Archive for January, 2009

Denny Sanders/Classic Rock Weekend aircheck – 1/4/85

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 28, 2009 by John Gorman

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A few days after Thanksgiving 1984, I was at a Christmas party at Akron auto dealer Dale Haggarty’s home.   I overheard WAKR-AM and WAEZ-FM/Akron General Manager Fred Anthony mention that he was dropping the beautiful music format on WAEZ on New Year’s Day, 1985, for a classic-leaning album rock format, with new call letters, WONE-FM.

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I learned that their parent company had station with the same format in Denver. Malrite also owned a station in that market.  I called the program director there and asked him to run a few hours of tape on  it and alerted Denny Sanders and Kid Leo that we were about to get some new competition from the south.  Their signal reached much of our turf but had a huge hole in Parma because of a ridge to the south and interference from nearby FM antennas there.   I spent a couple of days with the cassettes from Denver, studying their music rotations.  I believed WONE would adopt the same format in Akron.  I was impressed and also annoyed. It went deep on tracks by familiar artists and played some forgotten songs: “Callin’ Me Home” by the Steve Miller Band, “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by Traffic, “Sea of Joy” by Blind Faith, and “In the Memory of Elizabeth Reed” by the Allman Brothers Band.

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It could be a difficult challenger.  We were headed in a different music direction, with a strong emphasis on current rock.  WONE would be playing our past. A certain percentage of listeners would try a new brand just because it was there.  The station wouldn’t make a dent in Cleveland, but it could hurt us in Akron and Canton, and its classic rock lean could hurt us with older males.   Unlike our powerful, in-your-face, forward motion format, theirs recalled the earlier low tech days of album radio.  We had strong, dominant ratings in Akron and businesses from the region advertised on WMMS.

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I proposed a Classic Rock Weekend on WMMS before WONE-FM signed on the air.  We’d have to make it work in tandem with our current format – and we had to act fast – the coming weekend – to be far enough ahead of WONE-FM’s format change so it wouldn’t appear we were heading them off at the past though we clearly were.  Denny and I assembled a special card file system to daypart key tracks and avoid any repetition.  And we needed to secure greatest hits albums from classic rock artists for giveaways.  We billed it as a unique venture into the past “as only the Buzzard could do it.”

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It was a smash.  Everyone on the air stressed that “once in a great while it’s OK to visit the past, as long as you don’t live there” and that we were playing music reserved for “this special occasion.”  I also felt we’d be able to do something WONE couldn’t -put heavy emphasis on Cleveland-style classic rock, featuring artists that were uniquely popular in this region like Roxy Music, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Todd Rundgren, Southside Johnny, and selections from our live concert archives.  Response was so strong that we went on with a new promo saying we were breaking all the rules and announced a second Classic Rock Weekend the following week.  We also made subtle mentions that anything this good was bound to be copied, but imitation is never close to the original.

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When WONE-FM signed on, its format was something WMMS had already done – twice.  The debut was anti-climactic, and we lost no ratings ground in Akron and Canton.

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The success of our Classic Rock Weekends led to the birth of a weekly WMMS Classic Rock Saturday Night, hosted by Betty Korvan and later Spaceman Scott, 7 PM to midnight, where we dug deep to find forgotten and unique tracks to make the show special – with BLF Bash and his own unique style right afterward, to keep the party going with a mix of old and new and, of course, the obligatory “Maggot Brain.”

This is a just-found recording of the first hour of our second Classic Rock Weekend, hosted by Denny Sanders (and Kid Leo’s Friday night close-out).  We kept the original commercials intact – including one from Larry Robinson, the Diamond Man – and you’ll also hear something you’d never hear on nighttime rock radio today – a news bulletin. This one dealing with a hostage crisis at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

This aircheck is courtesy of former WMMS listener Tim Cassidy who we thank for sharing it with us.

Download here

See Chapter 27WMMS Can Call Itself Anything It Wants – in The Buzzard.

Kid Leo aircheck 12/31/85

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 26, 2009 by John Gorman

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This aircheck features Kid Leo’s final “afternoon session” for the year 1985.  WMMS listener Phillip LeAnza recorded it from his car stereo on a cassette tape recorder, while sitting in his car at Parmatown Mall on Ridge Road.

As Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

1985 was a defining year for the future of WMMS.  We were breaking all ratings and revenue records in Cleveland radio.  We parlayed our legitimate Rolling Stone “Station of the Year Award” to a series of free WMMS Appreciation Day concerts.   We presented two to three weekly Nights Out at the Agora and Coffee Break Concerts, which were also carried on-air as live broadcasts.  If an act was touring, they’d play Cleveland and we’d co-sponsor their show with Belkin Productions or Blossom Music Center.  Our efforts to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland had complete backing from the city, state, the regional private sector, and much of the music industry.

There were many people responsible for the success of WMMS.  First was Carl Hirsch, the President of Malrite Communications, who afforded us the wide berth and encouraged us to be innovative and cutting-edge.    His split with Milton Maltz, Malrite’s CEO was the first in a series of occurrences that would make 1986 a tumultuous year at WMMS.

Phillip, thank you for sharing this aircheck.

Part 1……4 minutes, 30 seconds……..Download here

Part 2……2 minutes, 31 seconds……..Download here

Part 3……4 minutes, 43 seconds……..Download here

buzzard-book-cover-smallThe story continues in Chapter 28Departures and Divisions – in The Buzzard.

The Buzzard Theater of the Air’s “War of the Worlds” from 1976

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media on January 19, 2009 by John Gorman

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Our next Buzzard Theater of the Air production in 1976 was an obvious one – a new version of H.G. Welles’ War of the Worlds.  The original Mercury Theater of the Air production, which was broadcast on October 30, 1938 on the CBS Radio Network, was presented as news bulletins interrupting regular programming. It caused scores of listeners to believe that there was an actual Martian invasion taking place.   

Unlike the familiar Christmas Carol, War of the Worlds was a complete rewrite. The outline was prepared by Denny Sanders and a sizeable share of the script was written by Promotion and Marketing Director Dan Garfinkel with supplementary input from the staff.  The writing and production was influenced by, among other things, the cutting-edge humor of the time from the Firesign Theater, National Lampoon, and even Cheech y Chong.

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 wanted War of the Worlds to be edgier than A Christmas Carol. It included some self-parodies of our Instant Radio Spectacular live remote broadcasts, a few inside jokes – even a couple at the expense of our frequent request-line callers asking to hear “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd five minutes after we just played it.

In retrospect, we tried too hard and over-wrote the script, which made it a major challenge for the considerable production skills and imagination of Jeff Kinzbach and Steve Lushbaugh

As a result, the final product was somewhat disjointed and lacked the charm and appeal of A Christmas Carol Still, 33 years later, it holds up well.

Though the master of A Christmas Carol survived, War of the Worlds was one of the casualties of the WMMS archives purge in the early nineties.

This copy comes from a cassette recording made on October 31, 1976 by Kyle Cooley, a former WMMS listener who now lives in Michigan, and we thank him very much for this rare find.  Since the cassette tape audio had deteriorated, it was remixed to mono and equalized by Chuck Matthews.  

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Denny Sanders on the making of War of the Worlds:

I had reference cassettes of the Christmas Carol over the years, and eventually found a high-quality, studio copy (which is the version posted), but I never had anything on War of the Worlds.  This recording is the first time I have heard playback since it aired in 1976.

Well, if anything, we were certainly ambitious.

At the time, I remember being disappointed in how it came out.  We really got in deep water with this one, and we may have overreached a bit.  It turned out to be far more complicated to produce and edit than originally anticipated, and I recall that Jeff Kinzbach and Steve Lushbaugh were still cutting and adding effects to the production right up until airtime.  Maybe if we had a couple of more weeks it could have been smoother, and more streamlined.  However, listening again after over 30 years, I got a kick out of Leo’s hilarious MC-ing of what must have been a hell of a concert, G-Man himself in a rare on-air appearance as a cop (pure type casting) and Matt the Cat as Mayor Perk (the tape was slowed down to match the real Mayor’s typical delivery).  Oh yeah, “Mr. Greenback”, the fictitious WMMS station executive:  That was me doing my best Milt Maltz imitation!   

War of the Worlds download

Wings over WMMS – The Paul & Linda McCartney interview, 1976

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 14, 2009 by John Gorman

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When the Wings Over America tour touched down at the Coliseum in Richfield on October 5, 1976,  it was the first time Paul McCartney had visited Greater Cleveland since the Beatles’ Cleveland Stadium concert on August 14, 1966.

It was also the first time in a decade that any Beatle had visited or played Cleveland.

George Harrison was scheduled for the Richfield Coliseum on his first U.S. solo tour in 1974 but that show was cancelled when a major blizzard shut down Greater Cleveland.

McCartney’s Cleveland date was also a homecoming of sorts for Paul’s wife Linda. Her grandparents and other family members lived in Shaker Heights.

We were told in advance that the prospect for an interview was unlikely – and the best we could count on was a remote chance of getting WMMS IDs from Paul and Linda and other members of the band and we’d have to wait until the end of the show to get them.

 To insure a quality recording of anything we’d get, I “borrowed” a pro cassette recorder that was the property of sister station WHK from our shared newsroom.  (I wasn’t going to leave Flash without his!)

After the show, a rep from Capitol Records told me that only one person from WMMS would be permitted backstage after the show to get band IDs – and there was no guarantee that Paul and Linda would even do them.

I’d never met any of the Beatles and had been looking forward to this occasion – except that I had made a few connections earlier in the day that nearly guaranteed an opportunity to have at least a couple of minutes with Paul McCartney.

Just before the show was over, I received word that I’d get an exclusive, brief, “no more than three-minute” interview with McCartney.

Though it would be giving up a rare occasion to meet a former Beatle, I sent Shelley Stile backstage to do the interview with McCartney.  I had a number of nicknames for Shelley WingWang, Funkbutt – but this time she was playing her role as our favorite spy, Honey West.

Shelley went backstage and immediately hit it off with Paul and Linda and instead of the “no more than three minute,” interview, we got close to ten.

Murray Saul takes on SOHIO

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 5, 2009 by John Gorman
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This is a recently-discovered raw audio of Murray Saul’s We, the People interview with Pitt Curtis, the director of public affairs for SohioStandard Oil of Ohio. 
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Sohio was one of the successor companies to Standard Oil after the 1911 antitrust breakup of the original Standard Oil Company founded by John D. Rockefeller.

In 1968, Sohio merged with British Petroleum (BP).  Though the deal was announced as Sohio acquiring BP interests in North America, the terms stipulated that BP would have majority interest in Sohio’s share of oil production from the Alaskan Pipeline’s  Prudhoe Bay oilfield once it achieved 600,000 barrels per day.

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In 1977, Sohio announced that it would build a 45-story, 658 ft. building in downtown Cleveland at Public Square and Curtis was making the rounds to publicize the project.

During the Sohio Building construction, British Petroleum purchased the remaining 45 percent of Standard Oil of Ohio and the company was renamed BP America.

The building was not completed until 1985 and didn’t officially open until 1987. It was renamed the BP America Tower.

sohio-map-of-clevelandRegrettably for Cleveland, when British Petroleum acquired the Chicago-based Amoco Corp. in 1998, the company announced that it would relocate its headquarters to Chicago and put the building up for sale.

Since then, most of the building has remained vacant, though recently the Columbus-based Huntington Bank announced plans to move from its current East Ninth and Euclid Avenue site to the BP Building, which will be renamed for the bank.

Though he claimed no premonition, Murray closed the program by asking Sohio to “stay in Ohio.”

Sohio was a major radio and television advertiser and radio stations, WMMS among them, used a special sounder when the temperature dropped below a certain temperature to provide a special weather update, mentioning how Sohio gas “prevents fuel line freeze-ups” with the close “You go or Sohio pays your tow.”

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Murray Saul on the interview

The brand name “Sohio” harkens back to the glory years when the Rockefellers and Standard Oil were headquartered in Cleveland.   After the anti trust breakup Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO) remained here.

The big breakthrough came when they hit oil in Alaska in Prudhoe Bay.  As part of the celebration Sohio announced they would erect a sky scraper of their own, right on Public Square.

Pitt Curtis was public relations director for Sohio, and was happy to discuss it on We, the People.  The irony is of course, they built it, were bought out by the Queen; British Petroleum was very Royal back then, and pulled out of Cleveland.

It should be noted that my last words were “Stay in Cleveland”