In early 1976, one of the many Cleveland “booster” organizations of that era chose Friday, February 13th as “I Love Cleveland Day.”
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.
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.
Murray 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.
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.
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.”
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….
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.
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.
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’s The Get Downs, Vol.1 CD. Click on the CD cover for more info. Distributed by Traditions Alive, Lakewood, OH 216.226.6200