Archive for October, 2009

26 years ago – The Legend of Doctor Destructo & his kettle of heavy metal!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on October 29, 2009 by John Gorman


I’m often asked what my favorite top five or top ten WMMS stories or events are.  To me, it’s like asking a parent to name a favorite child.  But if one were to ask what was one of the all-time favorite on-air specials we did, the Dr. Destructo Halloween shows would definitely be in the top ten.  Maybe even the top five.  It was immense fun to put together and it provided an opportunity for everyone’s creative juices to flow.

One of our goals was to be the radio station that would be played at all parties on the Saturday closest to Halloween – and we did it by fine-tuning our music to provide a neat-perfect spook-tacular soundtrack.

But by 1983, with other stations doing cheap imitations of what we started, our aspiration was to create something that could not be duplicated by our competition.

Instead of just playing predictable horror-themed and heavy metal music, we had to take our Halloween Saturday night programming to higher, non duplicated echelon.  We just weren’t sure what that was – and were faced with only a week and a half to come up with something distinctive.


Tom O'Brien

A few weeks prior, our production director Tom O’Brien got his “wish list” harmonizer. It was a new production “toy,” which allowed us to modify and alter vocal the pitch and style.  We started playing around with the harmonizer on some of Len “Boom” Goldberg’s many WMMS IDs and sweeps.

In doing so, we found our inspiration to create a special Halloween character uniquely WMMS -Len

“Boom Boom” Goldberg as Dr. Destructo, the high priest of heavy metal.  Denny Sanders came up with the name. We realized we’d heard that name before but couldn’t place it and in the pre-internet days there was no way to Google up the name’s origin.  So we went with it.  Decades later we learned that the original Dr. Destructo was an evil character in a cartoon series from the early sixties, Colonel Bleep.


Original Dr. Destructo

When we presented the idea to Boom he said in protest, “I’m not doing some crock of shit character that makes me sound like some idiot…”  Then he heard a sample of what we had already done with a sample of his voice.

He changed his mind and jumped right into the character.


Boom, Steve Perry, Dia

Keeping true to our roots, the show opened with the legend of Dr. Destructo. Every Halloween, mild-mannered Len “Boom” Goldberg turned into an alternate personality when a black cat crossed his path or he accidentally walked under a ladder.  He transformed into Dr. Destructo with his kettle of heavy metal. His personality contained bits of every evil character that ever appeared in a horror film.

Tom O’Brien’s production fed Boom’s bellowing voice through the harmonizer.  From there, we added reverb and multi-track layers of spooky sound effects and eerie sounds.   Denny and I wrote most of the material, though close to the entire staff came up with a line or two to add to the show while it was being produced.

It took over 12 hours to put together the breaks for the six-hour show – but it was worth the effort. Each break featured a five to seven minute vignette three times per hour.   It went against the grain of playing continuous music for Halloween Saturday night parties – but we knew if we made it interesting enough we’d hold the audience, and we did.


Bonnie Tyler

One break had Dr. Destructo unleashing his rabid Dobermans on Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of theHeart”) to eat her alive – complete with screams and chomping sounds.  In another, promotion director Jim Marchyshyn did a perfect John McEnroe who, following an argument with a tennis referee, who turned out to be Dr. Destructo, had hot molten lead poured down his throat.  He even ate a kitten – complete with expected – and unexpected – double entrenderes.

Though the show had to be pre-recorded, we did a few mock listener phone calls, which Boom-as-Dr. Destructo answered with a thundering “HELL-o!”

We closed the first show with a phony commercial announcing a major outdoor concert starring every heavy metal band we could think of, and promising it would close with a nuclear explosion that would destroy everybody and everything.

The following Monday, I got a call from Belkin Productions, complaining about the number of calls they had to field regarding this made-up concert that some believed was a real upcoming event.

This print ad by David Helton is from October, 1983. It also shows that we took our weekend programming seriously – and that it was designed to dominate.   Radios featuring digital frequency screens were coming down in price, which caused us to change our rounded-off “101 FM,” which had been put in use in early 1973, to the actual frequency, 100.7. During this change, the “100.7” was drawn in a digital design.

Though we know airchecks of Dr. Destructo show exist (at least a couple of airchecks turned up on Internet auction sites), we’ve yet found one to add to this site.  Like most recordings stored in the WMMS archives, the masters were lost.

Denny Sanders remembers:

DENNY SANDERSWe had just acquired a harmonizer for the production studio, which we used for special voice effects (speeding up, slowing down, etc).  I suggested to you that we should run Goldberg’s already deep voice through the box and create a kind of monster sound for some kind of production.   I remember jokingly saying something like “he could be the ultimate heavy metal deejay.  Instead of Dr. Demento, you would have Dr. Destructo, where he just destroys things and plays extreme metal”.  What often happened around the station with a joke or offhand remark, John Gorman said “Well, why not?” and off we went.

I wrote the original treatment, which I think we used most of.  I recall that “kettle of heavy metal” line, and the idea to have phony callers calling in who were ultimately destroyed by the good Doctor.  Jim Marchyshyn “called in” as John McEnroe, who was in the news a lot in those days as a rude hothead.  He was doing Bic lighter commercials at the time, and he called in complaining about something, and then said that he wanted his Bic.  Dr. Destructo then said something like “here’s your Bic, you dick!” (how we got away with that line is beyond me) and “poured lighter fluid down his throat” as Jim (as McEnroe) screamed.

Subtle, huh?

I “called in” as a fundamentalist religious leader and the Doctor destroyed me with a bolt of lightning.

The whole thing was a riot and I am surprised that we never did a weekly show after the Halloween special.

Too late now.  Len is in heaven and the good Doctor is certainly in hell!

BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALLMore on our wild and crazy production department can be found in Chapter 11 of The Buzzard.

Click on images multiple times for enlargement to appropriate sizes.

Sweet, Seger and WMMS photos

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on October 26, 2009 by John Gorman
Back row, L to TR: Brian Connolly, guitar player Andy Scott, bass player Steve Priest, and drummer Mick Tucker of Sweet, Jim Hawn, branch manager, Capitol Records/Cleveland; John Gorman, Kid Leo.  Front: Matt the Cat, Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records, Steve Lushbaugh.  Photo taken at Swingo's Keg & Quarter after Sweet's Allen Theater concert in 1975.

Back row, L to TR: Brian Connolly, guitar player Andy Scott, bass player Steve Priest, and drummer Mick Tucker of Sweet, Jim Hawn, branch manager, Capitol Records/Cleveland; John Gorman, Kid Leo. Front: Matt the Cat, Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records, Steve Lushbaugh. Photo taken at Swingo's Keg & Quarter after Sweet's Allen Theater concert in 1975.

L to R - Back row: David Helton, John Gorman, Bob Seger, Kid Leo, Alto Reed, sax, Silver Bullet Band; Robyn Robins, keyboards; Silver Bullet Band; Matt the Cat .   Second Row: Barry Haughin, Capitol Records; Bruce Garfield, Capitol Records; Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records; Ray Tuskin, Capitol Records; Dan Garfinkel.  Front Row: Drew Abbott, guitar, Silver Bullet Band; Chris Campbell, bass, Silver Bullet Band.  Photo taken backstage at the Richfield Coliseum in 1978.

L to R - Back row: David Helton, John Gorman, Bob Seger, Kid Leo, Alto Reed, sax, Silver Bullet Band; Robyn Robins, keyboards; Silver Bullet Band; Matt the Cat . Second Row: Barry Haughin, Capitol Records; Bruce Garfield, Capitol Records; Bruce Ravid, Capitol Records; Ray Tuskin, Capitol Records; Dan Garfinkel. Front Row: Drew Abbott, guitar, Silver Bullet Band; Chris Campbell, bass, Silver Bullet Band. Photo taken backstage at the Richfield Coliseum, December 23, 1978.

Here are a couple of recently-found group photos of members of the WMMS staff with Sweet and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

Cleveland figures significantly with the national success of both acts.

The_Sweet-Desolation_BoulevardWe did not played Sweet’s first hit, “Little Willy.” It was too bubblegum-sounding for us.   Sweet, taking advantage of the popularity of glam/glitter rock gradually and cautiously evolved into a band that appealed to an adult rock audience and broke out of Cleveland and Los Angeles with their Desolation Boulevard album.

The U.S. version was more pop-oriented than its European release, which led us to play the less poppier-version of “Fox on the Run” from the import on WMMS.

I remember that evening with Sweet, post-concert, as a heavy-drinking night, which can be attested by the condition of some of those in that photo.

Bob-Seger-Beautiful-Loser--436309Bob Seger’s bond with Cleveland goes back to the sixties – long before WMMS – when the he and his earlier bands, the Last Heard and the System, would play Cleveland area clubs and perform on Upbeat.

Cleveland was one of the first cities that provided Seger the traction to break nationally.  Tracks like “Heavy Music” and “Get Out of Denver” established Seger to the WMMS audience but it took 1975’s Beautiful Loser album to transform him from cult favorite to a most-requested, mainstream artist. By summer, “Beautiful Loser,“Katmandu,” “Travelin’ Man,” and his cover of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits” were among our most requested and played album tracks.  Though the album hit #131 nationally, it was a top-ten selling album in Cleveland from spring through fall.

Shortly after that photo was taken, Seger poured the contents of the bottle of wine he was holding down Leo’s back.  Somewhere a photo exists of that, too, though it hasn’t been unearthed yet.

bruceraveorigOur label connection with both acts was Bruce Ravid, who managed regional promotion for Capitol Records, which included the Cleveland market, prior to his best-known position as an Artist & Repertoire executive for the label.  Bruce was instrumental in signing Duran Duran, Missing Persons, the Motels, The Church, and Thomas Dolby, among others.

Today, he produces and hosts Rave’s Raves, a nationally syndicated radio show, which features new and up and coming talent.

Click on photos multiple times for viewable sizes

The WMMS Coffee Break Concerts

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


The Coffee Break Concert debuted in March 1972, well over a year before I got to WMMS.  Billy Bass, who was program director, came up with the idea when Elektra Records offered him a live performance by singer-songwriter Carol Hall, who had just released her first album, Beads and Feathers.   Bass accepted, and Hall performed in WMMS’s small production studio.

It eventually developed into a weekly feature in a fixed time slot of Wednesday mornings at 11.

bevanDenny Sanders auditioned performers with the patience of Job, often politely sitting through still another young singer’s cover of a Neil Young tune.  Though, through it all, he was able to spotlight some true local talent like John Bassette, Alex Bevan, and Jim Glover. Singer-songwriter Marc Cohn appeared on the Coffee Break the day after his eighteenth birthday.

When we moved to the Cleveland Plaza from our 50th & Euclid bunker, we had a larger studio but it was still not conducive to electric performances with multiple instruments.   We managed an acoustic performance with Kenny Loggins and his full band.

rock-roll-056-loggins-and-messina-1During the show Loggins said, “You know, this non-electric acoustic performance is pretty cool.  Too bad we couldn’t videotape it.”  Little did we realize that we would be an influence on MTV for its Unplugged series, which I was told was patterned after the Coffee Break Concerts and was suggested by an MTV staffer with Cleveland roots.

We took the Coffee Break Concert to a live audience show in 1979 when Bobby McGee’s, a club in Playhouse Square, expressed interest in hosting it.  The result was a short-lived, largely forgotten experiment.  The first one featured Alex Bevan. The second one had Buzzy Linhart. The third never came off: no one showed up to open the club.

Denny was upset but suggested approaching Hank LoConti to move the show there.  The only reason we hadn’t gone to him first was that the other club came to us first and it seemed like a long shot that Hank would open up his nighttime club, where we’d had a WMMS Night Out concert the night before, for a daytime show.

The Agora move changed everything.  We eventually changed the time of the show from 11 AM to 1 PM to draw the late lunch crowd.   Hank was all for it for a number of reasons.  Among them, admission was free, but the booze wasn’t and serving alcohol at 1 PM in the afternoon was found money.

Photo-TTTThe new venue allowed us to go electric, though we offered performers the option of doing an acoustic show.  Most chose to be electric though one exception was John Cougar Mellencamp, whose acoustic show stood out as one of the best performance of the series.

Felix Cavaliere, formerly of the Rascals, used the show’s freedom in a different way, doing a solo performance with just keyboards – another amazing show.

Other acts included local and regional favorites, the Michael Stanley Band, American Noise, Wild Horses, the Godz, Lucky Pierre, Love Affair, I-Tal, Breathless, and the Jerry Busch Group.

217National artists included U2, INXS, Bryan Adams, the Romantics, Cyndi Lauper, Artful Dodger, Donnie Iris & the Cruisers, the Fixx, Quiet Riot, and  Foghat. We booked Alcatraz, a Swedish band featuring then-unknown guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen.

At the time UHF TV stations were carrying per inquiry commercials for a performer named Boxcar Willie. I half-joked about getting Boxcar Willie to do a Coffee Break – but Denny was dead serious, and managed to track him down and got him booked.

Cox Cable videotaped a few Coffee Break Concerts for its local access channel, though its cost couldn’t be justified by the cable company bean counters. One can only imagine what the video from those shows would be worth now.

Every show wasn’t flawless.  The Scottish band Big Country walked off stage early in their set when lead singer Stuart Adamson stopped the show and said, “we can’t do this.”  Their management claimed Adamson lost his singing voice.  In reality, the problem was with bassist Tony Butler, who was suffering from a dagger-pain hangover.

The Coffee Break Concerts came to an abrupt halt in October 1984 when a fire did irreparable damage to the Agora following a WMMS Night Out concert with Blackfoot.

wmms-coffee-break-inxsThey briefly resurfaced four months later at Peabody’s Down Under in the Flats but by that time we were doing so many free concerts, live remotes, and WMMS Buzzard Appreciation Days that the Coffee Break no longer served the purpose it once had.

Though some performances by INXS, Marc Cohn, Warren Zevon, and Tom Waits turned up on bootlegs, bit torrents, or legitimate releases, nearly all the Coffee Break Concert tapes were lost or destroyed along with most of the other WMMS archival material.

BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALLMuch more information on the Coffee Break Concerts can be found in Chapter 16 of The Buzzard.

Click on images multiple times to enlarge to viewable size

Inspired by….

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on October 18, 2009 by John Gorman


I knew The Buzzard book would spark memories of Cleveland rock and the role this region played during the seventies and eighties in the music and radio industries.

What I didn’t expect was that The Buzzard and WMMS of that era would also inspire a regional band to write and record a song.

A few weeks back, I heard from Jerry Camerlengo, bass player for The Barflies, a four-piece modern rock band from the Youngstown-Western, Pennsylvania area.

Jerry and lead singer Paul Sheehan grew up in Youngstown, which is on the fringe of the WMMS signal.

I’ll let Jerry tell the story:

When I was a kid growing up in Youngstown in the 70’s, I thought that Cleveland must be a pretty cool place since all of my favorite TV shows downtown-youngstown(Ghoulardi, Superhost, etc.) were only broadcast on the Cleveland stations.

By 1980, I was a teenager listening to WMMS and was convinced that Cleveland must be the coolest city on earth! The larger than life on-air personalities and the life changing rock-n-roll that emanated from the North Shore became an indelible part of my coming of age years.

So, when my bass player Jerry Camerlengo told me about John Gorman’s book last year, I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. Not only is “The Buzzard…” a great read for those of us who were fans of WMMS in the 70’s and early 80’s, it’s also a snapshot of what radio was like at the height of the rock-n-roll era, before Clear Channel.

While reading John’s book, I was trying to come up with lyrics to put to music that my guitarist Gary Jones had written. As I was listening to a section of the song over and over again, the phrase “You’re a Zero on the Dial / A Part of the Evil Empire” popped into my head during what would become the chorus to “Broken Radio.” I knew immediately that the song had to be about Clear Channel and how that corporation has devalued and homogenized something that meant so much to me and to so many other people as well.

WMMS Buzzard Bus 3There’s a section in the bridge of the song that we knew would be a perfect spot for a vintage WMMS audio sample. Murray Saul’s “Get Down” was the first thing we tried and it fit perfectly! Not only did the timing match up, but Murray also embodies the spirit of freedom and creativity that, thanks to Clear Channel, can’t be heard on terrestrial radio today. Enjoy!

Here’s a good chunk of the song.  I’m not including the full version because it’ll be available on-line from iTunes and on October 31 and I’d like to see the band make a few bucks for their time and effort.

Click here for “Broken Radio” by the Barflies

Superstars in Cleveland – the Sensational Alex Harvey Band!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on October 14, 2009 by John Gorman
Photo by Janet Macoska

Photo by Janet Macoska

Years ago Bob Dylan mentioned that there was a time when he could tell what city he was in by listening to the local radio stations.

One of the most regionalized music markets was Cleveland – and radio provided the soundtrack to its distinctive musical tastes from the late forties to the mid nineties, when deregulation homogenized radio into a dull national blend.

In the seventies Cleveland was the proving ground for dozens of artists – and a bellwether market for rock and roll.  If you made it in Cleveland, you had a fighting chance for your music to catch on elsewhere.

Then there were the many acts that were superstars in Greater Cleveland – but barely known beyond its borders.

Take the astounding popularity of the Scottish rock act, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

From the release of their first album in the U.S., Next, and their second album as a band, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band quickly grew to be one of our most requested artists of the seventies.

Within the first week of airplay, five tracks from the Next album became top requests on WMMS, including “Faith Healer,” “Vambo,” and the controversial “Gang Bang.” It was a top five selling album in Cleveland for close to a year.   In fact, the majority of albums pressed in the U.S. were sold in Cleveland.

Their popularity grew so rapidly that we got a hold of the first SAHB album, Framed, which was only released in Europe, and started playing tracks from that one, too.

Because of their limited U.S. airplay, the SAHB did only two abbreviated U.S. tours. Their first Cleveland appearance, one of only four U.S. dates, was a WMMS Monday Night Out at the Agora, which sold out in advance.   The second date SAHB played in Cleveland, in support of the Impossible Dream album – and part of a seven city tour – was on March 3, the following year at the Allen Theater. That show also sold out well in advance.

Harvey used to refer to WMMS as the next best thing to sex and beer – and even cut an ID stating that fact.

You couldn’t define the SAHB as being in any one rock genre.  In concert they’d shift from a ‘50s oldies cover song (“Framed”) to Jacque Brel (“Next”) to a staged performance (“Man in the Jar”).

The SAHB switched labels from Mercury to Atlantic for their third U.S. release, Live, whose only U.S. airplay was on WMMS.  Due to lack of airplay throughout the rest of the U.S. and Canada, the label canceled plans for a third SAHB U.S. tour.

Through the years we kept in touch with Alex Harvey, hoping to bring him back to the states – and even lobbied to get him on a WMMS World Series of Rock concert.

Alex Harvey passed away on February 4, 1982, the day before his 47th birthday.



alexcard4Click photo and cards multiple times to enlarge to viewable size

Though there are no known videos of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s appearances in Cleveland, here are a few videos that capture their unique live show:

Two more Buzzard blasts from the past

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on October 9, 2009 by John Gorman


This print ad by David Helton appeared in Exit, Cleveland’s alternative weekly magazine, on August 13, 1975.  The Buzzard still appeared a bit scruffy and gradually evolving from its original “Wrath of the Buzzard” character.

This ad supported our linkage to concerts – both on-the-air and in the clubs and halls.  Our live shows ranged from the mammoth 80,000+ World Series of Rock at Cleveland Stadium to the WMMS Small Hall series, which is what we initially called the shows we co-sponsored with Belkin Productions at the Allen Theater and Music Hall – and our two weekly club nights at the Agora on East 24th Street and the Smiling Dog on West 25th.

During this period, we recorded the WMMS Monday Nights Out at the Agora concerts for a Wednesday night at 10 broadcast.  The weekly Smiling Dog Saloon concert was also recorded during the week for a Saturday night at midnight broadcast.

We were doing our weekly Coffee Break Concert, which was broadcast live from our tiny production studio at 5000 Euclid Avenue and our syndicated weekly shows, King Biscuit and the BBC Rock Hour. Since we didn’t have much space in the studio, the shows featured acoustic performances, which we learned was an inspiration for the MTV Unplugged series.

But what are those Disco Nights? Studio B on Euclid, just east of Cleveland State. It was a rock-dance club with nights hosted by various WMMS personalities.  On-air, we were playing a number of R&B artists that appealed to our listeners including the Isley Brothers, Labelle and Latimore and artists like the Rolling Stones (“Miss You”) and the then-still-considered-an-album-rock-group Bee Gees (“Jive Talkin’”) released dance-oriented titles at that time, which were among our most-requested tracks.

The same building also housed a club on its penthouse floor, which was occasionally used for small concert events.  The New York Dolls brought in the New Year – 1976 – at that site.


This news item appeared in the national trade paper weekly, Radio & Records on December 1, 1978. It announced our new Buzzard chocolate bar, which we did in a partnership with Malley’s Candies. As was the custom with most of our merchandise, profits from the sale of the Buzzard bars went to a charity –  the Cleveland Society for Crippled Children.

Click on images multiple times to enlarge to readable sizes

WMMS Nights Out at the Agora – April, 1980

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on October 5, 2009 by John Gorman


Here’s a WMMS Nights Out at the Agora ad for the last two weeks on April, 1980.   It illustrates the diversity of music being aired on the station at the time.

the touristsThe first band, the Tourists played a low-price show with popular local band Rapscallion opening.  Though the Tourists never caught on, a later incarnation of the band did, which in 1983 returned to Cleveland and the Allen Theater for a free WMMS Appreciation Day concert as the Eurythmics

Joe Perry quit Aerosmith following a backstage altercation at the WMMS World Series of Rock after a tension-filled performance AllCDCovers_the_joe_perry_project_at Cleveland Stadium on July 28, 1979. Backstage, Joe Perry’s wife Elyssa threw a glass of milk at Tom Hamilton’s wife Terry and a cat fight ensued.  Perry quit Aerosmith, returned to Boston, and turned his side project band, the Joe Perry Project, into a full-time commitment. His WMMS Night Out at the Agora performance was in support of his new band’s album release, Let the Music do the Talking.

JohnCale276John Cale was a founding member of the Velvet Underground.  He left the band in 1968 to pursue a solo career.  His “Ready for War,” a blistering hard-rocking song about mercenaries, had become one of our most requested tunes (in part due to the hostage crisis in Iran), and the popularity of the song – and the chance to see a true progressive rock legend (he was also known for working with Kevin Ayers, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, the Stooges, the Modern Lovers, and Squeeze, among others) up close – made this a memorable concert performance.

Akron’s own Rachel Sweet actually broke in the U.K. before America following her appearance on an Akron music compilation that was released there by Stiff bb8493d0b61ef3a2_landingRecords.  Her first album Fool Around, became a WMMS staple and her cover version of Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y,” was a top-requested track.  This was her first concert appearance in Cleveland. Though the album, a success in Europe, failed to break nationally, it sold strongly throughout the Cleveland-Akron-Canton region.

pil1Originally, the first U.S. date for Sex Pistols was scheduled for the Cleveland Agora but immigration problems delayed the tour – and the band broke up before they reached their rescheduled date at the club, which was to be broadcast live on WMMS and an ad-hoc network of a dozen other stations. The April 30 date for Public Image Ltd. was Johnny Lydon’s first Cleveland appearance.

Click images to enlarge

The Buzzard Movin’ on up….

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on October 1, 2009 by John Gorman
This is a table sign we sent to friends and clients of WMMS to announce our move from 50th and Euclid to the Cleveland Plaza.  Note the technology of that era - albums, a turntable, reel-to-reel tape, and carts.

This is a table sign we sent to friends and clients of WMMS to announce our move from 50th and Euclid to the Cleveland Plaza. Note the technology of that era - albums, a turntable, reel-to-reel tape, and carts.

WMMS was located at 5000 Euclid Avenue in the windowless “bunker” attached to the building.  It was old, seedy, cramped and windowless.  It fit the decay of the neighborhood.  Cars were stolen every week from our lot behind the building on Prospect Avenue. The street was hooker haven day and night.   They’d occasionally MURRAY SAUL 1use the parking lot for a car quickie.

Murray Saul always went out to the parking lot to smoke a joint prior to delivering his Friday night Get Down. Sometime between 5:45 and 6:30 that afternoon Murray’s car was stolen, probably while he was delivering his “Get Down” live.    Whoever stole the car must’ve had one hell of a contact high.

The following Friday night, Murray dropped this ad-libbed line into his “Get Down,” “You haven’t seen my car around with someone else driving it, have you?”

Despite the thefts, Milton Maltz refused to hire security until someone tried to steal the Michelin tires from his car – even though he was one of the few people with access to a small garage attached to the building.

Though office space was inadequate and studio equipment hadn’t been replaced since WHK installed it in 1949, the building had a funkiness we loved.  It was a place where anyone could go out to the parking lot and smoke a joint during the day – but the station had outgrown it.

A number of locations were considered, including the transmitter site on Pleasant Valley Road in Seven Hills and I-271 corridor in Beachwood but being in downtown Cleveland seemed to make sense.  It would make us part of the city, accessible to all areas, and minutes away from most of the downtown clubs.

The Cleveland Plaza as the Statler Hotel in its pre-fleabag days

The Cleveland Plaza as the Statler Hotel in its pre-fleabag days

The search ended with the Cleveland Plaza on Euclid Avenue and East 12th Street.  Back then, it had hustle and bustle and real traffic, and it was one of the few spots in Cleveland that, with a little imagination, looked like a real downtown.  Halle’s department store was still in business, and there were at least a dozen restaurants in walking distance.   The Plaza itself was interesting, too. Previously the Statler and then the Statler-Hilton Hotel, it was once home to WGAR and WNCR, was in its last days as sort of a fleabag hotel, and it had some business tenants including the David & Lee modeling agency; sports and talent agent Ed Keating, who had some of the city’s most prominent broadcasters and sports figures as clients, and Nationwide Advertising, owned by Ted Stepien.

It was also the most sexually active building in downtown Cleveland.  While a hotel, the rooms were used by prominent business leaders, politicians, and sports figures for trysts.  Though they believed their actions were discreet, the elevator operators – some who had been there for decades – would fill us in as to who was screwing whom.

The move was relatively easy, considering the 15,000 albums and thousands of tapes involved. With everyone pitching in, we did it over a weekend, and our final broadcast from 5000 Euclid Avenue ended just before midnight Sunday.

Jeff and Flash opened the new studios at 6 AM on February 14, 1977, by playing the live-at-the-Agora version of “Havin’ A BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALLParty” by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. We never looked back.

imagesMuch more on the move downtown – and the notorious Joan Jett bathroom story that is still talked about to this day can be found in Chapter 14 of The Buzzard.