Archive for September, 2008

The Buzzard lands in Wadsworth

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

Thank you to everyone who was at Ella M. Everhard Public Library in Wadsworth, Ohio onTuesday for my speaking engagement.

I could have gone on for hours.  I look forward to seeing you again. 

Special thanks to Sandy at the Wadsworth Library.   It’s a beautiful building.  If you’re ever in the area, check it out.  Libraries are special places.

Buzzard Softball with the Cleveland Indians

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on September 23, 2008 by John Gorman

We played a few charity softball games with the Belkin Productions All-Stars.  The games took place at Bryon Junior High in Shaker Heights.  Money raised went to the Will Rogers Hospital Fund.

The Belkin team featured company founders Jules and Mike Belkin and their staff.  Our airstaff took the field as the WMMS team.

Both teams were permitted ringers to round out the teams. 

Belkin Productions brought in members of the artists their management division handled, including the Michael Stanley Band, the James Gang, Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, and Jonah Koslen and Breathless.

We brought ringers, too – especially in 1981. 

That was the year Major League Baseball went on strike.  We called up a few of our friends at the Cleveland Indians: Outfielder and DH Super” Joe’ Charboneau, and pitchers Len Barker and Wayne Garland.   We also brought in former wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns Paul Warfield – and to keep our rock and roll edge, we rounded off our ringers with Fee Waybill of the Tubes and Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics.

Charboneau had four home runs and Barker had three – and game ended with the WMMS Buzzards beating the Belkin All-Stars 28 to 8.

We haven’t been able to come up with the identities of the WKYC news crew – but that’s sports anchor Joe Castiglione on WJW.   Two years after this broadcast, Castiglione joined the Boston Red Sox broadcast team – a position he’s held for twenty five years.

The Rock & Roll Carnival – Fall tour wrap-up

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on September 11, 2008 by John Gorman


The Fall Rock & Roll Carnival tour concluded at Borders in Mentor.  Thank you to everyone who made it out to Borders Books & Music in Mentor, Strongsville or Fairlawn, over the past three Saturdays for the Rock & Roll Carnival.  

Special thanks to B.A. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland and on-line Groovy Candies for the 70s and 80s theme candy, including dozens of vintage brands like Pixy Styx, Pop Rocks, Boston Baked Beans, Kits, and Necco Wafers


Look for more Rock & Roll Carnival tours in the near future.

Here’s some incriminating evidence from the tour:











Click photo to enlarge

Jeff and Flash and the Buzzard Morning Zoo

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media on September 9, 2008 by John Gorman


In 1986, Arista Records regionally released the Best of the Buzzard Morning Zoo, featuring highlights and song parodies from our morning show from that year.   The Buzzard Morning Zoo carried the largest share of morning drive audience of any station in the history of Cleveland radio.  At its peak, one out of every five people listening to morning drive radio in Cleveland listened to the Buzzard Morning Zoo on WMMS.

The Zoo was always sold-out of commercial time well in advance.  United Airlines paid $700 for a sixty-second spot to run in the Buzzard Morning Zoo to announce a new flight route.  That’s over $1,300 in today’s dollars.  Cleveland was market number 23 at the time but we were getting New York ad rates!

Jeff Kinzbach and Ed “Flash” Ferenc were already hitting their stride when John Lanigan, whose long-time morning show on WGAR dominated the market, left in 1984 for an offer-he-couldn’t-refuse from a station in Tampa owned by former WIXY (and later WNCX) owners Norman Wain and Bob Weiss.  With Lanigan gone, we started picking up some of his audience – and knew it because we were unexpectedly getting requests for Exile’s “Kiss you all Over” and other mainstream hit songs that Lanigan and WGAR played.   We added some of them, but only in morning drive, to attract the disenfranchised Lanigan audience.   That audience was also introduced to Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and other WMMS morning show songs. Those familiar with Lanigan’s Flex Club were turned on to Blow Something Up and the Token Jokes.

We borrowed the Morning Zoo moniker from our New York sister station Z-100,  which borrowed it from WRBQ in Tampa, which borrowed it from a station in Australia. For us, the Zoo defined  Jeff and Flash and their growing supporting cast of characters. Casey Coleman was added to do sports replacing WJW-TV colleague Dan Coughlin who moved to our AM station, WHK.  Pat Brady covered traffic; Len “Boom” Goldberg became the official Zoo announcer, and Ruby Cheeks added a woman’s touch to what had been a male-driven show.  Spaceman Scott,  Astrologer Bruce R. and Captain Kenny Clean – and later, John Rio as Mr. Leonard rounded out the all-star cast.

L to R; Ed "Flash" Ferenc, John Gorman, Jeff Kinzbach, Gov. Dick Celeste, Ruby Cheeks

L to R: Ed “Flash” Ferenc, John Gorman, Jeff Kinzbach, Gov. Dick Celeste, Ruby Cheeks

The Best of the Buzzard Morning Zoo has been out of print for over twenty years and its limited release has made it a much sought-after collector’s item. It includes Ohio Governor Dick Celeste’s visit to the Zoo.  Here is side one.

The Buzzard exposed

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


Matt the Cat, Betty Korvan, Joel Frensdorf (WMMS sales), John Gorman, Debbie Ullman, Jeff Kinzbach, Denny Sanders, Kid Leo, Bob Zurich (RCA Records) in front of the Music Grotto wall on a windy September afternoon in 1974.

Left to right: Matt the Cat, Betty Korvan, Joel Frensdorf (WMMS sales), John Gorman, Debbie Ullman, Jeff Kinzbach, Denny Sanders, Kid Leo, Bob Zurich (RCA Records) in front of the Music Grotto wall on a windy September afternoon in 1974.

In 1974, when the WMMS Buzzard logo was born, its existence was nearly invisible.  We had no promotion or marketing budget.  All of the promotional dollars were allocated for our AM sister station WHK, promoting its pathetic “cover hits” format.  This was a format that played hit songs – but not by the artists that made them famous. 

With exception to a trade deal we had with alternative weekly Zeppelin and the paper that replaced it, Exit, where we ran advertising in exchange for a full-page ad, we had no way to expose our new logo and mascot to the masses.

It was time for some serious guerilla marketing.

One of the biggest and best deals we did for exposure was with Shelly Tirk, owner of the Music Grotto record store on Euclid Avenue across from Cleveland State University, which put a larger-than-life Buzzard on the side of the building.  Record labels took turns in leasing the Grotto’s west-facing side wall to paint building-size reproductions of current album covers.  Because WMMS was the only station in town regularly programming their product, I proposed that they include and pay for the Buzzard art as well.  The labels, having nothing to lose and everything to gain by having more people hear their product on WMMS, agreed.   In those days decisions like that were made locally – and most labels had offices and branches in Cleveland.

The deal provided the character, perched on a mushroom, a permanent roosting place, and gave WMMS its first billboard – a prominent one in early September, 1974.  The Buzzard shared space with David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs cover, Gary Wright’s Dreamweaver, and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s The Impossible Dream, among many others. The Buzzard roosted on the Music Grotto wall until the building was torn down in the early 1980s.

Sad to report that Shelly Tirk passed away.  He was one of the most creative and colorful people in Cleveland’s music retail business.   In addition to the Music Grotto, Shelly also owned Melody Lane in Lakewood.

Shelly’s son Ryan shares his stories of those times.

My Dad, Shelly Tirk, owned Melody Lane in Lakewood and Music Grotto in Cleveland for almost 25 years. I grew up working in the Lakewood store from about the age of 9 until about 17, when it became “uncool” to work with one’s father.  During the entire time, the soundtrack for that scene was WMMS.  I remember the Buzzard Beatles Blitz as an early example of how ‘MMS drove the local music scene.  We were one of the few stores in the area to feature an entire display bin devoted exclusively to the Beatles.  By Sunday, Day 2, of the Blitz , the bin was nearly sold out, and my father was scrambling to find Beatles LP’s to restock it by Monday.  It was a good week or two before sales of Beatles records went back down to “regular” levels.

Another great memory of Melody Lane and WMMS was when the new bumper stickers would come out.  We’d get calls asking if we had the new ones almost as much as we fielded calls about particular records we might have in stock.  You could also always tell when there was going to be some sort of cool live broadcast coming up, be it a Michael Stanley show at the Agora or a Warren Zevon Coffee Break Concert, because our stock of blank tape (Cassette, 8-Track, and even reel-to-reel) would be nearly sold out by airtime.

Owning a record store also meant a nearly uninterrupted collection of WMMS T-shirts, polos, sweatshirts, and baseball-style jerseys. You name it and I had it.  And I still have most of them.  I never tossed a Buzzard shirt.  No matter what.

My favorite memory was when Dad hired David Helton, the original Buzzard artist, for a personal appearance at Melody Lane’s grand re-opening after a re-model.  We set him up on a card table, with about 500 sheets of 11×17 paper and a stack of blue Sharpies.  The line grew very long, but David was a good sport.  He sketched out Buzzard after Buzzard for the fans.  Most just wanted his face in a star, or standing with a guitar. Others asked some crazy stuff of a guy pressed for time and no real area to work.  I remember one guy asking David to draw a picture of the band Cheap Trick, only with the Buzzard sitting in on drums for Bun E. Carlos.  I believe in the end, he settled for the Buzzard wearing a Cheap Trick t-shirt.  Before he left, he drew out 2 last Buzzards – one for me (age 12 at the time) and my sister, who was 11.  We still have them, and they remain framed in my office to this day.

I miss the old local radio scene.  Corporate radio has gotten too smart for itself.  Paradigm shift seems to have gone from “Hey, check out this new track by XYZ, you heard it hear first” to “We heard you like this song, so here it is again.”  Video may have killed the radio star, but iTunes and MySpace buried radio as a trendsetter, I think.

More on the Buzzard in Chapter 7 in The Buzzard