Archive for April, 2008

Found! The long lost “Wrath of the Buzzard II!”

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on April 30, 2008 by John Gorman

This was the second of two “Wrath of the Buzzard” print ads David Helton created for the alternative bi-weekly, Zeppelin. It appeared only once – in its April 30 issue – 34 years ago this week.

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.


Live at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on April 24, 2008 by John Gorman

One benefit of having the Rock &Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in your back yard is their ongoing Songwriters to Soundmen series. It provides a rare opportunity to see and hear some of the legendary and inimitable talents in rock and roll discuss their careers. Some guests have even lowered their guard to reveal their idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes.

I’ve attended a number of these evenings. My personal faves include session drummer and “Wrecking Crew” leader Hal Blaine, who played percussion on hundreds of hit songs from artists as diverse as the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, the Ronettes, Sonny and Cher, the Byrds, Connie Francis, Simon & Garfunkel, and Paul Revere & the Raiders. His stories were captivating.

Lou Adler was another. You’ve seen his name on many an album jacket from the sixties through the eighties, He’s produced some of the best pop, rock and R&B hits of the sixties and early seventies from Carole King, the Mamas and Papas, Barry McGuire, Spirit, Sam Cooke, and Cheech y Chong. He was also a producer of the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 – the landmark concert that showcased the next generation of music, and directed the movie Up in Smoke for Cheech y Chong. He managed and molded Jan & Dean’s signature sound.

There was Mary Weiss, the former lead singer of the Shangri-Las. When I was 15, you couldn’t top the Shangs. They were hot, street smart, and edgier than all the other girl groups– except for the Ronettes – and Mary was the quintessential rock and roll babe.

I always looked forward to the Songwriters to Soundmen series evenings – but never expected to be part of one. But here I was.

My sincere complements go to Jim Henke, who hosts the series. Not only is he a renowned, well-respected journalist – he has his interview skills down, too. The success of public discussions and interviews has everything to do with asking the right questions and Jim did. I swear he knows me better than I do. I’ve spent most of my career as a behind-the-scenes guy so being front-and-center is still somewhat new to me – but Jim put me an ease – and it was an enjoyable, fast-moving evening.

To everyone who attended – thank you for taking the time. I always enjoy meeting our listeners – and it provides me the opportunity to thank everyone for their ears and support during those years.

By coincidence, my Songwriters to Soundmen night coincided with the 34th anniversary of the Buzzard (see following story) and provided an opportunity to show original David Helton Buzzard art as well as show some of the hand-drawn home grown animated WMMS TV spots he put together frame-by-frame in his living room.

I also got to show an excerpt from a professionally-shot video “aircheck” of Kid Leo on-the-air from 1985 from Art Vuolo’s collection.

Photography: Risa Roberson. Click photos to enlarge.  

For more information on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Songwriters to Soundmen series, click here

It’s a Buzzard Birthday!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on April 16, 2008 by John Gorman

Happy 34th Birthday, to our omnipresent Thundering Buzzard!

Today, the WMMS Buzzard officially turns 34.   It was April 16, 1974 when the Buzzard made its first appearance in a full-page print ad in an alternative bi-weekly called Zeppelin.  Concurrently, we premiered a Len “Boom” Goldberg-voiced ID, which ran every hour at the top-of-the-hour proclaiming WMMS as “the Wrath of the Buzzard!”

It was the foundation of our new take-no-prisoners on-air attitude at WMMS.  We were no longer content to be that hippie FM underground station.  Our goal from that day forward was to become Cleveland’s #1 radio station – and one of the most influential FM stations in America.

Many – even within our own company – believed our goals could not be achieved.  FM meant find me.  FM penetration didn’t match AM’s dominance – and FM radios were options – not standard in automobiles.  A radio with both AM and FM bands cost more than a stand-alone AM.

Then there was the music.  Ours came from big records with small holes instead of small records with big holes –albums instead of 45’s.    Some of the tracks we played were 15 to 20 minutes in length – not the standard three minute hit bound sound that dominated top 40 radio.

But we knew better.

Initially, two Buzzard ads were drawn by David Helton.  Both broke unwritten rules of mentioning rival stations in advertising.   Another popular WMMS in-house saying at that time was “rules were made to be broken.”

We created a slightly restrained version (the one here), which featured two slips of paper (actually Arbitron ratings diaries) – one reading GCL,” the other IXY – the two prominent top 40 stations in Cleveland at the  time.  We didn’t know if Zeppelin would reject the ads mentioning rival stations so we kept their appearance subtle.  

The second version, not the least bit subtle, featured the Buzzard in a radio station graveyard, with tombstones for WIXY, WGCL, and WNCR, which had just changed format from top 40 to country.   

I figured that if we got away with the first ad – we’d hit with the more aggressive print ad in the following issue – and we did.     The “graveyard” ad, which hasn’t been seen for 34 years (the original artwork was lost), will be featured on this blog in two weeks, marking the anniversary of its official debut.

Please turn to Chapter 7 in The Buzzard for the complete story on how our fine feathered friend came to be.


Murray Saul’s 80th Birthday Party Get Down at the Beachland Ballroom – Friday, May 16!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on April 14, 2008 by John Gorman

The well-preserved Murray Saul will be making his first personal appearance in THIRTY YEARS in a special 80th Birthday Party Get Down celebration.  Murray will perform, meet and greet, and have copies of his The Get Downs, Volume One, for sale and signing.  Also on the bill – Cleveland rockabilly favorites – The Balls of Fire.  More details forthcoming.

The show takes place on Friday, May 16 at the Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road in Cleveland.  For more information, click here.

The above photo, shot by Dan Keefe, and taken from the September 10 issue of Exit, shows Murray at his first live “Get Down” on Friday, September 5, 1975. 

There’s interesting history here.  Greater Cleveland was the last major city in America that didn’t have a regional transportation system.   To take advantage of the recently-signed-into-law 1974 National Mass Transportation Act – as well as the opportunity to tap into the $11.8 billion in funds made available  by the federal government – Cleveland City Council and the Cuyahoga County Commissioners established the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

On September 5, the RTA merged selected suburban systems with the Cleveland Transit System (CTS).  In advance of that date, the RTA approached local radio and TV stations for promotional ideas to support its debut.  We looked at it as a chance to take Murray’s “Get Downs” to a live audience and broadcast it on WMMS Friday night at 6, from Mall C in downtown Cleveland.

The RTA heard “live broadcast.”  They were not aware of Murray’s “Get Down and its subject matter.” Nor did we bother to tell them or get too specific on our plans.

So, under the camouflage of WMMS holding an RTA rally – we did our first live “Get Down.”  We didn’t know what expect in advance – but we were pleasantly surprised to see hundreds of people waiting patiently for that magical moment at 6 PM when Murray would officially kick off the weekend.

Murray’s “Get Down” was augmented by a brief appearance by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, who were in town for a “Freaker’s Ball” (which many participants turned into a “streaker’s ball”) event at the Smiling Dog Saloon later that evening.

The broadcast went off without problem – almost.  Murray concluded his “Get Down” by jumping into the crowd – and temporarily losing his microphone to an over-zealous fan shouting a graphic description of National Bee Week.

More on Murray’s live Get Down in Chapter 11 of The Buzzard

Murray Saul’s The Get Downs, Vol. 1(TaurusGold) is available from,,  and select retail outlets. Distributed by Traditions Alive, Lakewood, OH 216.226.6200


From Songwriters to Soundmen: The People Behind the Hits

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on April 8, 2008 by John Gorman






 CLEVELAND – The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is proud to present an evening with John Gorman, the former program director at WMMS FM. Gorman will discuss his new book, The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio. Immediately following the event, Gorman will sign copies of his book, which are available in the Museum Store.


John Gorman began his broadcasting career in Boston. In 1973 he moved to Cleveland to join WMMS, a small, free-form FM station then under new ownership. Over the next thirteen years he helped turn WMMS into one of the most popular and influential rock stations in the U.S. 


He will be interviewed in front of a live audience by Jim Henke, vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs for the Rock Hall. The John Gorman interview, slated for April 16 at 7 p.m., is free with a reservation. The program will take place in the Museum’s 4th Floor Theater. Please email or call 216.515.8426 to RSVP. This event is part of From Songwriters to Soundmen, a groundbreaking Rock Hall program that shines the spotlight on the people whose contributions to the rock and roll art form are often as powerful as those of the artists themselves.


In keeping with its mission, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has FREE educational offerings year round. Additional free adult education programs include Teachers Rock, which shows educators how to bring rock and roll music into their classrooms the second Wednesday of every month, and Rock and Roll Night School, which gives interested adults the opportunity to expand their rock and roll-related knowledge, the fourth Wednesday of every month.


Past Participants include songwriters Dan Penn and Buzz Cason; songwriter, producer, and performer Richard Gottehrer;  music journalist David Fricke; manager and label owner/operator Miles Copeland; producer, writer and musician Chips Moman; former the Who manager Chris Stamp; Cleveland – International founder Steve Popovich;  Alternative Press journalists Mike Shea and Jason Pettigrew; Nile Rodgers of Chic; promoter Sid Bernstein; drummer and inductee Hal Blaine; Del-Fi label founder Bob Keane; writer and producer PF Sloan;  Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss; Producer Lou Adler; Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. For more information about these and other Rock Hall educational programs, visit


About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the nonprofit organization that exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music. It carries out this mission both through its operation of a world-class museum that collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets this art form and through its library and archives as well as its educational programs.


The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays, the Museum is open until 9 p.m. Museum admission is $22 for adults, $17 for seniors (65+), $13 for youth (9-12), $18 for adult residents of Greater Cleveland. Children under 8 and Museum members are free. The Museum is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. When you become a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the world of rock and roll becomes yours to explore. Call 216.515.1939 for information on becoming a member. For general inquiries, please call 216.781.ROCK or visit

The second WMMS Music Marathon Station TV spot

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on April 8, 2008 by John Gorman

Every contemporary and rock station in Cleveland pushed commercial-free music hours. We wanted to go one-better and did by promoting both our air personalities and long music sweeps. We adopted the slogan – Your “Music Marathon Station,” a subtle acronym for M-M-S and enlisted our airstaff to sell the position. We wanted to differentiate our music sweeps from the competition. While they sold “commercial-free hours,” we promoted the number of songs played in a row. An hour of commercial-free music on our competition was “a 13-song music marathon” on WMMS. Sometimes we’d go over the limit (“we promised you 13 – and gave you 15”) – but never under. By promoting the number of songs – rather than length-of-time – offered us a unique position that was difficult to imitate.