Archive for July, 2009

24 years ago – The C.A.R.E. Sessions – the story and video

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on July 27, 2009 by John Gorman

One of our most ambitious projects was inspired by the all-star cast of Band Aid, which was organized by Bob Geldorf, performing the song “Do They Know it’s Christmas” to raise money for charities to feed starving Ethiopians. The performers included Bono and Adam Clayton from U2, Phil Collins, Bananarama, members of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Culture Club. A U.S. version, “We Are the World” followed; organized by Harry Belafonte and his manager. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, and featured Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers, Billy Joel, Steve Perry, and Bob Dylan, among others.  Not long after a Canadian charity record was organized by Bryan Adams and his manager Bruce Allen, “Tears Are Not Enough,” which featured Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummins, Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, Dan Hill, Cory Hart, Bruce Cockburn, Geddy Lee of Rush, and Mike Reno of Loverboy.

Denny and I decided to do the near impossible: put together an all-star cast of Cleveland musicians –and record our own charity song.  We didn’t consider it far-fetched. We decided to help an Ethiopian relief charity, and also send ten percent of the profits to local food banks in Greater Cleveland.   Denny, our promotion director Jim Marchyshyn, and I set up a lunch in March of 1985 at Jim’s Steak House to run the concept by Mark Benesch, a local Columbia Records rep, to see if he’d be interested in pitching it to the label.

It wasn’t that easy.

Denny spearheaded the project, contacting dozens of local acts and even former Clevelander Ben Orr of the Cars – who was living in Boston but had some Cleveland hits in the ‘60s with the Grasshoppers, when Orr (nee Orzechowski) was known as Benny eleven-letters. Dennis Chandler, a musician who fronted the Strataphonics, a cover band I hired as the house band for our sister oldies rock station WHK (14-K), pitched a song, “We Can Make it Happen.” We invited WKYC anchor Dale Solly to make a video of the performance.  Denny booked the Beachwood Recording Studio to cut the track between April 15 and 26 and took a leave of absence from his weeknight show to supervise production.

As we started lining up performers, we realized the Chandler song wasn’t resonant enough for a big chorus of singers.  Michael Stanley was called in to write a new song, “Eyes of the Children,” with the all-star group in mind.

Only one ego outburst occurred, when it was Rocco Scotti’s turn to sing and he was told what key to sing in.  Scotti, an operatic performer, famed for singing the National Anthem at Cleveland Stadium, lost his temper and said, “You don’t tell me what key to sing in – I tell you what key to sing in,” and stormed out of the studio.

We named the group C.A.R.E. for Cleveland Artists Recording for Ethiopia.  CARE, the famed humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, initially objected but allowed us to use the name once we told them of our plans.

More than forty performers ended up participating, including Orr, Stanley, and Strongsville resident Ricky Medlocke of Blackfoot.  It was a Who’s Who of Cleveland music at the time. Musicians were the Michael Stanley Band. Vocalists included Medlocke, Skip Martin and Kenny Petrus of the Dazz Band, Joe Vitale, Jennifer Lee, the Visions, Alex Bevan, Paul Fayreweather, Mimi Hart of the Bop Kats, and Donnie Iris. Chorus vocalists were Jim Bonfanti, Dave Smaley, and Wally Bryson of the Raspberries, Tom and Frank Amato of Beau Coup, Billy Buckholtz and Steve Jochum of Wild Horses; Archie Norris, Kenneth Kevin and David Bell of You-Turn; Ellie Nore and David Smeltz of I-Tal; Audrey Goodwin, Shari Brown, Mark Adison of Nation of One, Bill Pettijohn and Billy Sullivan of Moonlight Drive, Mary Martin, Mark Avsec, and Dennis Chandler.

We premiered the “Eyes of the Children” single on June 26 and the C.A.R.E. video premiered that evening on WKYC’s newscast.  This is an uncut version of the piece, which includes the original commercials and the complete C.A.R.E. session video.

WKYC also presented the “The Making of the C.A.R.E. Sessions” special two nights later on the show Cleveland Alive, which is featured here.

Columbia Records backed out of distribution but Irv Azoff, president of MCA Records, whom I’d met when he managed the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg, and many other quality acts, agreed to distribute the song even though it was fated to be a regional hit, at best.

Today, a mint copy of the 12” single goes for $100 in collecting circles.  It also appeared on a bootleg CD compilation of Cleveland artists that was sold in Europe.

…and not to change the subject – but where were you thirty years ago today (7/28)?  Here?  Click it good!

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National trade magazine story on the Agora and WMMS from 1978

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on July 22, 2009 by John Gorman

WMMS AGORA PAGE ONE Few radio stations and rock clubs enjoyed the inimitable relationship WMMS and the Cleveland Agora shared.   From January, 1974 through late 1984, we sponsored weekly WMMS Nights Out at the Agora, which featured mostly new up-and-coming acts. In addition, we carried the concerts live, which gave mass audio exposure to the performances.

The phenomenal success of the WMMS Monday Nights Out at the Agora led to occasional, which soon became regular second “WMMS Night Out” shows, on Tuesday nights, which we also carried live on the air.

Some first time performers were priced with a “low dough” $1.01 admission.

In late 1978 we added video to the mix with On Stage at the Agora, a weekly Saturday night TV concert series carried on WJW-TV, Channel 8 and simulcast on WMMS. The intent was to syndicate the show nationally, which unfortunately fell through.

The following year, we took our weekly Wednesday Coffee Break Concerts to the Cleveland Agora, as still another weekly concert feature – both in the club and on the air.  The Coffee Break Concerts also featured new artists, along with local performers, and occasionally a rare major act performance.   What other city in the world featured a weekly rock concert at 1 PM in the afternoon – both in the club and on-the-air?   And – admission was free.   On rare occasion, such as John Cougar Mellencamp’s acoustic set, we gave away tickets in advance on the air.

This is an article from Claude Hall’s International Radio Report, a weekly trade magazine, from November 23, 1978 on the Cleveland Agora and WMMS.

WMMS AGORA PAGE ONE_0001Click multiple times to enlarge print

There’s more to be read about the Agora and WMMS in The Buzzard

BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALL

AGORA AUGUST 74 POSTER

The Buzzard at Fantasy Fest in Key West

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

3006172983_876f273af6_bFantasy Fest is an annual uninhibited street fair and party, held on the last week of October in Key West, Fla. It features ten days of costume balls and contests, parades, and continuous partying.    It’s not uncommon to see partiers wearing body paint and little else.

It’s an event that draws a significant number of baby boomers reliving their younger days of endless partying.

Attendance has surpassed 100,000 – over three times the population of Key West.

And what does this have to do with WMMS?

For one, a noteworthy number of Greater Cleveland baby boomers – those that grew up with WMMS in the seventies and eighties – party at Fantasy Fest – including the couple in these photos taken at last year’s experience.

1_radio_station_couple-1A few weeks back David Helton forwarded an e-mail attachment he’d received from a friend who took notice of this couple’s body painting.    On careful and close examination of the photo we undoubtedly established that the woman in the photo is wearing an admirable reproduction of The Buzzard book cover.  Her companion in the photo is sporting a repro of the pre-Buzzard mushroom sticker. I received another photo of this couple yesterday.

Neither David nor I know this couple personally – but we send them our positive props and thanks to them profusely for sporting the best WMMS body paint reproductions we’ve seen – and unquestionably the best display and reproduction of The Buzzard book cover.
We also recommend and even encourage Greater Clevelanders attending Fantasy Fest this year to wear their body painted Buzzards proudly.BUZZARD BOOK FULL SIZEWMMS MUSHROOM STICKER COLOR

Click photos to enlarge

DAVID HELTON AD2

Denny Sanders’ Video Aircheck, WMMS, November ’85

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Video on July 7, 2009 by John Gorman

This is an all-too-brief video featuring Denny Sanders on WMMS from November, 1985. Denny owned 6 to 10 PM on Cleveland radio. He was far more than just an air personality – he was an entertainer – a unique trait the WMMS airstaff shared.

Denny’s official title was creative services director.  I preferred “conscience.”  Denny’s input was imperative and he shared in nearly every decision made in regards to WMMS programming and operations.   He produced and scheduled the weekly live Coffee Break Concerts, which were hosted by Matt the Cat. That involved dealing with labels, managers, tour managers, and the Cleveland Agora on an almost daily basis to insure that the scheduled act would be playing live in front of a packed house every Wednesday afternoon at 1.  There was no other show on any radio station in America like the weekly Coffee Break Concerts. Denny dealt hands-on with acts as diverse as U2, Tom Waits, John Mellencamp, and even Boxcar Willie.  Denny also worked closely with a number of local bands.

Regardless of what Denny’s pre-show day was like, every weeknight he delivered the North Coast of America four-hours of fast-moving, forward motion, music and pertinent information, while taking listener calls between songs.

This video was shot by Art Vuolo, “Radio’s Best Friend,” for his “Video Air-chex” series.

Michael Jackson and WMMS, Part two

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on July 1, 2009 by John Gorman

ThrillerEraLet’s get the weirdness factor out of the way. At WMMS we met many celebrities from rock and film stars to athletes and authors.  Sometimes it was a real thrill to meet them, other times, a disappointment.

To empathize talent visualize the Scales of Justice. Talent is a blessing and a curse.  Exceptional talent in one area often creates deficiencies in others, whether it’s lack of social skills or addictions and obsessions. Michael Jackson was one of the most unique entertainers and performers of any generation – but he paid dearly for that talent.

The deal we did to get the Jacksons tour to play Cleveland guaranteed the group $2.7 million up front for two nights at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  For that, we would get “WMMS Presents…” on all of the tickets and be the exclusive distributor.  Belkin Productions would produce the shows.  We faced major problems from the start.  October weather was unpredictable. We had to sell out those two nights or come close, to cover costs. That raised a second problem.  The tour was set up six to nine months past Jackson’s peak popularity – and this was a Jacksons concert – not a Michael Jackson show.

Jacksons-victoryPrince had replaced Michael Jackson as our most-requested artist.  Fortunately, the Jacksons’ Victory album featured two effective tracks: “Torture” and “State of Shock,” essentially a duet with Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger, which provided us with much-needed fresh material. Of greater concern was early news of ticket sales for the Prince tour that followed the runaway summer success of his movie, Purple Rain. It was scheduled to open at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on November 4 and 5 – but demand was so great that two nights were added, followed by two more, which sold out immediately, and a fifth.  We also got word that Prince sold out three dates at Capitol Centre in Landover, Maryland while the Jacksons concert at RFK Stadium a week earlier did not set any records.

Prince’s had two dates booked at the Richfield Coliseum in December. Because of the Jackson shows, Malrite president Carl Hirsch and Jules Belkin agreed to slightly delay their announcement and ticket sales.  It wasn’t Belkin’s problem, it was ours, and we knew it. Jules Belkin, a true gentleman, did us a huge favor.

Jacksons_FIN1Denny Sanders flew to Chicago to see the Jacksons concert at Comiskey Park.  When it came to illustrating an audio picture of the show, no one could do it better.  He brought along a portable DAT recorder, which he used to get comments from those at the show. Many were inserted in our Jackson concert radio commercial. Leading up to the shows, the Buzzard Morning Zoo did a week of remotes live from Cleveland Stadium.

We lucked out. The nights were unseasonably warm.  The ticket tally for the first night, a Friday, was at 34,210 and 47,186 for Saturday. It came out to exactly 8,604 unsold tickets, of a total of 102,000 for both shows.  I went the first night, reasoning that I’d catch the song list, check the crowd demographics, and spot anything we could improve on to promote night two.

Our $2.7 million investment had created a huge chasm between Carl Hirsch and Malrite Chairman and CEO Milton Maltz. I went to the Malrite loge to watch the show and was waved over by Maltz, who was sitting in one of the outside seats.  He launched into a tirade about Carl, which put me in an uncomfortable spot, since I had supported his decision to do the show.  Throughout the concert and during every song, he would interrupt me to say, “This wasn’t worth it” and “Carl wasted the company’s money.”

victorypic1The concert was only slightly memorable.  Michael had the stage presence; his brothers didn’t. We pulled off a major coup when Kid Leo was approved to introduce them, thanks to our connection with Michael’s manger, Frank DiLeo, who we’d known since 1973, when he was a regional record promoter for Bell Records.

The concerts cost us $259,120. Based on a $30-ticket, we would have broken even with a sell-out. I viewed it as a major success.  We had a respectable 10.9 percent share of audience in the fall ratings and, within a year, would increase our share to a 14.5.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, 1985 would be both the best of times and the worst of times.

BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALLMuch more on WMMS and Michael Jackson in Chapters 23 and 26 in The Buzzard