Archive for February, 2008

WMMS Weekend World Premiere Exclusive Cease & Desist

Posted in Buzzard on February 28, 2008 by John Gorman

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Nearly every weekend we’d score a copy of an album our competition didn’t have. 

We promoted them as “WMMS Weekend World Premiere Exclusives.”  It wasn’t an original idea.  Top 40 radio in the sixties scrambled to be the first with a new single by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, or the Rolling Stones.    The station landing the exclusive would play and promote it with great fanfare.   To keep our competition from taping it off our air – we’d had a spoken-word “WMMS World Premiere Exclusive,” which we’d run a couple of times within the “hooks” of the song.

The labels reviled exclusives.  They wanted airplay – but on their terms to coincide with the album’s release and their promotion and marketing plans for it.   Exclusives also strained relationships with the labels and the other stations that didn’t have the advance.

We would begin promoting our exclusive for the weekend – or on rare occasion – exclusives – Friday morning with Jeff and Flash on the Buzzard Morning Zoo.   By the afternoon, Kid Leo teased the premiere in every break.  We never announced the artist or album we were going to premiere that evening – since we didn’t want to clue the label or completion on our illicit acquisition. 

Shortly after 6 PM, when the local offices of the record labels closed for the weekend, Denny Sanders gave the exclusive its first spin.  If a rep from the label called the studio or sent a cease-or-desist telegram, corporate rules dictated that I was the only person authorized to respond,  And I made sure tp be impossible to reach.  We’d play – and play up – our exclusive hourly throughout the weekend.I deliberately came in late – just before 10 AM – on Mondays, acknowledge the cease-and-desist, and then Jeff Kinzbach would read the cease-and-desist on-the-air and tell listeners that we couldn’t play the exclusive any longer, which made the labels look like the bad guys spoiling the party.

WMMS World Premiere Exclusives” weren’t limited to weekends.  Often, we’d get an advance track that wouldn’t be officially released until a day or two later – but before the weekend.  In late April, 1984 we landed Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”  Kid Leo wanted to make it a special event.   I told him of the time I heard Larry Justice on WMEX in Boston play “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys for the first time.  When he the song ended, he said, “That’s so nice, I’m gonna play it twice.”  Leo did one better.  He played “Dancing’ In the Dark” three times in a row.  A week later we got our talons on the entire Born in the U.S.A. album, which we had exclusively for the entire three-day long Memorial Day Weekend.  Its official release was June 4. For a time I had an entire wall in my office papered with cease and desist telegrams from record labels and artist managers.

Some of our exclusives caused national – and even international – problems for the labels, which were compounded by an increase in our world premiere exclusive output when chief engineer Frank Foti built our secret weapon – The Switch. This cease and desist is for the Who’s Face Dances album, which we premiered on March 11 – five days in advance of its legitimate release date.

More on WMMS World Premiere Exclusives and the Switch in Chapter 12 of The Buzzard

WMMS Nights out at the Agora – November, 1980

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on February 26, 2008 by John Gorman

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Cleveland was internationally known as a musically diverse break-out market and this Agora schedule is a good example of the wide variety of rock and roll that the city craved.

I’d often get comments from out-of-towners about Cleveland’s music scene being an alternate universe of sorts and asked why they weren’t hearing the same music in their hometown or other cities.  And this included many – probably most – of the artists whose tours stopped here. 

Here’s a month’s worth of WMMS Nights Out shows from the Agora during November, 1980 

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The Rubber City Rebels were one of Akron’s best – and one of the most underrated bands of that time.  They signed with Capitol Records, and later moved to L.A. in hopes of broadening their base – but were never able to achieve the international success they deserved.  Their management blamed the label, the label blamed the management.  In reality, both sides were to blame.  This show was an Akron double bill- Hammer Damage, the opening act, was formed by former RCR members Mike Hammer and Dave Zagar – a.k.a. Donny Damage.  This show played the club below the Agora – the Mistake. 

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One of the best Cleveland bands that got away. was American Noise   It was a who’s who of well-known journeyman Cleveland musicians, headed by Craig and Bruce Balzer and drummer Tommy Rich. Its members came from a wide musical background – from southern-style rock to power pop with a touch of the Who.  The album was a huge success in Cleveland – but failed to generate airplay elsewhere, which, like the Rubber City Rebels’ fate, I blamed on poor management and label disinterest. 

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Their opening act, Blue Angel, was getting airplay on WMMS with their clever cover of Gene Pitney’s “I’m Gonna Be Strong.” Its lead singer went on to become one of the biggest solo artists of the 80s – Cyndi Lauper. A special Sunday WMMS Night Out served as Thin Lizzy’s final appearance in Cleveland in support of their Chinatown album.

The following day, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe brought Rockpile to the Agora in a double-bill that included Oklahoma-based rockabilly band Moon Martin & the Ravens as its opening act.  Rockpile’s Seconds of Pleasure was the only album they released as Rockpile.  

On Tuesday, Dire Straits played to a sold-out crowd, supporting their just-released Making Movies album.  

The final Monday of the month featured New Riders of the Purple Sage, which packed the Agora with an eclectic mix of hippies, bikers, and Agora regulars all waiting somewhat patiently to hear – and, perhaps, light up to “Panama Red.” 

Read about the Cleveland Agora – and many of the artists that played there –in The Buzzard.

The Weekend Never Ends – February , 1975

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on February 22, 2008 by John Gorman

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It’s the weekend and here’s another dose of what they were like in Cleveland – 33 years ago today.

In 1975, the weekend officially began on Friday at 5:55 PM with Kid Leo playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” followed by Murray’s “Get Down,” which led into the live version of “Friday on my Mind” by Earthquake.  From there, Denny Sanders and Betty Korvan took over and provided the soundtrack to a Friday night, party night, in what was becoming the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.

This is a full-page ad from the February 19-25, 1975 issue of Cleveland’s Scene magazine. 

Murray Saul’s “Get Down” was just beginning to catch on at the time and “the weekend never ends” was our slogan.

This ad also shows David Helton subtly modifying the Buzzard by gradually reducing the length of its neck.

Buzzard ad courtesy of Matt Wadlaw who found this for sale on line.

More on the Buzzard mascot and artist David Helton in Chapter 7 of The Buzzard

Cleveland 1973 – You can’t get there from here.

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on February 20, 2008 by John Gorman

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In 1973, the first thing I learned about Cleveland was that I couldn’t get there from here.  

Nearly all cities have east and west or north and south rivalries and identities but nothing came close to Cleveland in the 70s and early 80s.  I’d meet people from the west side of Cleveland who had never been east of downtown and east siders that wouldn’t even consider venturing to the other side of the Cuyahoga River.  

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Even those living 10 to 15 miles within the southern-most borders of Cuyahoga County identified themselves as being east or west siders with the winding Cuyahoga River as the boundary. 

During my first year in Cleveland, I knew more east siders that had been to New York than to the west side – and west siders who had been to Chicago – but no further east that University Circle or the eclectic Coventry neighborhood in Cleveland Heights.

There were only four ways to go from the east side of Greater Cleveland to the west. 

The most northerly route was the west Shoreway.  It was a poorly maintained twisting and turning, pothole-laden road, running parallel to Lake Erie.   

The second was Granger Road on the east side, which changed names to Brookpark Road, at the west side of the Cuyahoga River.  The road was – and still is for many miles, an ugly industrial landscape, heavily traveled by trucks, and dotted with traffic lights every few blocks.  In 1973, those traffic lights were horribly out of sync.

The third was an alternate but parallel route to Granger and Brookpark – and just as arduous to drive.   Granger began at Rockside Road on the east side but unlike other east-west streets that changed names at the Cuyahoga River border didn’t go through its name change to Snow Road until the Independence-Parma city border.  

Until I-480 opened, the latter two routes were the most direct for those traveling from the central east side to Hopkins Airport, located within Cleveland city limits, but on its furthest southwest side.  Traveling from the east side to Hopkins Airport often took longer than it would to drive from Cleveland to Ashtabula on I-90.   

 The fourth choice was the only fully completed Interstate in Greater Cleveland:  I-71, which traveled southwest from downtown Cleveland to Louisville, Kentucky – and the prime route to the airport used by those living in the northern-most east and west side suburbs.  It was, at the time, the only interstate in Greater Cleveland to have an exit ramp to the airport. 

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I-71 served a second purpose.  In the early 70s, I-90, the Interstate connecting Boston to Seattle dead-ended in Cleveland due to being years behind its construction schedule.

To continue west, one had to take I-71 for a little over ten miles to the Ohio Turnpike (I-80) and drive west for 14 and a half miles until the highways merged in Elyria. 

   I-480, the Interstate that would eventually connect the east and west sides from the south suburbs, was in its earliest stages of construction, and also years behind schedule. 

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 Even traveling from Cleveland to Akron was a near impossibility. 

I-77, the 611-mile Interstate that connects Cleveland to Columbia, South Carolina, dead-ended near the suburban borders of Cleveland and Cuyahoga Heights, just seven miles south of downtown Cleveland.  To continue on I-77 to Akron, Canton, and other points south, the unfinished highway merged on to Brecksville Road in the town of Independence, which you would take south to Rockside Road for a couple of miles, where you’d turn right and rejoin I-77 about three quarters of a mile down the road.  

East of the city, a completed Interstate, I-271, connected I-90 in the Cuyahoga-Lake county border, 18 miles east of Cleveland, and traveled south where it connected to I-77 in Bath, Ohio in Summit County and a northern suburb of Akron and ended at the Summit county-Medina county line at I-71, a little over 24 miles south of Cleveland.  I-271 allowed far-east siders access to I-71 and I-77 Interstates without having to drive through downtown Cleveland. 

 Even the ethnicity of Greater Cleveland varied greatly on the east and west sides.  There were no African-Americans or Jews on the west side.  

Being newly arrived from Boston, and having travelled extensively throughout the northeast and some of the midwest, this experience was pure culture shock.

More on 1973 Cleveland and WMMS in Chapters 1 & 2 in The Buzzard

WMMS/Belkin Concerts – 24 years ago!

Posted in Buzzard on February 18, 2008 by John Gorman

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…because it’s FRIDAY! FRIDAY! FRIDAY! FRIDAY!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on February 15, 2008 by John Gorman

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In the mid 1970s as Cleveland plummeted in its decline and eventual default, Murray Saul took to the airwaves; forever changing the way Clevelanders of that time, released themselves from the shackles of the workday grind and the clutches of that beady-eyed Slavedriver.

Immediately after Kid Leo played Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Friday nights at 6, the “Get Down” officially kicked off the weekend in Northern Ohio.  It’s FRIDAY! FRIDAY! FRIDAY! FRIDAY!  Time to grab your honey, speak some Spanish, twist a few tunahs, turn your rack into something wonderful and enjoy the easy life in a non-stop partying world where sleep is out of the question and the where the weekends are longer than the weeks. In Cleveland, National Bee Week never ended.

The script for the “Get Down” was written during the week.  Sometimes it was assembled in pieces and other times we knocked it out in one-take. There was no method to the madness – just madness.   We would start preparing it over lunch..  To keep our perspectives fresh, we tried to pick a different spot every week – east side, west side or south side.    When time didn’t allow for travel, we’d do it at Jim’s Steak House, by the Eagle Street bridge, in what was then the industrial section of Flats.

Inspiration came ubiquitously – from our listeners, the news, the music, and even personal experience. 

The “Get Down” was written on a legal pad – always using a brown-ink felt-tip pen (I don’t recall the reason for that – you’d have to ask Murray).  When completed, we’d return to WMMS and I’d type it up on my circa World War II Smith Corona (eventually, we did go electric).  

About a half-hour before the “Get Down,” Murray and anyone else wishing to join, would make a quick jaunt to the parking lot, pick a car, twist a tunah, and get into the proper mode for delivery.  After the break, Murray went  to  the production studio, where last-minute changes would be made to the script while “Born to Run” was reaching its climax.

Since all of the “Get Downs” were taped and archived for posterity, the scripts were usually tossed.  Here’s a rare exception – the first page to one of the few that weren’t.

 buzzard-book-cover-small.jpgRead more on the “Get Down” in Chapter 9 of The Buzzard

 murray-saul-cd.jpgMurray Saul’s The Get Downs, Vol. 1(TaurusGold) is available from Amazon.com and select retail outlets. Distributed by Traditions Alive, Lakewood, OH 216.226.6200

Audio back on!

Posted in Buzzard on February 14, 2008 by Chris

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The problems we were experiencing with the audio clips have been fixed. All audio IDs are now working.  Thanks for your patience.