Archive for June, 2008

Welcome to the Buzzard Book Blog

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

We’ve had a large number of first-time visitors over the past couple of weeks.  

The intent of this site is two-fold.   First, it’s here to sell a book.  My book: The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio.  Second, it’s an interactive companion to the book, featuring classic WMMS airchecks, video highlights, and supplementary information on stories featured in the book.

For years WMMS housed a huge archive of interviews, concerts, airchecks, and special programming.  It included the complete collection of Coffee Break Concerts, live remote ‘Instant Radio Spectaculars,’ WMMS IDs cut by visiting rock stars and celebrities, and an inclusive compilation of Buzzard art – including T-shirt designs, print ads, and other specialties.   Regrettably decisions were made over the years that severely depleted the archives – and most of the material ended up lost or destroyed.

Thanks to our friends and listeners over the past year we have been able to reconstruct bits and pieces of the archives from private collections and from tapes made of original on-air broadcasts.  As we find them, we’re adding them to this site.

You can find this material by clicking links in the Buzzard in the Media column on the right of the home page and by visiting preceding entry pages.

Several of the links, like this one to an exceptional Cleveland.com feature prepared by Michael Norman and a unique WKSU page prepared by Vivian Goodman includes classic airchecks and other special broadcasts.   You can also hear a feature for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

Other links feature audio and video interviews and book reviews.

And the photo pages have hundreds of shots from book signings and other special events.

Some of you may have found this site from artists’ sites.  If you’re not familiar with WMMS – we welcome you to get acquainted.

As the late great Len “Boom” Goldberg would say, “Enjoy.”

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Fleetwood Mac Attack: The Buzzard and the Penguin

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on June 22, 2008 by John Gorman

WMMS had an inimitable relationship with Fleetwood Mac.  Their self-titled 1975 album, the first with the line-up including Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, received fervent reaction that was made stronger when we scored live, unreleased versions of some tracks.  We gave them considerable airplay, and “Rhinannon” and “I’m So Afraid” became two of our most requested and played tracks.

We had played Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks prior to Fleetwood Mac.  They had released an album as a duo, Buckingham-Nicks on Polydor Records in 1973.  A track from the album, “Long Distance Winner,” was picking up requests and airplay.  We did not have a relationship with the Agora at the time so we pitched the label on sponsoring a “WMMS Night Out” with Buckingham-Nicks at the Smiling Dog Saloon on West 25th, the club we did have an affiliation with. The label declined.  To them we were a “minor FM rock station” – and our airplay and support meant nothing.

Because of Fleetwood Mac’s unusually strong popularity in Cleveland, music director Shelley Stile pulled off a day-long exclusive with Rumours, released in February, 1977.   From first listen, we knew Rumours was something unique and special – product that would cause more defection from AM to FM, and from other stations to WMMS.  We cemented our relationship with the band, getting to know everyone in it and connected to it.  What gave us a solid edge with the band was our airplay and the Cleveland success of their pet projects – Fleetwood Mac spin-offs, including Bob Welch’s Paris band and solo albums, Walter Egan, former Grassroots lead singer Rob Grill (“Rock Sugar“), and later, former Kingston Trio member John Stewart. (“Gold” and “Midnight Wind“).

We did dozens of promotions with the band over the years.  Among them was teaming up to donate two rockhopper penguins to the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo.   The second penguin was donated in 1980, when the band was in Cleveland for a two-night stand at the Coliseum

That’s Judd Hambrick – not Bryan Ferry – anchoring the WJKW-TV newscast. 

More on Buzzards and Penguins in The Buzzard, chapter 12

 

Tim Russert, Bruce Springsteen, and Cleveland

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

From Ed “Flash” Ferenc:

What a tremendous loss in so many ways.  A great journalist, author, father, the list goes on. 

I had the opportunity to meet Tim in  2004 when he spoke to the CSU Alumni Association.  He told the story of how listened to Kid Leo playing Bruce Springsteen, so he decided to take a crack at being a promoter and he managed to get the Boss to do a show at the John Carroll Gym. It worked and he made a few bucks to boot, enough to get him through law school.  

I approached afterwards and introduced myself and his response was, “Yeah Jeff and Flash! ” It was a moment I will always treasure.

May you rest in peace Tim. The world is a better place because of you.

Flash

—-

Bruce Springsteen’s rise to superstar status in Cleveland began in November, 1974, when Rich Kudolla, the branch manager of Columbia Records in Cleveland, stopped by WMMS to play a new track, “Born to Run,” for Kid Leo, Denny Sanders, and me that he felt would be “a perfect fit” for the WMMS format.

The song took on a life of its own; so much that it became the official lead-in to Murray Saul’s Friday “Get Down.”  Because of its popularity – and the fact that the official release date of “Born to Run,” both the single and the album, were months away, we revisited Springsteen’s first two albums, with Leo now playing a cut from one of them daily, and their airplay on WMMS translated into sales.  Both albums showed up on top 20 album lists from record stores in Cleveland, Akron, and Canton.

Springsteen’s next Cleveland appearance, on February 18, 1975, was at the John Carroll University gym in University Heights.  Co-sponsored by us, it was booked by Tim Russert – the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, who graduated from John Carroll in 1972 and was president of its University Club while attending Cleveland-Marshall Law.  He had booked a number of concerts in college and agreed to help this time because he could use the money for law school.  Russert suggested Springsteen, got him for $2,500, and worked with fellow fraternity members as a roadie – setting up the stage and the band’s equipment and working security.

Russert said a few years back in an interview, “I made enough money (from the concert) to pay for my second year of law school.”

Springsteen had originally been scheduled at John Carroll for Thursday, February 27, but had to be rescheduled due to, I believe, a previously booked recording session, which could not be changed to another date.  Posters had already been printed with the February 27th date and had to be individually and manually changed to the new date.  

I remember a minor problem between John Carroll and WMMS when the posters and tickets did not include our logo or call letters.  It was corrected in print advertising for the show.  It may not have seemed like a big deal – but to us it was.  We did not want rival M-105 trying to “claim jump” the concert by claiming co-sponsorship.

A little known fact is that originally Kent State University wanted to book Springsteen for that tour but there was a scheduling conflict with a sporting event at their gym, which made the date – and rescheduled date – available for Tim Russert and John Carroll.

Coincidentally, Maureen Orth, Tim Russert’s wife of 25 years, authored the October 27, 1975 Newsweek cover story on Bruce Springsteen, “The Making of a Rock Star,” which included a quote from Denny Sanders. 

For more information, see Chapter 15 of The Buzzard

Klassic KISS – Gene Simmons & Denny Sanders on WEWS-TV’s Afternoon Exchange

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on June 12, 2008 by John Gorman

GENE SIMMONS (KISS) AT WMMS. Members of Kiss were regular guests on WMMS throughout the seventies and early eighties. Gene Simmons was a natural on the air and he had a standing invitation from me to be a guest DJ whenever he was in town. Back row, Left to Right: Dean Thacker (sales manager), Matt the Cat, Gene Simmons, J.C. (John Chaffee, Malrite Corporate programmer), John Gorman. Front Row: Unknown, Walt Tiburski (national sales manager), Don George (Casablanca Records), Rhonda Kiefer (WMMS programming assistant), Gary Bird (independent record promoter) Photo by Anastasia Pantsios

In the mid to late 70s, Gene Simmons and other members of KISS visited Cleveland frequently. One of their early investors in their stage show costumes, props, and pyrotechnics lived in Shaker Heights.

During their first Cleveland appearance at the Cleveland Agora in 1974, drummer Peter Criss was nearly asphyxiated from stage smoke when his rising drum stand malfunctioned, trapping him close to the club’s ceiling. He fell off the drum riser and was rushed to St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital by ambulance. After that KISS refused to play any clubs with low ceilings.

Gene Simmons was a semi-regular guest on WMMS.

On one show, where Simmons guest DJ’ed with Kid Leo prior to a concert at the Coliseum, he’d say hello by asking the predominantly female callers, “Have you been a baaaaad girl?” One caller made a request: “Gene, I want to sit on your face.” Immediately, Kid Leo interrupted the caller and said to Gene, “That’s not fair. She wants the best seat in the house.”

There was a reason for Leo’s rapid response. He wasn’t sure what the caller would say next. In those days WMMS was never on a delayed broadcast. Everything was live-as-you-heard-it.   

Some of our older long-time listeners took offense to our relationship and airplay of KISS, claiming the band, with its simplistic lyrics and music and costumes were closer to bubblegum music than progressive rock, but our stance, as a popular culture station, was that “rock and roll” was a broad-based term that incorporated all styles of music from doo-wop and rockabilly to progressive rock – and that included everything in-between.

This video has Denny Sanders moonlighting on WEWS-TV’s Afternoon Exchange in 1978, with Gene Simmons at Tony Isabella’s Cosmic Comics at the Colonial Arcade in downtown Cleveland. Even though Gene was in full costume and make-up regalia, he was unusually subdued and candid in this interview.

How the Buzzard got the Duck

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on June 9, 2008 by John Gorman

One of the most thankless behind-the-scenes jobs in radio is that of the promotion and marketing director. 

Promotions are expected to go well so rarely is there a formal thank you or acknowledgement for a successful event.    

To my knowledge, we were the first radio station to have a full-time promotion director.

I was the program director and Denny Sanders, the creative services director.   We already had a full plate of programming duties.   But we had to get the word on the street that we existed – especially at a time when the FM band was an optional frequency on most radios.

Denny and I prepared everything from on-air giveaways to promotions and contests ourselves with the assistance of the rest of the staff.   That meant dealing with our sales staff, clients, record labels, concert promoters and clubs.  It also involved scheduling personal appearances, delivering ad art to alternative weeklies, and providing station information to national trade magazines and local media.

It meant typing up – on an old Smith Corona typewriter with an off-kilter “e” – all promotional materials read or produced for on-air, giveaway sheets for the airstaff, weekly press releases, and a continual series of contingency plans.

As our ratings increased, so did the demand for promotion and marketing of WMMS.

Observing our plight, Carl Hirsch, who was at the time our VP/General Manager, persuaded corporate to open their purse, let the moth fly out, and give us a few extra dollars to hire a full-time promotion director for WMMS.

And we knew who we wanted.

Dan Garfinkel.    We had first met Dan when we did a unique sponsorship tie-in with Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Playhouse Square, which wasn’t.

In 1970, Ray Shepardson, who was with the Cleveland school system, formed the Playhouse Square Association.  Its purpose was to rehab and rebuild the Palace, Ohio, and State Theaters.  Only one theater, the Allen, was functional.  The Ohio Department of Transportation and Cuyahoga County Commissioners wanted to raise the theaters for a proposed Interstate bypass.

In 1973, Shepardson staged a musical revue at the State Theater, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  Native Clevelander Dan Garfinkel, not long out of Brandeis University, did promotion and marketing for the show, which was scheduled to run for three weeks.    But it kept getting extended.  Dan, being a rock and roller at heart, approached WMMS to do a special sponsorship of Jacques Brel, which we did, and it was a successful venture.

Coincidentally, Dan Garfinkel lived in right next to Murray Saul on the first floor of an apartment building at 2761Euclid Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.  

Since everyone at WMMS was hanging out – and often at Murray’s for his never-ending parties, we got to know Dan well – and he was our one and only choice for the newly created promotion director position.

Among his many promotional feats and firsts was our innovative merchandising campaign, which included the retailing of T-shirts, jerseys, hats, scarves, and even roach clips.

Profits from the sale of most of these items went directly to specific independent charities.

Dan also supervised WMMS bumper sticker distribution.

And what happened to Jacques Brel?  The show continued for two years, which drew more attention to Playhouse Square and made Ray Shepardson’s dream to save Playhouse Square a reality.

WMMS was growing rapidly – and demands for promotion and marketing doubled every few weeks.   Dan was a stickler for attention-to-detail and picked up the nickname, “The Duck” for “quacking” whenever promotions or marketing proposals were incomplete – or deadlines were drawing close.

This in-house cartoon by David Helton illustrates a typical day in the life of the Duck.

For more on Dan Garfinkel, please turn to Chapters 11, 18, and 24 in The Buzzard  

 

 

 

Jeff & Flash on WKYC-TV – March, 1981

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on June 4, 2008 by John Gorman

It’s March 16, 1981 and Doug Adair and Mona Scott are anchoring the evening newscast on WKYC-TV/Cleveland.

Think Perry Como teamed with Anne Murray.  

Think Perry Como having an affair with and later marrying Anne Murray.

This video was part of On the Radio Extra – a five-part series by WKYC reporter Ed Miller, spotlighting the top Cleveland radio morning drive shows of that era.    

This one, the first in the series, featured Jeff Kinzbach and Ed “Flash” Ferenc.

You’ll catch a fleeting glimpse of our gargantuan side-of-a-building “Cleveland Rocks” Buzzard wall, which was located next to a former Holiday Inn (now a Cleveland State dorm) at Euclid and East 22nd.   The Buzzard wall was later replaced with an equally-large “Jesus loves you” message when the building owner purportedly became a born-again Christian.

The video shot in the WMMS studios was done on the morning of March 11.  The previous day, we had scored an unauthorized exclusive copy of the Who’s new Faces Dances album and had played tracks from it hourly since 6 PM the previous evening.

See our cease and desist telegram for the Who’s Face Dances here and here

When you don’t feel like getting up to change the record…

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on June 3, 2008 by John Gorman

The rationale for creating a mascot for WMMS was to provide a character that we could animate and place in real-life situations, emulating our listeners’ lifestyle.     

This inspiring full-page print ad, from mid-to-late 1974, got the message across that where there’s rock and roll, there’s sex – and lots of it!  

We were still experimenting with the Buzzard character while developing its personality. This was the only ad where we used multiple Buzzards in a print ad – and for good reason.

Much more on the Buzzard can be found in The Buzzard, Chapter 7

Art by David Helton

Ad courtesy of J.D. Kunes’ collection