Tim Russert, Bruce Springsteen, and Cleveland
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.
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