Archive for May, 2008

The ascension of Kid Leo

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on May 27, 2008 by John Gorman

In the spring of 1974, David Spero, long-time afternoon drive host and the last of the former WNCR personalities on WMMS, resigned to become the manager of the Michael Stanley Band.

Although I had greater latitude of autonomy than most of my peers in FM rock radio, I still had to clear major programming decisions with Malrite Broadcasting’s national program director John Chaffee. We called him JC. 

I chose Kid Leo as Spero’s replacement.  His approach to rock and roll was what I believed we needed in afternoon drive – and Leo in that daypart would be a perfect bridge between established air personalities Len “Boom” Goldberg on middays and Denny Sanders in the evening.  I told JC that Leo could mix mainstream music we needed to play with the new music and artists we believed would be the soundtrack to the future of WMMS.  Leo had also developed into a skilled interviewer.

JC turned me down.   Instead, he suggested part-timer Matt the Cat to replace Spero.  Though I had no problem with Matt, the choice did violate an unofficial pecking order where dues were paid by gradual upgrades in air shifts.  Leo was already full-time on the overnight shift and his appointment to afternoon drive; I felt was the logical choice.

A few weeks later, Len “Boom” Goldberg, miffed about getting no response to negotiating a raise, quit to concentrate on voice-over commercial work and agreed to continue with WMMS as a weekender and fill-in announcer.

Now, I’d get my way – but not without a fight.  I moved Matt the Cat to middays – a daypart he’d dominate in the ratings for years to come – and following reluctant approval from JC, got Kid Leo his afternoon drive shift.   Even then, JC refused to make Leo’s afternoon drive shift permanent.

That eventually changed as Kid Leo more than proved his worth to WMMS and became one of the most popular air personalities of all-time on Cleveland radio.

On February 20, 1975, Kid Leo was on the cover of Exit Magazine, Cleveland’s alternative weekly – and it was forward motion all the way.

More on Kid Leo’s ascension into afternoon drive can be found in chapter six of The Buzzard.

Exit Magazine cover courtesy of J.D. Kunes.

Airchecks of WMMS can be found here and here

 

 

 

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More photos from last Friday’s Murray Saul 80th Birthday Party Get Down!

Posted in Buzzard on May 23, 2008 by John Gorman

RandyVanOrman 1956 – 2008

Posted in Buzzard on May 20, 2008 by John Gorman

We have lost a fellow comrade.  Former WMMS sales manager Randy VanOrman passed away Sunday following a long battle with cancer.  Our condolences to Randy’s family and friends.

Murray Saul’s 80th Birthday Party Get Down!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on May 17, 2008 by John Gorman

It was an oddity back in the mid seventies.

Here’s this bald guy with long mutton chops in his late forties on a radio station for listeners in their twenties welcoming the weekend every Friday night at 6 PM in an ode to the weekend wrapped in a review of topical themes and spiced with passionate dose of sex and drugs and rock and roll.

It was called the “Get Down” and delivered on WMMS by Murray Saul every Friday at 6 PM in what we called our own version of the Holy Trinity.  Bookended by Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and Earthquake’s live extended version of “Friday on my Mind,” it became the sanctioned passage of the workday grind to the weekend.

It was plagiarized and even pirated by a few unscrupulous rock stations throughout the U.S., Canada, and even overseas.   But nothing compared to the delivery of the Murray Saul original.

Back then, no one would have believed that over thirty years later that Murray Saul would be celebrating his eightieth birthday by delivering a live “Get Down” to a packed house at one of the best known and respected live music clubs in the country – the Beachland Ballroom.

But here we were.  Friday, May 16, 2008.

Surrealistic barely defines the evening. 

The Balls of Fire, the rock and rockabilly band that performed at two Murray Saul parties in the mid-eighties performed along a new band many feel destined for national success, Uptight Sugar.

More photos from Murray Saul’s 80th will be added to the Buzzard Book blog over the next few days.

For more on the Murray Saul please turn your The Buzzard book to Chapter Nine.

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

For The Free Times story on Murray, click here.  For the Plain Dealer story, click here .  For the North Coast Voice story, click here.

WFMU/New York’s  Aircheck ran a one-hour show on Murray Saul in 2005. You can hear the show in its entirety here (RealAudio).

 

The Get Down never heard with Murray Saul and Dennis Wilson

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on May 12, 2008 by John Gorman

Top: Murray Saul begins his “Get Down” with Dennis Wilson in the WMMS production studio.

Bottom: Dennis Wilson, moments after his breakdown, with Murray.

 

It was one of our best kept secrets.

In 1976 when Beach Boy Dennis Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown while doing a “Get Down” with Murray Saul, we agreed to keep that news under wraps.  

Murray and I had gotten to know Dennis Wilson.  He’d stop by WMMS whenever the band was in town. 

The Beach Boys had a special relationship with us since we continued to play their music at a time when most album rock stations had erroneously written them off as a top 40 band.

I had come up with a bizarre proposal to cut a WMMS TV spot with Murray and Dennis doing a “Get Down” in unison.  Dennis was up for it and we planned to put it together on his next visit to Cleveland.

In between tours, Dennis Wilson was recording his first solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue, and he brought along a few completed tracks.   Just a few weeks earlier, Dennis married Karen Lamm, the former wife of Chicago keyboardist Robert Lamm.  

It appeared that Dennis’ often unsettled life was on an upswing.

The “Get Downs” were usually performed live – but on rare occasion, such as this one, which required additional takes for the TV spot, we decided to cut this one in advance. 

Dennis arrived at WMMS, which at that time was at 50th and Euclid, with a gallon jug of scotch.   After a quick herb break in the parking lot, the production room was configured for the filming and recording.  The Get Down audio would run at 6 PM and the film would be edited for the WMMS TV spot.

Murray opened the Get Down with a challenge to Southern California, which Dennis Wilson represented.  “You people with your endless summers, beautiful women wearing less than the law allows, and surfing…” he began. Murray continued to tirade for another minute or so before setting up Dennis’ cue, which was “…and I love it all.”

And that’s when things went terribly wrong.

For more on the Murray Saul/Dennis Wilson Get Down, please turn your The Buzzard book to Chapter Nine.

Join Murray Saul – live – for a very special 80th Birthday Party Get Down this Friday night at 8 PM at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland.  For more information, click here.

For The Free Times story on Murray, click here.  For the Plain Dealer story, click here.  For the North Coast Voice story, click here

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

The Evolution of the Buzzard

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on May 6, 2008 by John Gorman

A week after the second “Wrath of the Buzzard” full-page ad appeared in Zeppelin, Denny Sanders, David Helton and I powwowed after Denny’s 6-10 PM shift on WMMS.   

As far as we were concerned the Buzzard and WMMS were one and the same.  Our next mission was to place the Buzzard character into every-day situations. 

David did some sketches, like the one here, showing the Buzzard looking through albums in the WMMS library.  This wasn’t intended for a print ad.  It was an exercise in enhancing the Buzzard character and broadening its personality.

The Buzzard evolved from the wide-wing span turkey vulture to a friendlier Buzzard with a distinct appearance.   In this sketch by David the Buzzard is wearing a T-shirt with the original WMMS mushroom logo.  It was our intent to circumspectly phase out the mushroom logo while establishing the Buzzard as our mascot.

Zeppelin, the alternative weekly, we were running our ads with folded after the issue featuring the second “Wrath of the Buzzard” ad.  Providentially, Exit, another new alternative weekly made its debut days later, and we speedily cut a trade deal with them.  We ran x-number of free radio spots for Exit and, in turn, had a full-page ad in the paper.

In one of its first issues, Exit writer Tim Joyce wrote of the Buzzard, “It’s the perfect image for rock and roll suiciders pushing thirty and stuck in jobs that they hate…”

For more on how the Buzzard became the WMMS mascot, read Chapter 7 of The Buzzard.