It’s a Buzzard Birthday!
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.