Archive for November, 2009

Music to keep warm by

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on November 27, 2009 by John Gorman

With the weather turning colder, here’s an appropriate David Helton WMMS Buzzard print ad from early 1975. After close to a year after his conception, the Buzzard had established himself as the official WMMS mascot – and the Buzzard’s character was slowly evolving.

With the Buzzard, we coveted the idea of going where no station had gone before. How could we take advantage of the identity, how cold we make WMMS greater than the combined respective peaks of WIXY, KYW, and WHK? How could we build the Buzzard into the most recognizable logo in Cleveland since Chief Wahoo? Going beyond the obvious T-shirts and sweatshirts, we felt we could market key chains, belt buckles, roach clips, and jeans – and we did.

This ad appeared in the March 10, 1975 issue of Exit Magazine, Cleveland’s alternative weekly paper at that time.

For more on the Buzzard – see Chapter 7 – Hatching the Buzzard in The Buzzard.

Click on the Buzzard ad multiple times for larger size images

Carl Hirsch and Gil Rosenwald interviews from 1979

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on November 17, 2009 by John Gorman

interviews continue below

Fish stink from the head.

Loosely translated, the freshness of a fish is judged from the condition of its head.

It also defines leadership gone badly.

A leader carries the definitive accountability of a company’s success or failure.  Strong management and powerful leadership are fundamental functions in any profitable business.

The first time I heard that saying in a leadership context was from my boss of all bosses – Carl Hirsch, who rose in rank to President of Malrite Communications during those “glory days” of WMMS.

I’d never met anyone who possessed a better bullshit meter than Carl. He could size up a person, a plan, or a situation in seconds.

There were moments where he’d be demanding – but always for good reason.  He was a natural born leader – and he brought out everyone’s best leadership skills.

We never spent money frivolously.   Though WMMS became the most visible station in Cleveland – most of it was due to creative promotion and marketing.   Bumper sticker costs were covered by providing clients couponing opportunities on the backs of the stickers.   Our T-shirts – walking billboards, we called them – and other Buzzard merchandise always sold well – and we funneled our profits to various charities.

Nearly everything we did was self-contained and created “in house,” including our TV spots, contesting, and special programming and events.

During those years, we had a championship team – on the air – and behind the scenes.

I didn’t fully appreciate the freedom and independence we shared at WMMS until I started talking with programmers in other markets.   I also realized that Carl made us earn that privilege.

We didn’t have a rulebook of do’s and don’ts.  What mattered was to be at our very best at all times – and to never jeopardize our broadcast license.

Carl transformed Malrite from a mid-size, mostly secondary market radio chain – to what became one of the most respected radio groups in America – headquartered in Cleveland.

He identified a little suburban “chicken jazz” (as we called it) suburban New Jersey licensed station and fashioned it into the most listened to radio station in America as New York’s Z-100. That “worst-to-first” feat was accomplished in thirty days.

Carl joined Malrite in 1974 as Vice President and General Manager of WMMS and WHK.  When Carl was promoted to Executive Vice President of Malrite in 1977, Gil Rosenwald replaced Carl.

We would not have achieved our many successes had it not been for our senior management and corporate support and guidance.  They backed our attack.

These are interviews with Carl Hirsch and Gil Rosenwald by Chuck Dunaway for Radio Music Report, from February 19, 1979.

Robert Gordon sings for his Buzzard

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on November 10, 2009 by John Gorman

robert-gordon-1 wmms-archives-print-ads-articles-1975-126

Being associated with up-and-coming acts was a tremendous asset for WMMS. We listened to virtually every album release, and we didn’t limit our listening to what the promo guys were hyping.

We strived to to get artists to cut personalized IDs for WMMS – and tried to make them distinctive to stand out from the plain “Hi, this is (artist) and you’re listening to (station).” Generally, prior to or after an on-air interview, we’d invite an artist to our production studio to cut some IDs – including specialty versions for Christmas, New Year’s, and, if time allowed, individual IDs for our airstaff.

We had our motives.  The ID was an endorsement by the artist for WMMS – and served as a station identification bridge between two songs in a music set without interrupting our music flow.

Occasionally, artists come up with something inimitable and original, like Bruce Springsteen’s “I don’t have a radio but Miami Steve does…” Or U2’s Bono and The Edge who heard Springsteen’s and one-upped it with, “I’m the singer, he (Edge) is the guitarist, and we both listen to WMMS.” Then there was Sting’s “I get a buzz out of the Buzzard” and Joe Walsh claiming he listened to WMMS even when the radio wasn’t on. On a few rare occasions we got an artist to sing their WMMS ID. This is one from rockabilly artist Robert Gordon, a WMMS favorite.

The idea actually came from top 40 radio.  It always stuck in my mind that Boston’s WMEX had Eric Burdon of the Animals do one.  When I was fourteen, I thought the Animals were cool, and WMEX was cool for having the Animals say the station was.

Special thanks to Dusty Basmagy for this ID.

MP3 Download here:

…and with the Boss coming to town, here’s the classic Bruce Springsteen WMMS ID, click here

Click images multiple times for a viewing size of your choice

BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALLMore on bizarre Buzzard programming plans can be found in Chapter 10 of The Buzzard

Cleveland hears a Who….exclusively on WMMS!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media on November 5, 2009 by John Gorman

This past May, afThe_who_face_dances_albumter a 29-year run, Northern Ohio Live magazine folded.  It served as Greater Cleveland’s bi-weekly (and later monthly) arts and freeSubscripLogo-1cultural magazine.   It had been founded in 1980 by a group of area writers and investors.

In its April 6-19, 1981 issue, writer Scott L. Powers’ investigative report successfully traced the long strange journey of a WMMS exclusive, the Who’s Face Dances album.

I was a bit stunned to learn that someone was investigating the source of one of our exclusives.  Providentially, this exclusive originated from a pipeline that was not a prime source.

Having an exclusive album by the Who was nothing new for WMMS.  We had a string of Who album exclusives going back to 1974. This was hardly the first and it wouldn’t be last.

The origin of music exclusives came from the days of top 40 radio in the 1960s, when stations would scramble to be the first with a new single by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, or the Rolling Stones.  The winning station would milk it for all it was worth, building anticipation by tracking the progress of a record from the airport to the station, playing it with great fanfare, and grandly releasing it to other stations, which they’d claim were taping.  It was great radio.

Labels hated exclusives. They wanted airplay, which amounted to free advertising for their product, but they had elaborate marketing and sales campaigns worked out.  Advance exclusives muddled their plans and brought complaints from other stations wanting exclusives or favors of their own.

WHONOL81-1WHONOL81-2 WHONOL81-3Click on individual pages multiple times for your best readable size

For more on the Who exclusive click here

BUZZARD BOOK COVER SMALLFor more on the many WMMS Exclusives – including our secret weapon – The Switch – can be found in The Buzzard, Chapter 12.

Radio & Records 1981 on the WMMS Buzzard and other station mascots

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on November 2, 2009 by John Gorman


WMMS wasn’t the first station to have a mascot.

WOLF_1961The earliest one I found was WOLF in Syracuse, NY back in 1961. Theirs was a…well, you know.

WMCA/New York launched the “good guys” in 1963 with a logo that was a precursor to the smiley face.   Other stations around the U.S. WMCA_1963picked up on calling their air talent “good guys” –  minus the logo.

WQAM_1965A few stations had tigers, including WQXI/Atlanta (1964) and WQAM/Miami (1965)

KYNO/Fresno had a kangaroo and KDWB/Minneapolis-St. Paul predictably had twins.KYNO_1963

It’s safe to say that no radio station ever had a mascot quite like the Buzzard. It can also be said that it could’ve only happened here (though over the years other stations began using buzzard mascots)  The WMMS Buzzard’s origin takes up a full KDWB_1962chapter in The Buzzard and there’s even more about its origin, its earliest days, and how we found artist David Helton after he found us – here.

The Buzzard made its initial appearance in a print ad a little over 35 years ago. Just one year after its debut, a group of Case Western Reserve sc03a176c5University MBA students did a market study, which proved that the WMMS Buzzard was the most identifiable logo in Greater Cleveland, even beating out the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo and Coca-Cola (Cleveland is one of the few markets where Pepsi outsells Coke).

ShawmutOur initial plan for having a mascot for WMMS came from sports teams and – of all things – an Indian-head logo used by the former Shawmut Bank of Boston, which was that city’s most identifiable image.

Over the next few years, more stations – especially those playing album rock – implemented mascots.  You had a plethora of chickens, frogs, penguins, and bears. Unlike other stations, we did not want a “live mascot” – someone dressed up in a Buzzard costume.  Our philosophy was that all WMMS events should be hosted by our airstaff.

This is an article from the national trade magazine Radio & Records from sometime in 1981, which covered the then-emergent trend of radio station mascots.


Click article and images multiple times for a readable or viewable size.