The Buzzard Morning Zoo’s Kenny Clean & his beater soul meter video
Interviews with members of the WMMS staff often irritated writers from radio and music trade papers.
We’d often get asked for specifics on how we came up with and developed a certain programming feature or contest and our customary reply would be “It just happened.” They were expecting to hear that our latest success was created by extensive research and development – but that was almost never the case. We viewed over-research as paralysis by analysis.
The environment inside WMMS was akin to dot-com start-ups. Nearly all of our best-known features and events came from from two-minute hallway meetings or spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Every April 1, we cut a dozen or so April Fool’s Day parody commercials that we’d run in regular commercial breaks throughout the day. Some were convincing enough that they were taken seriously – but that’s another story.
In 1983, Ohio Rep. Louis Stokes was arrested by Montgomery County police in Maryland for drunk driving. Police reported that Rep. Stokes tried to talk his way out of the arrest by arguing that he was exempt from arrest because he was a Congressman. Around the same time, American Express was running a heavy radio and TV ad campaign with the tag line: Don’t leave home without it. We tied the two together and created the Congressional Express card with Rep. Lou Stokes as its spokesperson. With it, a congressman could drive drunk, get in accidents and evade arrest. Our tag line was don’t leave Capitol Hill without it.
One problem. Who was going to play Rep. Stokes on the satirical commercial? It was at the end of a long day and Kenny Clean, whose family business cleaned WMMS, WHK, and the corporate Malrite offices, was nearby. Not knowing what to expect, we asked Kenny to read the script. He nailed it in one take! The Congressional Express card became one of the most-requested and commented-on parody spot that April Fool’s Day.
Proving that things “just happened,” Kenny began making occasional appearances with Jeff Kinzbach, Ed “Flash” Ferenc, Ruby Cheeks, Len “Boom” Goldberg, and Spaceman Scott on the Buzzard Morning Zoo – and the Beater Soul Meter feature was born. His popularity soared along with his catchphrase, “Sho’ Yo’ Rite,” an affirmation that started much of what he had to say and became his trademark. People picked up on it and our promotion and marketing director Jim Marchyshyn had David Helton-designed T-shirts and buttons made with it. We’d play an oldie rhythm & blues song every morning with Kenny running the Soul Meter to measure its true soul content.