Archive for November, 2008

Dennis Kucinich interview, 1977

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on November 18, 2008 by John Gorman

Please allow time for the interview to buffer

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At WMMS, our newscasts and public affairs programming, and public service announcements were regarded with the same importance as our music programming. 

Our goal was to deliver news and informaton pertinent to our audience.    Ed “Flash” Ferenc, our news director, crafted a newscast that seamlessly segued into our music format.   Our daytime newscasts ran twice an hour between 6 AM and 8 AM and once an hour at 9AM, 12 noon, and 4:20 and 5:20 in the afternoon.   It wasn’t uncommon to break for a bulletin at any time of day or night, provided it was relevant to our listeners.

Our FCC license obligated us to an hour and fifteen minutes per week of public affairs programming. Rather than produce their own, many stations carried non-exclusive public affairs programming; often playbacks from recent City Club events.   We preferred doing our own, in-house.

Jabberwocky was our one-hour Sunday morning public affairs show, anchored by Debbie Ullman, who also hosted our weekday morning drive show.    On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons at 3:25 we carried Student Rights, a five-minute feature hosted by Helen Baker of the ACLU.

In mid-November, 1975, Debbie was seriously injured in an automobile accident. She was hospitalized for more than three weeks; the first week in intensive care.  During her long convalescence, she decided not to return to WMMS.

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Murray Saul, who had achieved extraordinary popularity as “the Get Down man” for his Friday night weekend salutes, pitched for the Jabberwocky hosting position.    Murray was the right choice.  He was born, raised, and spent most of his life in Cleveland.   He was salesman and, for a brief period, owner of a men’s clothing store in Collinwood.  Murray was also active in Cleveland politics during Carl Stokes’ mayoral campaign.  

It was also an opportunity to show the versatility of still another WMMS staff member.  Our listeners knew Murray as the weekend party king who railed against the Slavedriver and the monotony of the workday grind. Murray’s popularity had grown and he was in demand for personal appearances at local clubs and WMMS sponsored events.    No one knew that Murray was also a member of the WMMS sales team and spent weekdays calling on clients.

It was also a time to revisit the Student Rights show, which I felt had run its course.  In its place, We, The People – also hosted by Murray – made its debut in the same time period.   Whereas Jabberwocky was a conversational one-hour, unscripted, unedited interview program, We, The People had its guests tightly confined to a fast-moving, forward motion, fifteen-minute on-the-dot interview format, cut into three-five minute segments.  It was this forum where we placed the two 1977 Cleveland Democratic mayoral candidatesDennis Kucinich and Edward Feighan to tell our listeners why they should succeed Republican Ralph Perk.

This interview ran long enough for a four-parter and I can’t recall if we ran all four segments. I’m inclined to believe one of them ended up being an unused outake.

Perk was invited to appear on We, The People, but didn’t return our calls.

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Cleveland was in terrible shape.  Unlike other cities that metropolitanized after World War II, by annexing surrounding suburbs, Cleveland was one of over an unheard of fifty-plus cities and towns to reside in Cuyahoga CountyCleveland’s middle class moved to the suburbs and  the inner city fell into decline.  Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Cleveland moved elsewhere.

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The Hough riots, the Cuyahoga River fire, and an incessant stream of embarrassing blunders from local politicians severely tarnished the city’s reputation.

Dennis Kucinich was 23 when elected to the Cleveland city council and 30 when he announced his candidacy for mayor of Cleveland in 1977.  He was a populist who strongly opposed the city’s plan to sell its then-struggling Muni Light to its competitor, the Illuminating Company.  He also opposed the misuse of tax dollars and the questionable control banking interests had with the city.

This is from a recently-discovered raw, unedited, pre-production master tape of Murray Saul’s no-holes- barred interview with Dennis Kucinich on We, the People.

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Murray Saul on the interview:

It’s 1977, Cleveland has been in a long slide down, since the end of World War II 30 years earlier. There was a spark of hope in 1967, with the election of Carl Stokes, but we had the Hough riots, unease in City Hall, and Carl left Cleveland with a very mixed record of accomplishment.

Ralph Perk had been a shitty mayor for 6 years and was running for a 4th term.  Among the quirky strengths of the Buzzard was the ability to break through stereotypes, and I was immersed in all aspects. 

I continued in sales after John and I developed the Get Down on Fridays at 6.  When Debbie Ullman was injured in an automobile accident, I took over hosting the one-hour public affairs show, Jabberwocky on Sunday morning and developed  the weekday afternoon We, The People, which ran Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3:25 PM.

My approach was very broad, and ranged from talking with interesting friends while tokin’ weed in stereo, to the movers and shakers in the news, including the chairman of Sohio, which had just hit oil in Alaska

During the primary, I did We, The People with both candidates who were running to succeed Ralph Perk as Mayor of Cleveland.

Dennis was a brash kid who grew up in ethnic Cleveland, and was stuck in a time warp which ended up with Cleveland in default due to his being a stubborn asshole.  He is still proud of “saving Muni” 

(The views and opinions of Murray’s comments are his own and do not represent….you know the rest)

Learn how Dennis Kucinich helped save the WMMS format in 1972 in Chapter 1 of The Buzzard

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Rockabilly Buzzard

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on November 14, 2008 by John Gorman

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The Buzzard was a versatile character and artist David Helton was able to signify WMMS in immeasurable ways.

Versatile was also our characterization of rock and roll.  If it fit, we played it – and did our best to s-t-r-e-t-c-h our boundaries.    Since we didn’t adhere to a strict FM rock format, it wasn’t uncommon to hear rock and R&B from the fifties and sixties mixed in with our current fare. 

We didn’t narrowcast our current rock either – and touched upon all of its genres.

Given the opening, the music business will define music with dozens of insignificant names like new wave, corporate rock, alternative, country rock, and heavy metal.   

We preferred to put everything under one banner: Rock & Roll

Competition viewed it as a weakness. We knew it was our strength. We mixed, matched, and gave airplay to a wide variety of rock and roll and let the court of public opinion -our listeners – to determine the destiny of new music we exposed.

Now, back to the Buzzard.   I can’t recall precisely what inspired this ad- but it had to be partly influenced by the late seventies and early eighties rockabilly revival led by Robert Gordon, the Stray Cats and Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Rockpile.

The ad didn’t say we play rockabilly.  It just implied the fact.

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Robert Gordon

The Who: Pete Townshend interview – 12/7/79

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

I’m proud of and grateful for WMMS having one of the very best teams in radio.

Our airstaff were known for their interviewing skills.  They didn’t ask the predictable “How is the tour going” questions.   Ours were conversational.

We always favored and encouraged one-on-one, live on-the-air with our guests rather than something prerecorded or on the phone. 

Our airplay of new music afforded us another advantage.  Since we interviewed nearly every act coming to town, we developed enduring relationships with many artists early in their careers that allowed us access to artists that had otherwise stopped doing radio and press interviews.  

Nearly every artist that made a mark in rock and roll from the early seventies to the mid-eighties was, at one time or another, interviewed on WMMS – and often, exclusively.

A few notable interviews took place at WMMS, too.  Glenn Frey announced the breakup of the Eagles, which immediately made the international wire services.  On a lighter note, fellow Eagle Joe Walsh announced his candidacy for President of the United States on WMMS.  His campaign slogan: “Free gas for everyone!”

And that brings us to The Who.

On December 3, 1979, eleven people waiting to see The Who in concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati were trampled to death and hundreds were seriously injured.

The concert was set up as a general admission/ “festival seating” event, which theoretically meant “first come, first served.” 

14,000 tickets out of an estimated 18,500 sold were for general admission.  

In a futile attempt to control the crowd of thousands waiting outside the Coliseum, the concert promoter, Electric Factory Concerts of Philadelphia, opened only one or two main doors, which resulted in a mad rush of people funneling into a small entrance. 

It remains the deadliest large venue concert disaster in U.S. history. 

(The worst rock concert disaster was the Great White concert at The Station club, in West Warwick, R.I. on February 20, 2003, which killed 100 and injured over 200.)

The Who were not informed of the tragedy until after the show and immediately closed off all access to the media.

Their media embargo was broken three days later when The Who played the Richfield ColiseumJohn Entwistle called Denny Sanders two hours before the concert, to openly speak to those on the way to the concert and, following the show, Ed “Flash” Ferenc spoke to both Entwistle and Kenney Jones, which ran on WMMS the following morning. 

Unfortunately, the interviews by Denny and Flash were lost when the WMMS Archives were dismantled in the early nineties.  

Kid Leo was also backstage and at the right place at the right time when Pete Townshend agreed to do an impromptu interview – or, better put, conversation.

Special thanks to J.D. Kunes for the interview, which he taped off the air just a month or so shy of 29 years ago and Jim Davison for preparing it for inclusion in The Buzzard book blog.