979. That one came on cassette, from a  New York record executive, whose identity I promised I would never reveal – and never will.  I had to buy a seat for it on a commercial

Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks at the Bond Court Hotel press conference

flight.  When it arrived at Hopkins, I drove it to the station where it was transferred for broadcast and Denny Sanders immediately put it on the air.  We played one cut every half-hour, inserting “WMMS exclusive” in case a rival station tried to tape it.  Warner Bros. was furious because Fleetwood Mac was the label’s most important act, and they worried about Tusk being a somewhat experimental double-album, which sounded nothing like its predecessor.

Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood at Bond Court Hotel press conference

Fleetwood Mac and WMMS donated penguins (the Fleetwood Mac mascot) to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. We

At WMMS: Denny Sanders, Marty Schwartz (Elektra), Lindsay Buckingham, John Gorman, Matt the Cat, Murray Saul. On table: Kid Leo

outfitted the band with WMMS merchandise and paraphernalia.  For months to come, it wasn’t usual to see a band member or associate of Fleetwood Mac sporting a WMMS item on national TV.

When a WMMS World Series of Rock concert at Cleveland Stadium was postponed due to a spinal problem suffered by Lindsay Buckingham, the other members of the band, plus Bob Welch, flew to Cleveland to do a press conference at the Bond Court Hotel, we strung up lines and carried it live.

A few weeks later, backstage at the rescheduled WMMS World Series of Rock concert, we presented the band with personalized, hand-painted mirrors individually created by David Helton. By that time they were consuming massive quantities of cocaine.  Christine McVie, who got the first one, commented, “I’m afraid we’ll scrape the mirror down to the paint.”

More on Buzzards and penguins in The Buzzard

Photos by Bob Ferrell except mirror photo by David Helton

Click images multiple times to enlarge size and click on song titles to hear the music.

The Buzzard Blog celebrated its second year.  For those new to the blog, you can use the search engine or reference the archives for hours of audio (including original airchecks and music) and video and hundreds of photos and documents covering WMMS from 1973 to 1986.

Sweet, Seger and WMMS photos

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on October 26, 2009 by John Gorman
Back row, L to TR: Brian Connolly, guitar player Andy Scott, bass player Steve Priest, and drummer Mick Tucker of Sweet, Jim Hawn, branch manager, Capitol Records/Cleveland; John Gorman, Kid Leo.  Front: Matt the Cat, Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records, Steve Lushbaugh.  Photo taken at Swingo's Keg & Quarter after Sweet's Allen Theater concert in 1975.

Back row, L to TR: Brian Connolly, guitar player Andy Scott, bass player Steve Priest, and drummer Mick Tucker of Sweet, Jim Hawn, branch manager, Capitol Records/Cleveland; John Gorman, Kid Leo. Front: Matt the Cat, Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records, Steve Lushbaugh. Photo taken at Swingo's Keg & Quarter after Sweet's Allen Theater concert in 1975.

L to R - Back row: David Helton, John Gorman, Bob Seger, Kid Leo, Alto Reed, sax, Silver Bullet Band; Robyn Robins, keyboards; Silver Bullet Band; Matt the Cat .   Second Row: Barry Haughin, Capitol Records; Bruce Garfield, Capitol Records; Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records; Ray Tuskin, Capitol Records; Dan Garfinkel.  Front Row: Drew Abbott, guitar, Silver Bullet Band; Chris Campbell, bass, Silver Bullet Band.  Photo taken backstage at the Richfield Coliseum in 1978.

L to R - Back row: David Helton, John Gorman, Bob Seger, Kid Leo, Alto Reed, sax, Silver Bullet Band; Robyn Robins, keyboards; Silver Bullet Band; Matt the Cat . Second Row: Barry Haughin, Capitol Records; Bruce Garfield, Capitol Records; Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records; Ray Tuskin, Capitol Records; Dan Garfinkel. Front Row: Drew Abbott, guitar, Silver Bullet Band; Chris Campbell, bass, Silver Bullet Band. Photo taken backstage at the Richfield Coliseum, December 23, 1978.

Here are a couple of recently-found group photos of members of the WMMS staff with Sweet and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

Cleveland figures significantly with the national success of both acts.

The_Sweet-Desolation_BoulevardWe did not played Sweet’s first hit, “Little Willy.” It was too bubblegum-sounding for us.   Sweet, taking advantage of the popularity of glam/glitter rock gradually and cautiously evolved into a band that appealed to an adult rock audience and broke out of Cleveland and Los Angeles with their Desolation Boulevard album.

The U.S. version was more pop-oriented than its European release, which led us to play the less poppier-version of “Fox on the Run” from the import on WMMS.

I remember that evening with Sweet, post-concert, as a heavy-drinking night, which can be attested by the condition of some of those in that photo.

Bob-Seger-Beautiful-Loser--436309Bob Seger’s bond with Cleveland goes back to the sixties – long before WMMS – when the he and his earlier bands, the Last Heard and the System, would play Cleveland area clubs and perform on Upbeat.

Cleveland was one of the first cities that provided Seger the traction to break nationally.  Tracks like “Heavy Music” and “Get Out of Denver” established Seger to the WMMS audience but it took 1975’s Beautiful Loser album to transform him from cult favorite to a most-requested, mainstream artist. By summer, “Beautiful Loser,“Katmandu,” “Travelin’ Man,” and his cover of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits” were among our most requested and played album tracks.  Though the album hit #131 nationally, it was a top-ten selling album in Cleveland from spring through fall.

Shortly after that photo was taken, Seger poured the contents of the bottle of wine he was holding down Leo’s back.  Somewhere a photo exists of that, too, though it hasn’t been unearthed yet.

bruceraveorigOur label connection with both acts was Bruce Ravid, who managed regional promotion for Capitol Records, which included the Cleveland market, prior to his best-known position as an Artist & Repertoire executive for the label.  Bruce was instrumental in signing Duran Duran, Missing Persons, the Motels, The Church, and Thomas Dolby, among others.

Today, he produces and hosts Rave’s Raves, a nationally syndicated radio show, which features new and up and coming talent.

Click on photos multiple times for viewable sizes

Superstars in Cleveland – the Sensational Alex Harvey Band!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on October 14, 2009 by John Gorman
Photo by Janet Macoska

Photo by Janet Macoska

Years ago Bob Dylan mentioned that there was a time when he could tell what city he was in by listening to the local radio stations.

One of the most regionalized music markets was Cleveland - and radio provided the soundtrack to its distinctive musical tastes from the late forties to the mid nineties, when deregulation homogenized radio into a dull national blend.

In the seventies Cleveland was the proving ground for dozens of artists – and a bellwether market for rock and roll.  If you made it in Cleveland, you had a fighting chance for your music to catch on elsewhere.

Then there were the many acts that were superstars in Greater Cleveland – but barely known beyond its borders.

Take the astounding popularity of the Scottish rock act, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

From the release of their first album in the U.S., Next, and their second album as a band, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band quickly grew to be one of our most requested artists of the seventies.

Within the first week of airplay, five tracks from the Next album became top requests on WMMS, including “Faith Healer,” “Vambo,” and the controversial “Gang Bang.” It was a top five selling album in Cleveland for close to a year.   In fact, the majority of albums pressed in the U.S. were sold in Cleveland.

Their popularity grew so rapidly that we got a hold of the first SAHB album, Framed, which was only released in Europe, and started playing tracks from that one, too.

Because of their limited U.S. airplay, the SAHB did only two abbreviated U.S. tours. Their first Cleveland appearance, one of only four U.S. dates, was a WMMS Monday Night Out at the Agora, which sold out in advance.   The second date SAHB played in Cleveland, in support of the Impossible Dream album – and part of a seven city tour – was on March 3, the following year at the Allen Theater. That show also sold out well in advance.

Harvey used to refer to WMMS as the next best thing to sex and beer – and even cut an ID stating that fact.

You couldn’t define the SAHB as being in any one rock genre.  In concert they’d shift from a ‘50s oldies cover song (“Framed”) to Jacque Brel (“Next”) to a staged performance (“Man in the Jar”).

The SAHB switched labels from Mercury to Atlantic for their third U.S. release, Live, whose only U.S. airplay was on WMMS.  Due to lack of airplay throughout the rest of the U.S. and Canada, the label canceled plans for a third SAHB U.S. tour.

Through the years we kept in touch with Alex Harvey, hoping to bring him back to the states – and even lobbied to get him on a WMMS World Series of Rock concert.

Alex Harvey passed away on February 4, 1982, the day before his 47th birthday.

alexcard1

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alexcard4Click photo and cards multiple times to enlarge to viewable size

Though there are no known videos of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s appearances in Cleveland, here are a few videos that capture their unique live show:

WMMS Nights Out at the Agora – April, 1980

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on October 5, 2009 by John Gorman

AGORA APRIL 1980

Here’s a WMMS Nights Out at the Agora ad for the last two weeks on April, 1980.   It illustrates the diversity of music being aired on the station at the time.

the touristsThe first band, the Tourists played a low-price show with popular local band Rapscallion opening.  Though the Tourists never caught on, a later incarnation of the band did, which in 1983 returned to Cleveland and the Allen Theater for a free WMMS Appreciation Day concert as the Eurythmics

Joe Perry quit Aerosmith following a backstage altercation at the WMMS World Series of Rock after a tension-filled performance AllCDCovers_the_joe_perry_project_at Cleveland Stadium on July 28, 1979. Backstage, Joe Perry’s wife Elyssa threw a glass of milk at Tom Hamilton’s wife Terry and a cat fight ensued.  Perry quit Aerosmith, returned to Boston, and turned his side project band, the Joe Perry Project, into a full-time commitment. His WMMS Night Out at the Agora performance was in support of his new band’s album release, Let the Music do the Talking.

JohnCale276John Cale was a founding member of the Velvet Underground.  He left the band in 1968 to pursue a solo career.  His “Ready for War,” a blistering hard-rocking song about mercenaries, had become one of our most requested tunes (in part due to the hostage crisis in Iran), and the popularity of the song – and the chance to see a true progressive rock legend (he was also known for working with Kevin Ayers, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, the Stooges, the Modern Lovers, and Squeeze, among others) up close – made this a memorable concert performance.

Akron’s own Rachel Sweet actually broke in the U.K. before America following her appearance on an Akron music compilation that was released there by Stiff bb8493d0b61ef3a2_landingRecords.  Her first album Fool Around, became a WMMS staple and her cover version of Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y,” was a top-requested track.  This was her first concert appearance in Cleveland. Though the album, a success in Europe, failed to break nationally, it sold strongly throughout the Cleveland-Akron-Canton region.

pil1Originally, the first U.S. date for Sex Pistols was scheduled for the Cleveland Agora but immigration problems delayed the tour – and the band broke up before they reached their rescheduled date at the club, which was to be broadcast live on WMMS and an ad-hoc network of a dozen other stations. The April 30 date for Public Image Ltd. was Johnny Lydon’s first Cleveland appearance.

Click images to enlarge

Vintage WMMS photos 1973 & 1974

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on August 17, 2009 by John Gorman

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In 1973 and for much of 1974, WMMS was at a palpable disadvantage as a rising national music and radio influence.  Cleveland had a rich history of breaking new music and exposing new trends first – going back to the pre-war Big Band era.  And in the early fifties Rock & Roll as a musical genus was defined here.

1969-Fire-02We were in Cleveland – a city viewed by those who’d never been here as one where its river and its mayor’s hair both caught on fire but not at the same time, referring to the Cuyahoga River fire in June, 1969 and Mayor Ralph Perk’s hair catching fire when he used welder’s torch for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an industrial convention at Public Hall in October 1972.

The Cleveland Joke was an institution made nationally famous by many Johnny Carson one-liners (written, incidentally, by a former Clevelander) and Laugh-In, which awarded Cleveland its famed Fickle Finger of Fate award.  Even the comic lfbook Howard the Duck dealt with its character, who lived in Cleveland as being “trapped in a world he never made.”

Locally, the daily papers – the Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Press carried stories of Cleveland-based Fortune 500 companies publicizing plans to move their corporate headquarters elsewhere.   One, Diamond Shamrock, said “we haven’t decided where we are moving to.  We just want out of Cleveland.”

(Diamond Shamrock’s farewell to the region was to leave it with 750,000 tons of chromate materials, three waste lakes, and other toxic contaminants at an 1,100 acre site on the border of Painesville Township and Fairport Harbor.)

When negotiating with national labels and managers on bringing an artist to Cleveland for a promotional concert or contest – we’d be forced into defending the city – that it wasn’t the hell hole national media had turned it into.  Plus, if troubled cities like Detroit and Memphis still had positive music industry images, why not Cleveland?

2694367352_87212253d5We wanted to increase our national presence – and reverse the negativity that was so strongly associated with Cleveland. Its rich history and current rock scene had to be exploited – and we were the only ones that could do it on that level.

We inundated the national radio and music industry trade papers with a steady bombardment of staged staff photos. We’d take advantage of any opportunity to promote WMMS to raise our profile and Cleveland’s importance to the radio and music industries.

The first photo is from Radio & Records, which was all of six months old, in December, 1973, but was growing rapidly in industry influence.  It was the first trade to give equal billing to both radio and the music business.  Prior to Radio & Records, most trade magazines were music industry dominant.

R&R 12-73 WMMS_0001

This was one of the earliest “group shots” taken at WMMS. Can you find the three prominent typos in the R&R caption? Doc Remer, who is pictured here was a Cleveland music industry veteran – and holds the record for attending the most WMMS Nights Out at the Cleveland Agora. He was at every show!

L to R - Standing: Betty Korvan, Denny Sanders, Kid Leo, John Gorman, Frank DiLeo (Bell Records)   Seated: Dave Prescott (PIKS Corp.), Debbie Ullman

L to R - Standing: Betty Korvan, Denny Sanders, Kid Leo, John Gorman, Frank DiLeo (Bell Records) Seated: Dave Prescott (PIKS Corp.), Debbie Ullman

This photo was taken in the summer of 1974. Suzi Quatro was an established superstar in Cleveland – but hadn’t really caught on in the rest of the country.  She was too rock for top 40 stations and too pop for most album rock FMs.  Our listeners found her to be a perfect fit.   In lieu of awarding us a gold or platinum album – since she hadn’t achieved that prominence nationally – Bell Records, her label, created a special award for breaking Suzi Quatro in the Cleveland, Akron, and Canton markets.   It was said that if Suzi Quatro’s sales were as strong in other markets, she would be a platinum million-selling artist.

(Delivering the award was Frank DiLeo, who worked for Quatro’s label Bell Records,  He later joined Columbia Records’ subsidiary label Epic as Vice President of National Promotion. During his time there, the label outperformed the parent company in sales. He later managed Michael Jackson between 1984 and 1989    DiLeo also worked with Prince on special projects and appeared in three movies: GoodfellasWayne’s World and Wayne’s World II and in a music video for Saga’s “Wind Him Up.” Earlier this year DiLeo returned to his managerial role with Michael Jackson, to oversee his sold out 50 concerts at the O2 Arena in London. Here’s the Saga music video, included only because you probably haven’t heard this song for at least 15 or 20 years…)

The constant barrage of WMMS photos and press releases to the national trades paid off – and by the end of 1974 Cleveland was being recognized nationally as a the hottest rock and roll breakout market in the country.

Click to enlarge photos

Rasta-Buzzard Vibrations

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on August 3, 2009 by John Gorman

MWRF-Official-PosterFor eighteen years Packy Malley’s Midwest Reggaefest has been a summer concert staple in our region. It’s earned the status as one of the preeminent reggae music festivals in the U.S. This year’s event takes place this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (August 8, 9, and 10) at Nelson’s Ledges Quarry Park in Garretsville, Ohio, 45 miles east of Cleveland.

I was surprised to learn how few people are aware that Cleveland was one of the first cities in America to embrace Jamaican reggae.

Though there were a couple of reggae hits that made the top 10 charts in 1968 by Desmond Dekker and the Aces (“The Israelites”) and Johnny Nash (“Hold Me Tight”) – and again in 1972 with Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” they were deemed novelty hits and not front-runners for a new musical style.

They’d become U.S. hits largely because of their British chart-topping success. Back then, U.S. radio and labels paid close interest to U.K. music trends.

Hoping to benefit from Nash’s success, A&M Records rereleased Jimmy Cliff’s Wonderful World, Beautiful People in the U.S., in 1970, but it’s title track met with limited regional success on radio.

Reggae didn’t catch on in the states until a low budget, independent Jamaican film got notice in the art cinema circles – The Harder They Come.

Kenny and Jim Parry Cambridge Common 69_2It was 1973. I was moving to from Boston to Cleveland to join WMMS. I ran into Kenny Greenblatt, the always in-the-know sales manager for the original WBCN/Boston. He eagerly said, “You have to see The Harder they Come before you go to Cleveland. You’ll want to take this music with you.”

The Harder they Come, just opened at the Orson Wells Cinema in Cambridge. The Orson Wells was one of many theaters in Boston and Cambridge, committed to showing independent and foreign films. I took Kenny up on the offer.

I loved the film and loved the music so much I picked up a copy of the soundtrack the next morning – and called Denny Sanders at WMMS to tell him about it.

The Harder They Come was filmed in Jamaica in 1972. It was directed by Perry Henzell and starred Jimmy Cliff . He played Ivan Martin, a poor man who travels to Kingston and becomes a reggae singer. Though he records a hit record, he receives no royalties or credit – and is forced to parlay his part-time pot dealing into a life of crime and violence.

300px-Theharder1B-movie director and distributor Roger Corman bought the U.S. distribution rights and released it in February, 1973 as a “Blaxploitation” film. It bombed at the box office.

In April, The Harder they Come was picked up as a Saturday night “midnight movie,” – this time using the original advertising artwork. It quickly developed a cult following.

A couple of months later, the Orson Wells took a chance and booked it as a regular feature. It became a huge hit – and played the theater for several months.

(That wasn’t unsual for Cambridge, Mass., which had a few art house theaters. At one, the Central Square Cinema, the movie The King of Hearts played continually for five years).

cliff_jimmy_harderthe_101bWithin a few weeks of my arrival in Cleveland, Denny and I decided to play the soundtrack to The Harder They Come on WMMS and work on bringing the film to Cleveland. The songs immediately caught on – and four tracks from the album, the title cut, “You Can Get it If You Really Want It” – also by Cliff, “Johnny Too Bad” by the Slickers and “Pressure Drop” by Toots and the Maytals started picking up noticeable requests. Within a couple of months, nearly every track on the album was getting airplay.

When the Wailers’ first U.S. album, Catch A Fire, was released, it’s “Stir It Up” also became a top-requested track. That was followed by Toots & the Maytals’ Funky Kingston album, which produced three popular cuts – “Pressure Drop,” which was already getting play from its inclusion on The Harder they Come soundtrack; the title track – “Funky Kingston,” and their cover of “Louie Louie.”

Reggae music was now well represented on WMMS – and Cleveland became a top-selling market for the genre.

Toots Hibbert at WMMS, 1975. L to R- standing: Unknown, Dan Garfinkel, Steve Lushbaugh, John Gorman, Denny Sanders, Murray Saul. Seated: Toots Hibbert, Jane Scott

Toots Hibbert at WMMS, 1975. L to R- standing: Unknown, Dan Garfinkel, Steve Lushbaugh, John Gorman, Denny Sanders, Murray Saul. Seated: Toots Hibbert, Jane Scott

We also managed to secure a theater for a proper premiere of The Harder They Come. It had played Cleveland briefly, for one week, at the old Hippodrome Theater. Though we wanted to premiere it at the Heights Art Theater in Cleveland Heights, which we felt was the most appropriate venue for its showing, we had to deal with local theater politics and our premiere was regulated to a late October showing at Loew’s Stillwell Theater in Bedford – the worst performing theater in the chain.  Even worse than that, the theater used the old “Blaxploitation” poster instead of the revised one. Surprisingly, the film did better than expected in attendance though its challenging out-of-the-way location (I-480 was under construction and I-77 was incomplete) prevented the theater from becoming a destination location. The Stillwell was torn down not long after the film was shown.

A year later, Marley’s second U.S. album, Burnin’ broke nationally with “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot the Sheriff.” In 1975, both Bob Marley and the Wailers and Toots and the Maytals did WMMS-sponsored club dates in Cleveland. Marley played a WMMS Night Out at the Agora – the same show where opening act, the Kent-based 50-60-75 (The Numbers Band), recorded their live Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town album – and Toots and the Maytals at the Smiling Dog Saloon.

Some were not appreciative of our reggae airplay. Dave Thomas was one. In his Scene Magazine column, written under the nom de plume Crocus Behemoth, he complained about our reggae airplay and suggested we’d be best to stick to rock and roll – and nothing else.

Cleveland remained a strong reggae record sales market for many years – and responsible for breaking many reggae hits, including, “Legalize It” by former Wailer Peter Tosh, Dillenger’s “Cocaine,” and Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown.”.

By the end of the decade, we launched our WMMS Jamaica trips hosted by Jeff and Flash. We also did a few contests to send listeners to Reggae Sunsplash, the all-star reggaefest in Jamaica.

Today, reggae music can be heard on college and public radio stations in Cleveland and Akron.

Click on images to enlarge

24 years ago – The C.A.R.E. Sessions – the story and video

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on July 27, 2009 by John Gorman

One of our most ambitious projects was inspired by the all-star cast of Band Aid, which was organized by Bob Geldorf, performing the song “Do They Know it’s Christmas” to raise money for charities to feed starving Ethiopians. The performers included Bono and Adam Clayton from U2, Phil Collins, Bananarama, members of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Culture Club. A U.S. version, “We Are the World” followed; organized by Harry Belafonte and his manager. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, and featured Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers, Billy Joel, Steve Perry, and Bob Dylan, among others.  Not long after a Canadian charity record was organized by Bryan Adams and his manager Bruce Allen, “Tears Are Not Enough,” which featured Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummins, Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, Dan Hill, Cory Hart, Bruce Cockburn, Geddy Lee of Rush, and Mike Reno of Loverboy.

Denny and I decided to do the near impossible: put together an all-star cast of Cleveland musicians –and record our own charity song.  We didn’t consider it far-fetched. We decided to help an Ethiopian relief charity, and also send ten percent of the profits to local food banks in Greater Cleveland.   Denny, our promotion director Jim Marchyshyn, and I set up a lunch in March of 1985 at Jim’s Steak House to run the concept by Mark Benesch, a local Columbia Records rep, to see if he’d be interested in pitching it to the label.

It wasn’t that easy.

Denny spearheaded the project, contacting dozens of local acts and even former Clevelander Ben Orr of the Cars – who was living in Boston but had some Cleveland hits in the ‘60s with the Grasshoppers, when Orr (nee Orzechowski) was known as Benny eleven-letters. Dennis Chandler, a musician who fronted the Strataphonics, a cover band I hired as the house band for our sister oldies rock station WHK (14-K), pitched a song, “We Can Make it Happen.” We invited WKYC anchor Dale Solly to make a video of the performance.  Denny booked the Beachwood Recording Studio to cut the track between April 15 and 26 and took a leave of absence from his weeknight show to supervise production.

As we started lining up performers, we realized the Chandler song wasn’t resonant enough for a big chorus of singers.  Michael Stanley was called in to write a new song, “Eyes of the Children,” with the all-star group in mind.

Only one ego outburst occurred, when it was Rocco Scotti’s turn to sing and he was told what key to sing in.  Scotti, an operatic performer, famed for singing the National Anthem at Cleveland Stadium, lost his temper and said, “You don’t tell me what key to sing in – I tell you what key to sing in,” and stormed out of the studio.

We named the group C.A.R.E. for Cleveland Artists Recording for Ethiopia.  CARE, the famed humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, initially objected but allowed us to use the name once we told them of our plans.

More than forty performers ended up participating, including Orr, Stanley, and Strongsville resident Ricky Medlocke of Blackfoot.  It was a Who’s Who of Cleveland music at the time. Musicians were the Michael Stanley Band. Vocalists included Medlocke, Skip Martin and Kenny Petrus of the Dazz Band, Joe Vitale, Jennifer Lee, the Visions, Alex Bevan, Paul Fayreweather, Mimi Hart of the Bop Kats, and Donnie Iris. Chorus vocalists were Jim Bonfanti, Dave Smaley, and Wally Bryson of the Raspberries, Tom and Frank Amato of Beau Coup, Billy Buckholtz and Steve Jochum of Wild Horses; Archie Norris, Kenneth Kevin and David Bell of You-Turn; Ellie Nore and David Smeltz of I-Tal; Audrey Goodwin, Shari Brown, Mark Adison of Nation of One, Bill Pettijohn and Billy Sullivan of Moonlight Drive, Mary Martin, Mark Avsec, and Dennis Chandler.

We premiered the “Eyes of the Children” single on June 26 and the C.A.R.E. video premiered that evening on WKYC’s newscast.  This is an uncut version of the piece, which includes the original commercials and the complete C.A.R.E. session video.

WKYC also presented the “The Making of the C.A.R.E. Sessions” special two nights later on the show Cleveland Alive, which is featured here.

Columbia Records backed out of distribution but Irv Azoff, president of MCA Records, whom I’d met when he managed the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg, and many other quality acts, agreed to distribute the song even though it was fated to be a regional hit, at best.

Today, a mint copy of the 12” single goes for $100 in collecting circles.  It also appeared on a bootleg CD compilation of Cleveland artists that was sold in Europe.

…and not to change the subject – but where were you thirty years ago today (7/28)?  Here?  Click it good!

Denny Sanders’ Video Aircheck, WMMS, November ’85

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on July 7, 2009 by John Gorman

This is an all-too-brief video featuring Denny Sanders on WMMS from November, 1985. Denny owned 6 to 10 PM on Cleveland radio. He was far more than just an air personality – he was an entertainer – a unique trait the WMMS airstaff shared.

Denny’s official title was creative services director.  I preferred “conscience.”  Denny’s input was imperative and he shared in nearly every decision made in regards to WMMS programming and operations.   He produced and scheduled the weekly live Coffee Break Concerts, which were hosted by Matt the Cat. That involved dealing with labels, managers, tour managers, and the Cleveland Agora on an almost daily basis to insure that the scheduled act would be playing live in front of a packed house every Wednesday afternoon at 1.  There was no other show on any radio station in America like the weekly Coffee Break Concerts. Denny dealt hands-on with acts as diverse as U2, Tom Waits, John Mellencamp, and even Boxcar Willie.  Denny also worked closely with a number of local bands.

Regardless of what Denny’s pre-show day was like, every weeknight he delivered the North Coast of America four-hours of fast-moving, forward motion, music and pertinent information, while taking listener calls between songs.

This video was shot by Art Vuolo, “Radio’s Best Friend,” for his “Video Air-chex” series.

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