Archive for December, 2008

Thirty years ago tonight….

Posted in Buzzard on December 31, 2008 by John Gorman


NEW DATE! Friday, February 13
7:00 – 8:00 PM
Visible Voice Books
1023 Kenilworth Ave.
Tremont District
Cleveland, OH

For all upcoming appearances, click here


Just a little over four months after their last area appearance, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band spent New Year’s Eve ’78 and New Year’s Day ’79 in Cleveland, playing two sold-out shows at the Richfield Coliseum.

We tried to convince Jon Landau, Bruce’s manager, to do a live remote broadcast of the show but, by that time, there were at least a dozen known bootleg albums of various design from Bruce’s WMMS 10th Anniversary Concert at the Agora, and he believed, for that reason, it was best not to broadcast the show.

(A few months later two bootlegs, one an audience recording – The Firecracker Show and a soundboard recording – New Year’s Eve ’78 were released.)

Leading up to 12 midnight, Bruce Springsteen said “It’s getting near that time.”  He counted down, “Five, four, three, two, one – Happy New Year!  Kiss your girlfriend!”

Then some joker tossed an M-80 on stage, which exploded dangerously close to Bruce’s face and shook up the band, who had been joined on stage by wives and girlfriends.

Springsteen said, “Well, I almost lost my eye thanks to some asshole, but that ain’t gonna ruin my New Year and I hope it don’t ruin yours.

“Best of 1979 to you all you guys.  This has been a great town for us.  You’ve always treated us fantastic. I just wanna let you know that we appreciate it very much.

“All right – let’s go!”

(As he went into a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” if I recollect properly)

” It’s a good thing it only happens once a year!”

Following “Rave On,” Springsteen said to Clarence Clemmons, “Big Man, give us the speciality.  Big Man took a one-week course at the Guy Lombardo Saxophone Institute for this next number…”

…and Clarence played “Auld Lang Syne.”

There was one member of the E-Street Band who was still wearing rage on his face.  The man formerly known as Miami Steve said, “Bruce is, you know, .if anybody saw the cat that threw that firecracker, man….almost took his fucking eye out, you know.

“Now, I asked everybody ’cause I’ve seen people hurt at shows with firecrackers before, you know and ah, I’ll ask again because we’re gonna be here tomorrow night and this is been, ah, you guys have always been great in this town.  We love coming here and we love playing here. That’s why we came on New Year’s Eve – and the only thing I ask is that people don’t throw stuff to hurt other people and to hurt themselves and hurt me and whoever else is up here ’cause we came here to play (he was interrupted by 18,500 cheers).some rock and roll for you and you guys paid your money so if you come and listen without being afraid of getting hurt or blown up or whatever.  So if anybody, if anybody sees anybody throwing stuff or anybody, you know, .like, you know, right, .just tell somebody so we get them out and if you wanna throw something, we’ll give you your money back and you can throw it outside, you know.

“It’s like you can do whatever you want (more cheers). I don’t want nobody throwing that fucking shit in here, you know, it can hurt people that came down here.”

At that point, Bruce put his shoulder on Miami Steve, whispered something to him, probably “you made your point,” and the show went on into the wee hours of the morning.


New Year’s Eve set list:
Kid Leo introduction
Streets of fire
Spirit in the night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Independence Day
The Promised Land
Long guitar solo into Prove it all Night
Pretty Flamingo
Thunder road
The Ties that Bind
Santa Claus is comin’ to Town
Candy’s room
Because the night
New Year’s countdown and fireworks blast
Springsteen comments
Rave on
Springsteen sets up Clarence
Auld Lang Syne
Miami Steve rant
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Point Blank
Preacher’s daughter
I Get Mad
She’s the One
Born to Run
Detroit Medley
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Quarter to three


New Year’s Day set list:
No intro
Rave On
Spirit in the Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Streets of Fire
Heartbreak Hotel
The Promised Land
Long guitar solo into Prove it all night
Racing in the street
Thunder road
Meeting across the River
For You
It’s hard to be a Saint in the City
Santa Claus is Comin’ to town
I Fought the Law
Because the night
Candy’s Room
Point Blank
She’s the One
The Last Time
Born to Run

 A poor audience recording of this show titled Meeting Across the River was released on CD.  If you see it, don’t buy it.

Happy New Year to everyone in BUZZARD NATION!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on December 30, 2008 by John Gorman


Here’s a WMMS print ad by David Helton welcoming 1975 as the Year of the Buzzard.  

Like 2008, most were glad to see 1974 come to an end.  It was a turbulent year, which included an energy crisis, worldwide bombings, and international political upheaval.  The top national story was U.S. President Richard Nixon‘s resignation following  Watergate

Locally, Cleveland continued to lose population, retail stores, and corporate headquarters.  On June 4, the city received worldwide attention for a what-were-they-thinking Cleveland Indians ten cent beer night, at Municipal Stadium, which turned violent.

At WMMS, it was a major growth year.  We were forming our own inimitable identity – solidifying our air talent and support staff, exposing a wide variety of music, and established the Buzzard as our mascot.  The WMMS World Series of Rock was born with a concert starring the Beach Boys, Chicago, and Joe Walsh.

1975 would be our most exciting and exigent year to date.  Cleveland became the rock and roll club and concert capital – breaking more new music than any other city.  The Friday night Get Downs got even with the Slave Driver and officially kicked off the weekend, and we would be faced with our first competitive challenge.  

Much more on the formative years of WMMS can be found in The Buzzard

The Buzzard Theater of the Air presents Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on December 20, 2008 by John Gorman


We closed out 1975 with a project that became one of our crowning achievements, a contemporary version of A Christmas Carol.

Denny Sanders and promotion and marketing director Dan Garfinkel scripted the adaptation from Charles Dickens.  Murray Saul was Iggy Scrooge, and he played it to the hilt.  David Spero was his ghostly partner, steel magnate David MarleyKid Leo was Little Leo, Matt the Cat played Matt the Crachit, and Shelley Stile was Mrs. Cratchit, with Betty Korvan as daughter Martha.  

The three spirits – of Christmas past, present, and future – were Len “Boom” Goldberg, Charlie Kendall, and Steve Lushbaugh. Our “world’s greatest” receptionist for WMMS, WHK, and Malrite corporate Verdelle Warren played Scrooge’s fianceeSteve Lushbaugh, Jeff Kinzbach, and Ed “Flash” Ferenc were various men about town.    Denny Sanders narrated. Guests from outside the staff included Michael Stanley and Alex Bevan.  It was directed and produced by Jeff Kinzbach and Steve Lushbaugh.

We recorded it during the busiest production time of the year and its recording and production had to be  worked around the commercial production schedule, which, during the Christmas season, was limited to late Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings. Since we hadn’t budgeted in advance for the project, no one could claim overtime for participating. It was a true labor of love.

The entire production was done with antiquated equipment and recording tape at our decrepit studios at 50th and Euclid, and took hundreds of hand-made tape splices to complete.

We called it a production of the Buzzard Theater of the Air, a satirical take-off on Orson Wells’ 1930s radio series, the Mercury Theater of the Air.

wmms-archives-print-ads-articles-1975-0561Murray Saul on A Christmas Carol

My first thought is how much the production reflects the mood we’ve been talking about of all being on the SAME TEAM and enjoying it.  From the Dan Garfinkel script to Jeff Kinzbach  in the control room.  Denny Sanders keeping his eye on the whole project. To call it a labor of love is not hype.  Me, being Scrooge was a great kick.  It was very much like being in your high school play Buzzard-style.

denny-sandersDenny Sanders on A Christmas Carol

I remember that it was taped over two consecutive weekends in December, and edited on the third in time for broadcast on Christmas Eve, 1975.  It was all manual cuts, and fly-in dubs from second and third machines.  Here’s a story:  In the final scene before Murray wakes up everything went quiet.  There was a pause and then the next taped segment (waking up) was to be inserted.  Because it was dead quiet, you heard the electronic relay click of the tape machine starting.  I remember that this drove me crazy, so either Steve Lushbaugh or Jeff Kinzbach (I forget who) backed the tape way up, timed the insert, and rolled it early so that the click was buried in the music bridge just before it went quiet.  When working manual and with old gear, you just had to be resourceful!

To  hear A Christmas Carol, click here

AUDIO IS BACK ON LINE.  Also, enjoy Murray’s Christmas Get Down, below.

For more info on A Christmas Carol and the Buzzard Theater of the Air – see Chapter 11 of The Buzzard

Murray Saul’s weekend-before-Christmas Get Down from December 19, 1975

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on December 20, 2008 by John Gorman


Thirty-three years before our economic meltdown and Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme – there was the Slave Driver’s Christmas.

Here’s some Cleveland Christmas CheerMurray Saul’s weekend-before-Christmas Get Down from Friday, December 19, 1975.    How did we get away with this stuff?

Click here (QuickTime)

Chapter 9 tells the implausible story of Murray Saul and the Get Downs in The Buzzard

murray-saul-cdGive the gift of Getting’ Down this Christmas with Murray Saul’s The Get Downs, Vol.1 CD. Click on the CD cover for more info. Distributed by Traditions Alive, Lakewood, OH 216.226.6200

WFMU/New York’s  Aircheck ran a one-hour show on Murray Saul in 2005. You can hear the show in its entirety here (RealAudio).

The Buzzard News – our “in-house” comic

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on December 16, 2008 by John Gorman

Click on pages to enlarge

The Buzzard News was an in-house comic book that was seen only by the WMMS staff and a few close friends. It was never intended for public consumption.

The radio ratings wars in Cleveland during the seventies and eighties were legendary. 

Though WWWM/ M-105 (now WMJI), which played album rock, was our main format rivalry, we deemed any station aiming for listeners between the ages of 12 and 34 competition. That included WGAR, then an up-tempo adult hit music AM station at 1220 (now WHKW), and two FM top 40 stations WGCL at 98.5 (now WNCX) and WZZP 106.5 (now WMVX). 

The Buzzard News comics customarily centered on the war between WMMS and M-105.

WMMS had been the only full-time album rock station in Cleveland since Nationwide Communications dropped WNCR’s album rock format for top 40 in 1972.   But on March 4, 1975, a former “elevator music” station, WWWM made its debut as M-105. War had begun.


My counterpart at M-105 was Eric Stevens, a formidable opponent.   He was music director of WIXY before he was twenty, and had good connections in the music industry.  He also produced music, including Brownsville Station’s hit “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room” and a Cleveland band, Damnation of Adam’s Blessing, whose 1970 song “Take Me Back to the River” still received occasional airplay on WMMS.  Whenever we broke a new act, M105 wisely would jump on it like it was their own.

The only known photo of Eric Stevens and me from April, 1975.

The only known photo of Eric Stevens and me from April, 1975.

Stevens, operating from his own top 40 background, understood WMMS.  He took our wide playlist, trimmed it dramatically, and kept the music flowing.  The formula had worked elsewhere. Incumbent album rock stations were failing as new, tight-listed stations entered their markets.  The older stations became too hip for the room.

We gave our competition nicknames.  Eric was the Chimp, partly because of a “WIXY’s Gone Bananas” promotion he had while at that station, but mostly because we liked it.


Air personalities were secondary on M105. The jocks, at least for the first couple of years, were not allowed to talk beyond sticking to pre-written liner card intros and outros or do interviews like the WMMS staff, read from liner cards and stressed that M105 was “the home of continuous music.”  We carried eight to nine minutes of commercial spots per hour.  M105, with fewer spots ran all-music, commercial-free weekends and frequent three-hour “continuous music” sweeps. 

It provided M105 opportunities to lure listeners, and they did a good job parroting WMMS (minus playing the more adventurous artists and tracks like Kevin Ayers’ “Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes” or Roxy Music’s “Editions of You.”).   They’d have to play something god-awful for us to get those listeners back. M-105 was the station that gave us the kick in the ass to make it and make it on our terms.

Their operating costs were much lower, because they were not a union shop (WMMS was) and their jocks was paid barely over minimum wage.

M105 never achieved our ratings numbers, but they had respectable enough ratings to turn a profit and live off our spillage in advertising.  WMMS was always sold out; if a client needed a spot on the air, M105 always had the avails.

I had nothing to go on but my own gut.  I believed were in the process of attracting and assembling one of the greatest teams in radio – and chose the side of having a strong personality-oriented station that would break new music and take no prisoners.  I likened our ratings wars with other stations to The Enemy Below, a 1957 movie about the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II and the cat-and-mouse maneuvers of a U.S. destroyer and a German U-boat.   Both were experienced, determined to win, and had much in common.  Each had to anticipate the other’s moves, knowing that only one would survive.

The Buzzard News comics – and there were several – took our ratings war and put it into cartoon form – featuring our staff and theirs – long before illustrated novels became the norm.

This particular issue was not dated.  David Helton and I believe it was probably from mid-to-late 70s.

There are many stories about the radio wars in Cleveland throughout The Buzzard

The Buzzard’s first Christmas

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on December 11, 2008 by John Gorman


This was our first WMMS Buzzard Christmas ad.  I’m almost certain that this the first time you’ve seen it since its circulation was limited. 

It appeared only once – in a mid-December, 1974  issue of Exit, a struggling small-circulation Cleveland alternative weekly. 

David Helton was developing the Buzzard character, which was gradually becoming more defined with each new print ad. 

Given the time of this ad, the Buzzard was still in its early phase, sporting  wild eyes, a longer neck, and a trace of facial hair.

Obviously, we left it up to our listeners’ imagination as to what Santa Claus was smoking in that pipe.

Take three guesses, the first two don’t count.

From the J.D. Kunes collection

More on the Buzzard in Chapter 7 of The Buzzard

Thanks to everyone that stopped by Barnes & Noble at Crocker Park in Westlake  and Waldenbooks at Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted last weekend and for my final book signing of theyear at Borders Express at The Avenue in Tower City, downtown Cleveland


The Who: Pete Townshend interview, 12/14/82. The first “Farewell Tour”

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


One of our biggest events in 1982 was buying out the Who’s two Richfield Coliseum concerts on December 13 and 14.  The tour was billed as the band’s farewell – as every subsequent Who reunion tour has been – and we got exclusive local ownership by putting up the guarantee and all costs in advance.

The two Cleveland shows were the final U.S. dates of their North American tour.  Schlitz Beer was the tour’s national sponsor.

Over the years, the Who, especially Pete Townshend, made many friends in the Greater Cleveland area. Among them was Joe Walsh, who he met when Walsh was guitarist for the locally-based James Gang.

the-who-face-dances1  the-who-the-end1

The Who was touring in support of their Face Dances album, billed as their final studio album. In reality, it would be their last studio album for twenty-four years.

Earlier that year, we premiered the entire Face Dances album on-air over a week before its official release, which landed us a cease and desist telegram from their label, Warner Bros.

The two concerts sold out in record time, and surveys at a number of ticket sales locations showed that more than 99 percent of the ti9cket buyers heard the concert announcement on WMMS. 

The official tour name, which had to be used on all advertising, was WMMS 100.7 FM presents The Who

We allowed other radio stations to buy tickets for giveaways, but they all had WMMS imprinted on them, and any alteration, such as running a marker streak over our call letters, made them null and void.  Best of all, anyone using a check to buy tickets had to make it out to WMMS.


Pete Townshend did two interviews with WMMS.  The first, before the first show, with Dia, and the second, after-concert, with Kid Leo.  Both Dia’s and Kid Leo’s interviews were lost in the WMMS archives purge – but thanks to J.D. Kunes, we have an on-air broadcast copy of Pete Townshend’s interview with Leo. 

According to notes I have, with the exception of WGCL, we did allow other radio stations access to the band for interviews – but no IDs.

Three nights after the second show, WGCL picked up the “farewell” broadcast of the Who’s final North American show in Toronto that we passed on, because it would’ve cost us $2,000 that I couldn’t justify. Instead, we did another Friday Night Live feature – where we played eight hours of excerpts from our WMMS concert archives – and also threw in a previously unreleased concert Led Zeppelin did for the BBC.  It blew away WGCL’s Who concert broadcast, which was riddled with unexpected engineering problems from a hastily put-together ad hoc network of U.S. and Canadian stations.

More on the Who’s 1982 Farewell Concert can be found on Chapter 22 in The Buzzard

Special thanks to radio historian Jim Davison for the music editing.

The Cleveland Mayoral Race 1977 continues….. The Ed Feighan Interview

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on December 1, 2008 by John Gorman


It’s 1977.  We’re a three-way race for mayor of Cleveland and WMMS was covering the campaign.  We invited the three candidates – two Democrats, Dennis Kucinich and Ed Feighan, and incumbent Republican mayor Ralph Perk to be interviewed on our afternoon drive public affairs show, We, The People.   Both Kucinich and Feighan accepted our invitation.  Perk did not.

Kucinich and Feighan won the top spots in a non-partisan primary, which ousted incumbent Perk.  In the runoff election, Feighan had the party’s endorsement.

Democrat Ed Feighan’s political career began as a State Representative from Cleveland in 1972. He spent six years in the Ohio Legislature.  He was 30 years old when he ran for mayor as the chosen candidate by the Cleveland Democratic Party but lost the close race to Dennis Kucinich.

Feighan spent four years as a Cuyahoga County Commissioner served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, serving Ohio’s 19th Congressional District, from 1983 to 1993.

Feighan is currently chairman and CEO of  ProCentury Corporation and lives in Columbus, Ohio.


Murray Saul on the interview:

Ed Feighan won the democratic nomination for mayor of ClevelandEd came from a well connected family.  His uncle was a congressman.

The Federal court had just ordered busing, in order to desegregate the Cleveland schools.  By limiting the order to the city, it was pretty obvious it would merely re-segregate the schools, but he didn’t want to hear it.

He lost to Dennis. He wasn’t blue collar enough, or black enough I guess.

He moved to Columbus, and started a new life. 

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

Please allow time for the interview to buffer