Dennis Kucinich interview, 1977

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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