Vintage WMMS photos 1973 & 1974

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In 1973 and for much of 1974, WMMS was at a palpable disadvantage as a rising national music and radio influence.  Cleveland had a rich history of breaking new music and exposing new trends first – going back to the pre-war Big Band era.  And in the early fifties Rock & Roll as a musical genus was defined here.

1969-Fire-02We were in Cleveland – a city viewed by those who’d never been here as one where its river and its mayor’s hair both caught on fire but not at the same time, referring to the Cuyahoga River fire in June, 1969 and Mayor Ralph Perk’s hair catching fire when he used welder’s torch for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an industrial convention at Public Hall in October 1972.

The Cleveland Joke was an institution made nationally famous by many Johnny Carson one-liners (written, incidentally, by a former Clevelander) and Laugh-In, which awarded Cleveland its famed Fickle Finger of Fate award.  Even the comic lfbook Howard the Duck dealt with its character, who lived in Cleveland as being “trapped in a world he never made.”

Locally, the daily papers – the Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Press carried stories of Cleveland-based Fortune 500 companies publicizing plans to move their corporate headquarters elsewhere.   One, Diamond Shamrock, said “we haven’t decided where we are moving to.  We just want out of Cleveland.”

(Diamond Shamrock’s farewell to the region was to leave it with 750,000 tons of chromate materials, three waste lakes, and other toxic contaminants at an 1,100 acre site on the border of Painesville Township and Fairport Harbor.)

When negotiating with national labels and managers on bringing an artist to Cleveland for a promotional concert or contest – we’d be forced into defending the city – that it wasn’t the hell hole national media had turned it into.  Plus, if troubled cities like Detroit and Memphis still had positive music industry images, why not Cleveland?

2694367352_87212253d5We wanted to increase our national presence – and reverse the negativity that was so strongly associated with Cleveland. Its rich history and current rock scene had to be exploited – and we were the only ones that could do it on that level.

We inundated the national radio and music industry trade papers with a steady bombardment of staged staff photos. We’d take advantage of any opportunity to promote WMMS to raise our profile and Cleveland’s importance to the radio and music industries.

The first photo is from Radio & Records, which was all of six months old, in December, 1973, but was growing rapidly in industry influence.  It was the first trade to give equal billing to both radio and the music business.  Prior to Radio & Records, most trade magazines were music industry dominant.

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This was one of the earliest “group shots” taken at WMMS. Can you find the three prominent typos in the R&R caption? Doc Remer, who is pictured here was a Cleveland music industry veteran – and holds the record for attending the most WMMS Nights Out at the Cleveland Agora. He was at every show!

L to R - Standing: Betty Korvan, Denny Sanders, Kid Leo, John Gorman, Frank DiLeo (Bell Records)   Seated: Dave Prescott (PIKS Corp.), Debbie Ullman

L to R - Standing: Betty Korvan, Denny Sanders, Kid Leo, John Gorman, Frank DiLeo (Bell Records) Seated: Dave Prescott (PIKS Corp.), Debbie Ullman

This photo was taken in the summer of 1974. Suzi Quatro was an established superstar in Cleveland – but hadn’t really caught on in the rest of the country.  She was too rock for top 40 stations and too pop for most album rock FMs.  Our listeners found her to be a perfect fit.   In lieu of awarding us a gold or platinum album – since she hadn’t achieved that prominence nationally – Bell Records, her label, created a special award for breaking Suzi Quatro in the Cleveland, Akron, and Canton markets.   It was said that if Suzi Quatro’s sales were as strong in other markets, she would be a platinum million-selling artist.

(Delivering the award was Frank DiLeo, who worked for Quatro’s label Bell Records,  He later joined Columbia Records’ subsidiary label Epic as Vice President of National Promotion. During his time there, the label outperformed the parent company in sales. He later managed Michael Jackson between 1984 and 1989    DiLeo also worked with Prince on special projects and appeared in three movies: GoodfellasWayne’s World and Wayne’s World II and in a music video for Saga’s “Wind Him Up.” Earlier this year DiLeo returned to his managerial role with Michael Jackson, to oversee his sold out 50 concerts at the O2 Arena in London. Here’s the Saga music video, included only because you probably haven’t heard this song for at least 15 or 20 years…)

The constant barrage of WMMS photos and press releases to the national trades paid off – and by the end of 1974 Cleveland was being recognized nationally as a the hottest rock and roll breakout market in the country.

Click to enlarge photos

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One Response to “Vintage WMMS photos 1973 & 1974”

  1. For reasons still unclear to me Greater Clevelanders have historically tended to downplay and belittle their area. Full credit to John and all the people at The Buzzard – WMMS for recognizing they had something tangible to sell in Cleveland and then quite effectively do so. We needed more folks like them back in the `70s and REALLY need them now.

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