Archive for January, 2008

WMMS 1983 Staff photo

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 25, 2008 by John Gorman


Back row: Jeff Kinzbach, Walt Tiburski, B.L.F. Bash, Matt the Cat, Ed “Flash” Ferenc, Al Koski, Kid Leo, Denny Sanders, Len “Boom” Goldberg, John Gorman

Front row: Tom O’Brien, Jane Snow, Betty Korvan, Rhonda Kiefer, Dia Stein, Chris Hernandez

The radical changes and challenges happening in popular music in the early 1980s hit 1983 with full force.

Certainly, 1983 was when a number of musical genres clashed and mutated into a unique mixture.

Rock and rhythm and blues collided with Prince and the Revolution and Purple Rain – the movie and soundtrack. Those fortunate to be at the U2 concert at the Music Hall in May witnessed a maturing band crossing over from cult status to superstardom.

New labels, new styles, and new trends – some influenced by music videos via MTV – were crossing into mainstream popular culture.

More on 1983 in Chapter 23 of The Buzzard.

Backing the Attack!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 21, 2008 by John Gorman

Almost anyone listening to WMMS in the 70s and 80s could effortlessly recall the names and day parts of our air staff. WMMS was not a “(fill-in-the-name)” in the morning, the best rock and roll all day” station. We were personality radio 24 hours a day.

Our achievements must be shared by our unsung heroes – a diligent, ingenious behind-the-scenes team that ensured we were was seen and heard – from the front office to the front lines.

Among them:

Dan Garfinkel and Jim Marchyshyn managed the promotion and marketing of WMMS. Dan invented the position for radio in the early seventies and Jim took over in the eighties following a successful run of promoting shows for Belkin Productions.

Their objective – a modest proposal – was to make certain that every man, woman, and child in Greater Cleveland had at least one gross impression of the WMMS call letters and Buzzard every day.

Long before non-traditional revenue was a buzzword – WMMS was reaping profit on its merchandising campaign, which included the sale of everything from T-shirts and jerseys to roach clips, scarves, jeans, and posters. And we donated the profits to regional charities.

Bumper stickers were printed in the hundreds of thousands and distributed free. Costs were covered by couponing the backs of stickers.

At any event whether it be a concert to a pro sports game – WMMS and the Buzzard had displays that were loud, proud, and impossible to ignore. Dan and Jim made sure of it.

Then there was our audio processing. WMMS was the loudest, best processed, and most heard radio station anywhere – and we did so because of the two best chief engineers in the history of radio – Frank Foti and Steve Church.

Any station could over-modulate and jack-up its sound to pin the needle – but it comes with a cost of poorer audio processing, which creates listener fatigue – often in the form of a dull headache.

I was always on the crusade for WMMS to be the most pronounced station on the FM band. But what I was asking for couldn’t be done because the processing equipment hadn’t been invented yet. So Frank and Steve took it upon themselves to do it.

Frank bestowed an on-air presence that no other station could duplicate. When he moved to New York to do the same for Z-100, Steve Church took over the chief’s position and our audio processing continued to be years ahead of the competition. Steve also hosted a weekly talk-show on WMMS, Live Wire.

Today, Frank and Steve are the principals of Telos Systems, a company they founded in the mid eighties, and the world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of audio processing equipment.

More on Dan Garfinkel and Jim Marchyshyn’s WMMS adventures can be found in Chapters 11, 18, 23, 25, just to name a few, in The Buzzard.

More on Frank Foti and Steve Church’s audio adventures can be found in Chapters 12, 19, 28, just to name a few, in The Buzzard.

Baboon Busters

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 17, 2008 by John Gorman


From a WMMS jersey by David Helton.  Top: Spaceman Scott, Ed “Flash” Ferenc, Buzzard Skyway Patrol (Pat Brady), Casey Coleman.  Bottom: Capt. Kenny Clean, The G98 Baboon, Jeff Kinzbach, and astologer Bruce R. This was the only time we put out a piece of WMMS merchandise without the Buzzard logo on it.  Even better, the mascot we did use – the G98 Baboon -was our creation – not theirs.

There have been many legendary radio wars over the years but few had the intensity of the war between WMMS and WGCL in 1984.

In most markets radio wars were anti-climatic; fought on the platform of who could give away the most money or cars – with scant attention paid to the programming quality of the radio stations.

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A Tour of WMMS in 1975 with Denny Sanders

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on January 11, 2008 by Chris

The original WMMS studios and offices were located in the “Midtown” section of Cleveland at Euclid and East 50th.

It was a dangerous and dismal part of town. Robberies were routine. An average one car per week was stolen our parking lot. You had to maneuver around the hookers and drug dealers working the street to enter the parking lot from Prospect Rd.

A woman who ran a small snack stand directly across from the station entrance died behind the counter one evening and no one noticed or cared until the stench became unbearable.

The WMMS and WHK offices and studios were housed on the first floor in a windowless part of the building. It resembled an underground bunker.

The WMMS studio was small and dirty. Every square inch was cluttered with albums, tapes, carts, reference books, speakers, wires, wires, and more wires. Layers of dust and grime coated the cabinets, the speakers, the clock, and the wires that snaked everywhere.

This station tour and interview with Denny Sanders was part of a news program that ran on WKYC/Cleveland in late 1976.

More on the original WMMS studios and offices in Chapter 1 of The Buzzard.

Another interesting note: Part of our success was to never get stuck in our past. This video was shot in 1976. The majority of the music Denny played throughout this segment is  from the same year.

A small intimate gathering….

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on January 10, 2008 by John Gorman

We now turn our attention to the WMMS World Series of Rock concerts. They were small, intimate gatherings of 88,000-plus of our closest friends in the cosy setting of Cleveland Stadium.

Though a number of concert performances at World Series of Rock concerts were filmed or videotaped, almost nothing has been made available for sale or turned up on-line. An exception is this clip of AC/DC on July 28, 1978, performing their tender love ballad, “The Jack.”

Were you there?

Springsteen and Southside live at the Agora – 1978!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on January 4, 2008 by John Gorman


Here’s something guaranteed to put a quick thaw on your post-New Year’s winter doldrums.

Let’s turn back the clock thirty years. 1978 was an astounding year for rock and roll in Cleveland.

WMMS was ten years old – and we threw a year-long anniversary celebration. The actual anniversary was August, 1968, when prior owners Metromedia changed the call letters of WHK-FM to WMMS. We intentionally overlooked the fact that WMMS was not in a rock format for the entire decade. We did use it as a marketing tool to procure artists for free concerts and $1.01 shows by adding a “Tenth Anniversary” tag to it. We did and it worked.

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In Memoriam – Harlyn “Hal” Fisher

Posted in Buzzard on January 1, 2008 by John Gorman

hal-fisher.jpg Hal Fisher, the first Vice President and General Manager of WHK and WMMS under Malrite Broadcasting passed away on December 23.

Hal relocated from Malrite’s Rochester, New York stations – a daytime AM and a beautiful music format FM – following the license transfer of WHK and WMMS from Metromedia to Malrite. Hal grew up and attended college in South Dakota and started his radio career as a sports announcer in Youngstown. Later, he moved into programming and sales management and, for a brief time hosted a children’s TV show in South Bend, Indiana.

Hal was a conservative Republican and a lay church leader, but never let his personal beliefs get in the way of managing WHK and WMMS. He supported and never questioned WMMS, whose format and content provided the soundtrack to a period of unprecedented social change in America. He never criticized what he didn’t understand.

Despite a photo in his office showing Hal shaking hands with President Nixon at a private reception, he approved, without question, a print ad for WMMS, which promoted a Sunday night WMMS broadcast of The National Lampoon Radio Hour’s Nixon Impeachment Special. It’s even more startling. This was the only time we were granted approval for a paid print ad that year.
Hal signed off on the hiring of most of the original WMMS on-air and support staff during 1973 through mid-1974, which included Jeff Kinzbach, Ed “Flash” Ferenc, Matt the Cat, Kid Leo, Betty Korvan, Larry Bole, Debbie Ullman, Donna Halper, Walt Tiburski, and yours truly.

For more information on Hal Fisher, see Chapter 5 of The Buzzard.