Archive for February, 2009

Thank you, Bay Village

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on February 24, 2009 by John Gorman

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I want to personally thank everyone at last night’s The Buzzard presentation at the Bay Village Public Library last night.   You made it a very memorable and rewarding evening.   I also want to give special thanks to Bay Village Library Branch ManagePamela DeFino for all her help and support.  

I also want to thank Murray Saul for his surprise appearance last night.

My next library appearance will be on Monday, March 9, 7 PM, at the Brook Park branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library at 6155 Engle Road in Brook Park.

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The WMMS Buzzard Beatles Blitz, 1980

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on February 16, 2009 by John Gorman

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I can never emphasize enough how versatile the WMMS staff was – and nothing illustrated that fact better than the biggest undertaking in station history, our round-the-clock, commercial-free Buzzard Beatles Blitz.  No station had tried anything quite so ambitious before, and I don’t know of any others since then.

We wanted to do something unique and take it beyond just a marathon of Beatles music, although the music – with unreleased live racks, studio outtakes, solo work, and unreleased material – went far deeper than the standard retrospective.   Weeks of intense work went into preparing it.   We sifted through hundreds of hours of interviews with the Beatles – and people connected with them.  For months, leading up to the BBB, as we called it, we asked every rock star and celebrity who came to the station to do interviews we could excerpt from, and they ranged from Gene Simmons of Kiss to Charlie Daniels.    For a local edge, we solicited calls from listeners, who talked about seeing the Beatles at Public Hall or Municipal Stadium or camped out in front of their hotel.

What made it unique, and different from productions like Bill Drake’s enormous History of Rock & Roll, is that the highly detailed and specialized programming was done live by our incredibly ambidextrous air staff.   Only the interviews and music were pre-recorded.  The airstaff was live and their maneuvering through the tightly timed, scripted,  formatted hours, and going from vinyl to cart to reel-to-reel tape for content was a major testament to their skills.

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Interviews came from hundreds of sources.  The Beatles interviews alone came from nearly hundred, and included never-broadcast material.  We found an extensive interview with Tony Sheridan, whom the Beatles backed on an album in Germany, when Pete Best was their drummer.  We found a John Lennon interview with London journalist David Wiggs, in which Lennon said he didn’t want to be compared to someone like Mahatma Gandhi as the voice of a “revolution” because Gandhi got shot by being one.

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With the exception of Mick Jagger, who sent back audio after we submitted questions, we did all the other interviews live, in person, or on the phone, including Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Carl Perkins, Rick Derringer, and Doug Feiger of the Knack, among many others,   One of the many highlights was singer Ronnie Spector admitting to a brief affair with John Lennon when the Ronettes opened for the Beatles on a European tour.  She revealed that Lennon “documented” the affair on the Rubber Soul track, “Norwegian Wood.”  She also admitted the previously unknown fact that Phil Spector refused to send her on the Beatles’ 1966 U.S. tour when the Ronettes were on the bill with the Cyrkle, Barry and the Remains, and Bobby Hebb, and had a substitute singer in her place.

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From the Beatles camp we had road manager Nat Weiss, Joy Hall, who handled radio promotion for Apple Records and gave us an autographed copy of Abbey Road to give away, and Ken Mansfied, a former president of Apple Records, who revealed that the Beatles wanted to a farewell concert in a U.S. desert, and that one suggested site was Black Rock Desert, Nevada, later home to the annual Burning Man Festival. Logistics and the growing rift between Lennon and Paul McCartney put an end to that plan.

We did two Buzzard Beatle Blitz specials.  The first one was programmed for 24 straight hours beginning Friday night-Saturday morning at midnight, a dumb move on my part since few could stay awake or conveniently tape what couldn’t be heard live.    The second one, which we ran in the spring of 1980 – months before John Lennon was killed in December, was a new, improved version, which new material, and programmed over a three-days, Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday.

Ken Mansfield with the Beatles

Ken Mansfield with the Beatles

 This aircheck, from Saturday afternoon, featuring Matt the Cat at the controls, is from the 1980 broadcast and the first Buzzard Beatles Blitz aircheck found so far.

Download Part one

Download Part two 

On some computers you may have to click “download” more than once.

More on the Buzzard Beatles Blitz in Chapter 17 of The Buzzard

Special thanks to Chuck Matthews

Murray Saul’s live Get Down from the Terminal Tower, Cleveland – Friday, February 13, 1976

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on February 10, 2009 by John Gorman

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In early 1976, one of the many Cleveland “booster” organizations of that era chose Friday, February 13th as “I Love Cleveland Day.”

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The organization’s pitch was that Cleveland, a city down on its luck, would show its fortitude to turn its fading fortunes around by picking a day and date – Friday, the 13th – normally linked to unfortunate circumstances.    I can’t make these things up.

This organization had nothing planned other than some kind of rah-rah rally at the dilapidated Terminal Tower lobby.

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We heard about it at WMMS, Dan Garfinkel, our promotion director and I pitched having Murray Saul do his weekly Friday night “Get Down” live from that site at 6 PM.  We’d carry it live on-the-air – and provide the organization extensive advance promotion of their event.

They accepted our proposal, partly because no one else submitted one.

Our studios were at 50th and Euclid and the only way we could carry a live broadcast was to install a special phone line, running from the Terminal Tower to the station.

The organization expected, at best, a couple of hundred people to show for the event.

On that dark, cold, rain-snow mix, slushy Friday evening, nearly a thousand showed.  All were young; nearly all were freshly suburban and ready to rock.

Right on cue at 6 PM, as “Born to Run” faded, Murray delivered a non-stop eleven-minute, forty-five second “Get Down,” which touched upon the the usual themes: the Slavedriver, the sweatshop, the weekend, and an all-out celebration of sex and drugs and rock and roll.  Since Valentine’s Day was the following day, its contents were fairly explicit.

The audience screamed and applauded throughout the entire sermon.

The live broadcast came off without a glitch and it went down in WMMS history as one of Murray’s best.

Sadly, the master tape of that broadcast was misplaced and was never heard again.

A few weeks back, a former WMMS sales person, Joel Frensdorf, who worked at the station throughout most of the seventies to the early eighties, found a cassette recording he had made of the broadcast back in 1976 and sent it my way.

Since February 13, 2009 is coincidentally a Friday the 13th, this is the apposite time to give Cleveland and the world a repeat performance of that 1976 Get Down, which is available here as a free download.

wmms-archives-print-ads-articles-1975-0563Murray Saul on the Friday the 13th Get Down

Listening to this get down pushes the rewind button in my memory banks.

Proposing a statue on Public Square of Alan Freed to a Buzzard audience in 1976, was anticipating one of the arguments used to lure the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland.

In between the swing, big band era, and Elvis, music went through a rather bland generation.  Radio was still mostly network. There was only a couple of full time middle of the road music stations.  AM only, of course.   This is from the end of World War II in 1945 to almost the ’60s.

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When I was in Glenville High School in the ’40’s during the war, I sold ladies shoes downtown.  My girlfriend worked in a department store nearby and we’d sometimes walk over to Record Rendezvous, near 4th and Prospect; an edgier part of downtown.  They had the widest range of music, and all the hip new stuff. They had open stacks to browse and big listening booths where we would jitterbug. Back then it was all 78’s. A high end i-Pod can probably hold as much music as the whole fucking store would have had.

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Fast forwarding to the 50’s Leo Mintz, owner of Record Rendezvous notices more white kids and they are buying blues, and what was known as “race music.”

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On July 11, 1951, Alan Freed, a radio pro, signed on with a 3-hour show on WJW 850 AM playing only music picked by Record Rendezvous. They bought the time and Freed created a high powered show.  It was great radio.  He was “King of the Moondoggers,” keeping the beat, by banging on the phone book.  Energy, yeah….

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By March 1952, he was able to mount a full blown Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, which was like the Q is today.  It was so oversold and out of control it had to be shut down.

Years later I ran into a guy, still in the music biz who liked to say he picked the records Alan played.

During this time he came up with “rock and roll” as the category, and it stuck.  The idea was to keep building that white kid audience.

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The show was a hit, and became known everywhere.  Freed moved to the big time in New York, but then got caught up in the payola scandal.  It was downhill after that.

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Back in the days when he was here I would see him at the Theatrical Grill or another club:  alone, with a drink .     Yayza!

Download Murray’s Friday the 13th Get Down here

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

murray-saul-cdMurray 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

A Temple of Baboons episode, summer 1984

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on February 5, 2009 by John Gorman

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As mentioned earlier, our summer of ’84 war with rival WGCL was taken to the streets and on our air..   Unlike our previous battles with M-105, WZZP, and 92 Rock from the mid-seventies through the early eighties, we not only acknowledged WGCL on-the-air, we even created a number of song parodies (“Baboonbusters,” “I Can Lip Sync for You,” “This is not Baboon Land”) based on popular songs of the time and a weekly radio play on the Buzzard Morning Zoo, which featured their program director Bobby (played by Spaceman Scott) and his assistant Phil (played by Denny Sanders), lamenting over their most recent defeat at the wings of the Buzzard.     They were based on real-life events – leaked to us by disgruntled WERE-WGCL staffers – and enhanced with a few inside jokes.

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We called the series The Temple of Baboons – our name for WGCL – along with WIMP Radio, and a play-on-words of the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  

Each episode featured frequent interruptions from an unidentified person (played by Kenny Clean) knocking on WGCL’s front door asking “Is this the bus station?”  WGCL’s studios were opposite the old Greyhound Bus Terminal on Chester Avenue near the East 13th intersection.

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The building that housed WGCL and WERE (and for a brief time, WNCX) was demolished in the early nineties and the Greyhound Bus Terminal has now been converted to the Flex Spa.

Though the masters of the song parodies and The Temple of Baboons were lost or destroyed in the WMMS Archives purge, a cassette dub of one episode was just found and is available here for your downloading pleasure.   As we find more, we’ll post them.

Download Temple of the Baboons here

Much more on the most vicious radio war in Cleveland can be found in Chapter 25 of The Buzzard

Special thanks to Jim Davison for successfully dubbing the cassette’s contents and Chuck Matthews for housing it.