The ascension of Kid Leo
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.