Murray had many opportunities to speak his mind on not only the Friday night Get Down – but the two public affairs programs he hosted, Sunday morning’s Jabberwocky and the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon We, the People.
He smoked his first joint in 1949. Today, at 81, he still tokes and quotes Louis Armstrong’s line about smoking weed: “I’ve been smoking marijuana for over fifty years so I know it’s not habit forming.”
“…and I smoke dope.” Murray told then-sales manager Dave DeCapua in his interview for a WMMS sales position. That assertion, Murray believed, convinced DeCapua he could sell the format in spite of being twenty-eight years older than the median age of the typical WMMS listener.
His Friday night Get Down made frequent references to the herb – and even featured an ever-so-slightly veiled market report on its availability, quality, and price. He’d take a hit off an imaginary joint and say, “That’s good stuff and there’s a lot of it around – but the price ain’t as nice.”
Much of Murray’s Get Down marijuana slang came from friends he partied with in Kent, Ohio. “Twist those tunahs,” translated to “roll a joint.”
The Get Down had evolved into a Friday night after-work institution by November 1975 when the state of Ohiodecriminalized marijuana for personal use. Ohio’s law became the most liberal of any marijuana decriminalization legislation in the U.S. First time offenders were fined $100 for the possession and/or cultivation of 100 grams (3.5 oz.) or less of marijuana (roughly three joints’ worth) with no jail time and no criminal record. The trade-off for the revised law was that possession of drug paraphernalia – a bowl or bong (but not rolling papers) – remained a misdemeanor with a maximum of 30 days in the crowbar motel. Dealing pot was a felony.
Murray celebrated the law by proclaiming in a Get Down, “I’m gonna have a bag of dope in my pocket and a $100 bill pinned to my shirt. Yayza!”
At midnight, when the new law went into effect, Murray read its specifics on-the-air and doing double-duty as a WMMS salesman sold the first adjacent radio commercial to a head shop on Lee Road in Cleveland.
We learned, years later, that some enterprising dealer in the Hiram area was doing a brisk business selling highly potent hydroponically-grown marijuana under the brand name Murray-juana with artwork of a Rastafarian-looking Murray smoking a gigantic spliff with the WMMS Buzzard on his shoulder taking his own hit from a bong.
At personal appearances, Murray was showered with joints. At the WMMS World Series of Rock concerts at Cleveland Stadium, we’d watch Murray from up above, in the press box as he walked through the crowd. It reminded us of that scene in the Ten Commandments when Moses parted the Red Sea as those on the field would stand to make a pathway for Murray to walk through. He’d return to the press box from his stadium walk-around, like a kid returning home from Halloween “trick or treat” with dozens of joints and other goodies given to him by fans.
It does make one wonder what kind of booty would be enjoyed by someone dressed up as Murray Saul for Halloween.
Those that have observed Murray’s marijuana intake comment on how he savors a joint much like others enjoy a fine wine.