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.
Cleveland was atypical. Our radio wars were fought with programming quality and cunning promotional maneuvers. The real winners were our listeners because they were got to hear and witness the end result.
Though WMMS had a long battle with rival M-105 from the mid-seventies through the early eighties, we never acknowledged our rivals on-the-air.
But we did raid their promotional events.
When M-105 secured a Cheap Trick concert co-sponsorship, we parked our van directly in front of the Allen Theater and our programming and promotion staff passed out free “WMMS welcomes Cheap Trick to Cleveland” T-shirts to those going to the show.
Another time M-105 were given a co-sponsorship for a Boston concert at the Coliseum – an intentional slap to WMMS since we had broken the band (we played Boston before they did in Boston, Mass.) – I contacted my friend Paul Ahearn who I knew from Boston (the city) who was now managing Boston (the band) and seized control of that concert by getting a large block of tickets to giveaway – and outfitting all winners with white tuxes that read “WMMS welcomes Boston to Cleveland.” And during the show, lead singer Brad Delp thanked WMMS for being the first radio station in America to play the band.
With WGCL, it was different. They were a little dirty, and they were gaining ground on us.WGCL was a pay-for-play station. What they said they played to the trade papers and what they really played were two different lists. The practice was called “paper adds.” WGCL’s real playlist included much of the WMMS playlist – but they didn’t report those tracks because there was no payoff attach to them.
When WGCL warned labels it wouldn’t add music from their company if it was doing a major promotion with WMMS – we took the war on-air.
We created an unofficial mascot for the station – a Baboon – which we used in print ads and T-shirts. The Baboon mascot was accidental. At the time the German singer Nena had a hit song with “99 Red Balloons,” which we renamed and rerecorded as “98 Dead Baboons.” WGCL was using the slogan “G-98.”
Taking advantage of the movie Ghostbuster’s popularity, which was also out at the same time, our staff assumed the name – Baboonbusters.
As WGCL unraveled an interesting maze of deception was exposed that outed some prominent individuals, organizations, and record labels.
You can find the complete story on one of the greatest radio wars of all time in Chapter 25 of The Buzzard.