The first two Buzzard ads broke a then-unwritten rule or gentlemen’s agreement of not referencing rival stations in print advertising or on the air. But since we never met a rule we didn’t try to break, we ignored it.
The “graveyard” ad was initially intended to be our first print ad but we made a last-minute decision to do a second slightly restrained rendering to test the waters with.
Since neither we nor Zeppelin received any complaints about the ‘GCL and ‘IXY slips of paper (actually Arbitron diaries), we took a chance and submitted the far less subtle “graveyard.” Zeppelin liked the ad and felt any controversy generated would call attention to their paper. Home free – almost.
WIXY, WGCL, and WNCR weren’t really considered direct competition. They were top 40 stations. We were their antithesis. One of the early stick-figure drawings David Helton worked from had the Buzzard saying, “Grow up!” in reference to top 40 being an uncool young teen format – but was changed to a nasty “Heh heh!” in the final version.
While David was working on the ads, WNCR dropped its top 40 format for country and changed call letters to WKSW (for KISS Country). That’s why the WNCR tombstone is on a hill, covered with a cowboy hat and a cowboy boot in front of it. This was our rendering of that station’s Boot Hill.
The ad ran without incident –until Malrite national program director John Chaffee noticed it. I took a little heat for the WNCR mention since, unknown to me at the time; WHK was about to can their low-rated horrendous “cover hits” format for country – the format originally intended for WMMS. I agreed not run any future print ads referencing other stations’ call letters.
The “graveyard” ad ran only once and the original artwork was never located. This reproduction comes from a recently-found issue of the original Zeppelin magazine.
The Buzzard was the symbol of our new take-no-prisoners attitude at WMMS. Our goal was to become Cleveland’s #1 radio station – and one of the most influential FM stations in America – and long before Blue Oyster Cult called it, we knew that the coming season would not be the Summer of Love at Cleveland radio stations.
Please turn to Chapter 7 in The Buzzard for the complete story on how our fine feathered friend came to be.