Backing the Attack!

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.

5 Responses to “Backing the Attack!”

  1. Oh man, John… You just confirmed something I remember a family friend telling me 35 years or so ago. The guy was a real audiophile (he could repair amps and receivers, etc. to the component level and I thought he was a wizard) and he told me to listen carefully to WMMS; I wouldn’t hear a more full and clean signal over any other Cleveland radio station. As you said, it wasn’t that you guys were overdriving the signal by turning the knob up to eleven, you were putting out some really nice audio! Always nice to hear it straight from the source, especially after all of these years. Good stuff…

  2. It’s been kind of bugging me that I commented the engineering aspect of “Backing the Attack” while ignoring the bit about station promotion. John’s not kidding, it was hard to go anywhere in the greater Cleveland area back in ‘MMS’s heyday and not see at least a buzzard bumper sticker. That buzzard really hit a chord with the listeners and many were happy to associate themselves with the station by displaying a WMMS sticker on their vehicles, bulldozers, you name it in many cases. Speaking of the bumper stickers, I don’t recall how widespread the practice was but where I hung out it was not uncommon to see the call letters, frequency and buzzard all carefully individually cut out of the sticker and arranged on the rear window of a car, for example. It was just a bit easier to do that in the 101 days (vs. 100.7). I still have a small toolbox with a dissected WMMS sticker splayed out on the front of it. (The toolbox is “safety yellow” so the letters, buzzard, etc. really pop out of it!)

  3. […] logo for Ghostbusters.  It wasn’t in the budget and it was expensive, but promotion director Jim Marchyshyn ordered and had printed that day 1,500 T-shirts with that […]

  4. […] heard about it at WMMS, Dan Garfinkel, our promotion director and I pitched having Murray Saul do his weekly Friday night “Get […]

  5. […] inviting listeners to join us in the van.  Though we weren’t supposed to, a couple hundred Buzzard bumper stickers were passed out along the way.  Some of them ended up on traffic light poles and the sides of […]

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