Archive for August, 2008

WMMS exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on August 23, 2008 by John Gorman

How can you miss us if we don’t go away?

The WMMS – A Cleveland legend turns 40 exhibit is now open at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland. It features many never-before-seen WMMS artifacts, including David Helton’s original art, airchecks and videos of the WMMS airstaff, interoffice memos, and listening stations.  For more information, click here.   Special thanks to RRHOF curator Jim Henke and Assistant curator Meredith Rutledge for the exhibit.

Reena Samaan, Communications Coordinator, RRHOF&M, John Gorman, Mereedith Rutledge, Assistant Curator, RRHOF&M

Reena Samaan, Communications Coordinator, RRHOF&M, John Gorman, Meredith Rutledge, Assistant Curator, RRHOF&M

Reena, Murray Saul, Meredith

Reena, Murray Saul, Meredith

Pride of Cleveland

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on August 19, 2008 by John Gorman

We referred to local artists we played on WMMS as the “Pride of Cleveland” – P.O.C., for short.   The name, suggested by Kid Leo in the mid ‘70s, came from the locally-brewed P.O.C. beer, which was headquartered in Cleveland from 1892 to 1962.  The P.O.C. acronym stood for both “Pride of Cleveland,” and “Pilsener of Cleveland,” Outside of Cleveland it was known as “Pilsener on call.”

Both Cleveland and Akron had thriving local music scenes, featuring a diversity of artists performing original music. It was not an easy way to make a living since only a limited number of venues booked local artists performing original music.  

Some local bands were forced to start out as cover bands to get bookings until they could become established with their own material. 

Even Trent Reznor’s  Option 30 performed cover hits by Billy Idol, The Thompson Twins, Falco, and other eighties artists to secure gigs in the region.

With the exception of the Raspberries, no local act made it out of Cleveland on a national echelon.   

The James Gang had regional pockets of popularity throughout the U.S. but couldn’t crack the northeast. They had a strong following in the U.K. and were tapped as the opening act for the Who on a tour there.  Glass Harp‘s strongest following was in the midwest.  National interest in both bands grew in later years.  

Even the Michael Stanley Band, which broke concert attendance records at both the Coliseum and Blossom, didn’t break on through to national prominence.

Popular mass appeal bands in Cleveland during the 70s and early 80s included the American Noise, Love Affair, Wild Horses, the Generators, Rapscallion, Flatbush, the Jerry Busch Group, Wild Giraffes, Lucky Pierre, Breathless, System 56, and Raven Slaughter, among others.   

 Cleveland had a nationally respected and admired alternative music scene, which initially centered around the late Peter Laughner in various incarnations with Cinderella Backstreet and Rocket from the Tombs, whose first recording was played on WMMS (Laughner also delivered Patti Smith’s first self-released single, “Hey Joe” and “Piss Factory,” to WMMS, making us the first commercial radio station to play her music).   Rocket from the Tombs in due course broke up into two bands – the Dead Boys, which we did play frequently and Pere Ubu, which we didn’t.

Singer-songwriters playing the circuit at the time included Alex Bevan and John Bassette and humorist Charlie Weiner.

The Euclid Beach Band, a group fashioned by the late Jim Girard of Scene magazine for a charity benefit single with local musician Rich Reising and vocalists Pete Hewitt and John Hart, was an unexpected hit.  The song,  “There’s No Surf in Cleveland”, became one of the most-requested songs on WMMS, which led to Steve Popovich of Cleveland-International records to sign the band.  Their album, produced by Eric Carmen, was released nationally but was poorly supported and promoted by Cleveland-International’s distributor, Epic Records.

Let me apologize here if I left the name of a band or performer off the list.  It wasn’t intentional.

Akron’s local music scene flourished with the Numbers Band, Rubber City Rebels, Devo, Tin Huey, Rachel Sweet, and Chi Pig.

Several of these artists released regionally-released singles, EPs or albums.  Some, like Michael Stanley, American Noise, Molkie Cole, Breathless, and Love Affair from Cleveland and the Rubber City Rebels, Devo, Tin Huey and Rachel Sweet got signed by major labels or subsidiaries and had their albums released nationally.

Rachel Sweet received some national airplay – but did best in the U.K. Devo relocated to L.A. when their album broke nationally.

There wasn’t a “Cleveland sound,” per se.  It was a far more creative and healthy scene, which infused a wide variety of musical influences from mainstream rock to reggae, punk, country, and blues.

In 1980, we released a compilation album, The Pride of Cleveland, which was produced by Denny Sanders, on our own Buzzard Records label, featuring Love Affair, Jerry Busch Group, I-Tal, Don Kriss, Alex Bevan, Wild Horses, American Noise, the Generators, Rapscallion, Wild Giraffes, and Flatbush.

One of these bands, Love Affair, started as a cover-band, Stairway, which played local bar circuit.

In 1979, the band’s original music demo got noticed by – of all people – singer-songwriter Melanie and her husband Peter Schekeryk They helped get the band signed to the Florida-based Radio Records, a boutique label distributed by Atlantic.   Released in 1980,  it was a regionally top ten selling album, and featured “Mama Sez,” which was heavily-requested on WMMS.  Later that year, Love Affair re-recorded the song as “Brian Sez,” in tribute to Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe during their 11-5 season.

Love Affair failed to catch on nationally (due to lack of promotion and marketing from the label) – though they did pick up a following in Canada.

This photo was taken in the 80s, in a production room at WMMS, where the band was cutting station IDs. 
Top row, left to right: Mike Hudak (Love Affair), John Gorman, Rich Spina (Love Affair), John Zdravecky (Love Affair), Matt the Cat, Wes Coolbaugh (Love Affair)
Bottom row, left to right: Wayne Cukras (Love Affair), Denny Sanders 

Chapter 20 in The Buzzard book covers Cleveland’s and Akron’s local music scenes during the 70s and 80s.

WMMS summer sweepers

Posted in Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on August 14, 2008 by Chris

Here are three summertime sweepers we’d occasionally run in-between two songs to ID the station with.   

We had competition – good competition – and we never went more than a couple of songs without identifying the station.  We wanted to make sure our listeners knew what station they were listening to. 

Our foremost IDs and sweeps were voiced by Len “Boom” Goldberg.  These would be augmented by what we called our celebrity IDs – sweepers cut by visiting rock stars, movie and TV stars, comedians, and others of social import.

At WMMS, everyone crossed paths and it wasn’t uncommon for a recording session, whether it be for a station promo or even a commercial, to have non-airstaffers add their voice to a production piece.


Me, Gaye, and Murray Saul at the Beachland

Such was the case with these summer sweeps, cut by Gaye Ramstrom, our national sales manager.  Gaye’s voice was just right for what we had in mind. 

The first track dealt with sex appeal.  Was it her descriptive bikini or was it the radio station she listened to?

The second was our summer sun public service announcement – a reminder that “it’s time to turn so you won’t burn.”

The third – the big, bad Buzzard O as we called it – featured our unique way of announcing the three-day Buzzard Memorial Day Weekend Blitz.  We went all-out on three-day summer weekends – especially Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial kick-off of the summer vacation season.  We’d pull out all the stops on those weekends, featuring classic concerts from the archives and go all-request with our music – putting special emphasis on the non-stop weekend parties we were providing the soundtrack to.   It’s safe to say that you wouldn’t hear a promo like this one on radio today.  Production director Tom O’Brien and I had the distinguished pleasure of directing Gaye in this epic promo.

It should be noted that this was recorded sixteen years before Meg Ryan’s in When Harry Met Sally.

Back then, we knew what to get away with because we knew our listeners and they knew what to expect from the Buzzard.

And Gaye?  Today she’s on the forefront of the revitalization of downtown Cleveland as co-owner of Coakley Real Estate, which focuses on the sale and leasing of historic properties, the leasing of downtown/suburban retail and office space, and a new component-selling luxury condominiums and homes.

Buzzard phones

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on August 13, 2008 by John Gorman

Click ad to enlarge

Here’s a WMMS print ad from the mid seventies.   

There were two area codes: 216 for Cleveland and 330 for Akron.  There was one phone company – a monopoly, Ohio Bell.   

Touch tone phones were increasing in popularity – but rotary dials were still common.   The only item that came close to resembling a cell phone was Captain Kirk’s communicator on Star Trek.

We had just added a local-call Akron request line   (l-800 toll-free numbers were still cost-prohibitive) and owing to the large volume of request calls we were receiving – we added a specific contest line for Cleveland listeners (as a consequence of budgetary limitations Akron’s local line served the dual purpose for requests and contests). 

Another recent addition was our recorded concert information line, which handled the large volume of calls we were receiving for updates on who was coming town and where.


Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on August 7, 2008 by John Gorman


Has it really been that long?

It was one of the greatest nights in the history of rock and roll in Cleveland.

This Saturday, August 9, is the 30th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s legendary free WMMS 10th Anniversary concert at the Cleveland Agora on E 24th.

We drew postcards from listeners to give away almost 1,200 tickets.  We knew this was a major event for us, our listeners, and the other stations simulcasting the concert in an ad hoc network set up with stations in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

The air was literally electric – muggy and rainy outside, with summer lightning crackling, and fans jamming the Agora entrance almost two hours before showtime.  Because it was a general admission show, some had slept on the sidewalk the night before in hopes of landing a front row spot for the show.

 They whistled, they clapped, and chanted in the background as Denny Sanders signed on the broadcast to welcome the radio listeners.  Kid Leo did the on-stage introduction, “I have the duty and the pleasure of welcoming, ladies and gentlemen, the main event. Round for round, pound for pound, there ain’t no finer band around – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!”

The show went on for twenty-one songs in two sets, and an encore ending in “Raise Your Hand.”  “I’d like to thank Cleveland for supporting us,” Springsteen said.  “When we came here, we got some respect.” The broadcast ended past midnight, after more than four hours.  Leo read the credits but fully expected Springsteen would do one more encore.  Springsteen, nearly spent, returned one more time for a surprise encore of “Twist and Shout” for the Agora crowd.  It wasn’t carried live, though we broadcast it later. 

The broadcast was flawless, which might explain why Columbia Records never released it as an album. The radio audience was estimated at three million, and the show was one of Springsteen’s most-recorded, most-bootlegged, and most downloaded.

Bruce Springsteen was our most played artist for many years and that WMMS 10th Anniversary Agora show one of the most requested and most repeated of all WMMS concerts in our archives.

E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg once called it the best show the E Street Band ever did.  One of the best complements I got came a few years later from Bob Seger, backstage at an Eagles concert at the Coliseum.  He said, “Man, I heard the concert you guys put on with Springsteen.  That was the greatest rock and roll show I ever heard.”  He told me he was one of the listeners who ran to his tape machine to record his own copy.  Seger met Springsteen for the first time six days earlier when he played Pine Knob in suburban Detroit.

A little known fact.  The show was remixed and given to KSAN/San Francisco, which carried the show as a replacement for a cancelled Winterland date in early 1979. 

Springsteen returned to the Agora just three weeks later to play a three-hour show at the Coliseum.  After it ended, he and the E Street Band made an unannounced midnight run to the Agora – taking the stage to perform with fellow New Jersey band Southside Johnny and the Ashbury Jukes.  For video highlights from that show, click here.

Michael Norman’s WMMS feature includes the Springsteen show intro. Click here.

For more on the legendary WMMS 10th Anniversary Bruce Springsteen concert, turn to Chapter 15 in The Buzzard.

Buzzard bootlegs

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on August 5, 2008 by John Gorman

Bootleg of Tom Waits’ Coffee Break Concert.  Click to enlarge

We housed a massive archive of interviews, concerts, airchecks, and special programming.  They included the complete collection of Coffee Break Concerts, live remote Instant Radio Spectaculars, WMMS IDs cut by visiting rock stars and celebrities. Regrettably, most of the material ended up lost or destroyed.

It’s not all bad news though.  In addition to what we’ve been able to reconstruct from those archives thanks to our listeners, master copies of nearly all WMMS Nights Out at the Agora are now accessible for listening at the Western Reserve Historical Society at University Circle in Cleveland.   The master tapes stored at Agency Recording, located on the second floor of the Agora building, survived the fire that destroyed the original club at East 24th.

Bootleg of INXS Coffee Break Concert. Click to enlarge

Sporadically, recordings of Coffee Break Concerts, live remote broadcasts, and even station interviews turn up on line as downloadable MP3s and Bit Torrents or bootleg CDs for sale. 

The broadcast quality of what is accessible on line range from good to excellent quality.  Based on the audio processing and quality of these downloads and bootleg CDs, they were recorded from the WMMS broadcast -and are not from the original master tapes.

As we find more material, we’ll add them to the site.  Check the Buzzard in the Media column on the right of the home page for new entries.

While on the theme of bootlegs – one of the most recognized bootlegs – and one that – to this day – does quite well on eBay and other on-line auctions – is the Buzzard Bank.  Well, a couple of years ago someone tried to sell one for $500 – but that was a little too pricey.   They were sold at flea markets, gas stations, head shops around Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Lorain, and Youngstown throughout most of the seventies and early eighties.  We never found out who manufactured or distributed them.   Though we didn’t like having an unauthorized WMMS item on the market (and we donated the profits of the sales of our merchandise directly to local charities), we did get a bit of a kick out of being bootlegged.  Someone recently made a YouTube video featuring his Buzzard Bank.  

More on the Buzzard in Chapter 7 of The Buzzard