Archive for the Buzzard Audio Category

St. Patrick’s Day, Buzzard-style, 1983

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on March 16, 2009 by John Gorman

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At WMMS we worked hard, played hard, and we also knew how to throw a party.  And when it came to St. Patrick’s Day, we went all out to be the most visible and most partying radio station in Cleveland.

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It was 1983. I had just gotten back after a week in Jamaica with Jeff and Flash (“We’re going to Ja-mai-ca!”)   and a plane full of listeners-gone-wild. We were planning our 15th Anniversary with a series of free concerts and events. With digital frequency radios becoming commonplace we were officially re-identifying ourselves by our true frequency-100.7 frequency.  We got a tip that David Bowie’s management hired a p.i. to learn how we got an exclusive of Let’s Dance, his first album for EMI Records, over a month before its scheduled release  (they never found out).     We also procured a copy of Pink Floyd’s controversal The Final Cut, which we planned to premiere that weekend, which would put still another label, this time Columbia, in a lather.

WLYT, which changed call letters to WRQC for 92 ROCK and its format to rock had changed again – this time to a cutting-edge modern music format, which shared about 40 percent of our playlist.  To head them off at the pass, programming assistant Rhonda Kiefer suggested using our call letters as an acronym for “We’re your Modern Music Station” on some IDs, which we did. (Other acronyms included “Where Music Means Something” and “Weed Makes Me Smile.”)

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On St. Patrick’s Day, the Buzzard was 100.7-proof Irish.   We opened the top of every hour with an Irish-oriented song.  Among them, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” by Wings; “Come on Eileen and “Celtic Soul Brothers” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Luck of the Irish” by John Lennon, Van Morrison’s “Tura Lura Lura” from the Last Waltz, “Wasn’t that a Party” by the (Irish) Rovers, and, of course, lots of U2.  Their breakthrough album, War, had become one of the top-selling albums in Cleveland – and there was a lot of anticipation for their upcoming sold-out concert at Music Hall a few days after St. Patty’s Day.  

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Even our Len “Boom” Goldberg-voiced top of the hour IDs and sweeps were re-recorded by local Epic Records promoter Joe Carroll, an Irish native, who delivered them with a thick brogue.

(Joe would later become famous in Buzzard history for his “F-you personally” call regarding the lip-synching WGCL Slade concert two years later.)

St. Patty’s Day was on a Thursday that year – and considering the way Cleveland partied on March 17 – we considered it an early kick-off to the weekend.

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It probably started when I pulled out a bottle of Jameson’s Irish whiskey from the bottom draw of my desk that morning and passed it around to others to get into spirit, so to speak.   We had our Buzzard Van in the St. Patty’s Day parade and a number of us would be either be riding or walking along side of it.    For some of us, Boom included, it was their first time in the St. Patty’s Day parade.

From there is gets a bit hazy.  I recall that we almost got thrown out of the parade – en route – when Boom, who had a few shots of Jameson’s before the parade began, started inviting listeners to join us in the van.  Though we weren’t supposed to, a couple hundred Buzzard bumper stickers were passed out along the way.  Some of them ended up on traffic light poles and the sides of buildings.

When we got back to the station at the Statler Office Tower on Euclid and East 12th, the partying continued.  By 4 PM, we had two casualties from the Irish holy water: Boom, following an impromptu strip tease, passed out in the sales department and our production director, a hardy Irishman, Tom O’Brien, was sound asleep on the floor of the production studio with a bottle of Jameson cradled in his arm.  There was more, much more, actually – but I promised never to tell.

Let me put it this way. Not only did we play “Wasn’t that a Party” we lived its lyrics that St. Patty’s Day, 1983.

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The WMMS Buzzard Beatles Blitz, 1980

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on February 16, 2009 by John Gorman

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I can never emphasize enough how versatile the WMMS staff was – and nothing illustrated that fact better than the biggest undertaking in station history, our round-the-clock, commercial-free Buzzard Beatles Blitz.  No station had tried anything quite so ambitious before, and I don’t know of any others since then.

We wanted to do something unique and take it beyond just a marathon of Beatles music, although the music – with unreleased live racks, studio outtakes, solo work, and unreleased material – went far deeper than the standard retrospective.   Weeks of intense work went into preparing it.   We sifted through hundreds of hours of interviews with the Beatles – and people connected with them.  For months, leading up to the BBB, as we called it, we asked every rock star and celebrity who came to the station to do interviews we could excerpt from, and they ranged from Gene Simmons of Kiss to Charlie Daniels.    For a local edge, we solicited calls from listeners, who talked about seeing the Beatles at Public Hall or Municipal Stadium or camped out in front of their hotel.

What made it unique, and different from productions like Bill Drake’s enormous History of Rock & Roll, is that the highly detailed and specialized programming was done live by our incredibly ambidextrous air staff.   Only the interviews and music were pre-recorded.  The airstaff was live and their maneuvering through the tightly timed, scripted,  formatted hours, and going from vinyl to cart to reel-to-reel tape for content was a major testament to their skills.

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Interviews came from hundreds of sources.  The Beatles interviews alone came from nearly hundred, and included never-broadcast material.  We found an extensive interview with Tony Sheridan, whom the Beatles backed on an album in Germany, when Pete Best was their drummer.  We found a John Lennon interview with London journalist David Wiggs, in which Lennon said he didn’t want to be compared to someone like Mahatma Gandhi as the voice of a “revolution” because Gandhi got shot by being one.

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With the exception of Mick Jagger, who sent back audio after we submitted questions, we did all the other interviews live, in person, or on the phone, including Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Carl Perkins, Rick Derringer, and Doug Feiger of the Knack, among many others,   One of the many highlights was singer Ronnie Spector admitting to a brief affair with John Lennon when the Ronettes opened for the Beatles on a European tour.  She revealed that Lennon “documented” the affair on the Rubber Soul track, “Norwegian Wood.”  She also admitted the previously unknown fact that Phil Spector refused to send her on the Beatles’ 1966 U.S. tour when the Ronettes were on the bill with the Cyrkle, Barry and the Remains, and Bobby Hebb, and had a substitute singer in her place.

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From the Beatles camp we had road manager Nat Weiss, Joy Hall, who handled radio promotion for Apple Records and gave us an autographed copy of Abbey Road to give away, and Ken Mansfied, a former president of Apple Records, who revealed that the Beatles wanted to a farewell concert in a U.S. desert, and that one suggested site was Black Rock Desert, Nevada, later home to the annual Burning Man Festival. Logistics and the growing rift between Lennon and Paul McCartney put an end to that plan.

We did two Buzzard Beatle Blitz specials.  The first one was programmed for 24 straight hours beginning Friday night-Saturday morning at midnight, a dumb move on my part since few could stay awake or conveniently tape what couldn’t be heard live.    The second one, which we ran in the spring of 1980 – months before John Lennon was killed in December, was a new, improved version, which new material, and programmed over a three-days, Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday.

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Ken Mansfield with the Beatles

 This aircheck, from Saturday afternoon, featuring Matt the Cat at the controls, is from the 1980 broadcast and the first Buzzard Beatles Blitz aircheck found so far.

Download Part one

Download Part two 

On some computers you may have to click “download” more than once.

More on the Buzzard Beatles Blitz in Chapter 17 of The Buzzard

Special thanks to Chuck Matthews

Murray Saul’s live Get Down from the Terminal Tower, Cleveland – Friday, February 13, 1976

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

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In early 1976, one of the many Cleveland “booster” organizations of that era chose Friday, February 13th as “I Love Cleveland Day.”

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The organization’s pitch was that Cleveland, a city down on its luck, would show its fortitude to turn its fading fortunes around by picking a day and date – Friday, the 13th – normally linked to unfortunate circumstances.    I can’t make these things up.

This organization had nothing planned other than some kind of rah-rah rally at the dilapidated Terminal Tower lobby.

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We heard about it at WMMS, Dan Garfinkel, our promotion director and I pitched having Murray Saul do his weekly Friday night “Get Down” live from that site at 6 PM.  We’d carry it live on-the-air – and provide the organization extensive advance promotion of their event.

They accepted our proposal, partly because no one else submitted one.

Our studios were at 50th and Euclid and the only way we could carry a live broadcast was to install a special phone line, running from the Terminal Tower to the station.

The organization expected, at best, a couple of hundred people to show for the event.

On that dark, cold, rain-snow mix, slushy Friday evening, nearly a thousand showed.  All were young; nearly all were freshly suburban and ready to rock.

Right on cue at 6 PM, as “Born to Run” faded, Murray delivered a non-stop eleven-minute, forty-five second “Get Down,” which touched upon the the usual themes: the Slavedriver, the sweatshop, the weekend, and an all-out celebration of sex and drugs and rock and roll.  Since Valentine’s Day was the following day, its contents were fairly explicit.

The audience screamed and applauded throughout the entire sermon.

The live broadcast came off without a glitch and it went down in WMMS history as one of Murray’s best.

Sadly, the master tape of that broadcast was misplaced and was never heard again.

A few weeks back, a former WMMS sales person, Joel Frensdorf, who worked at the station throughout most of the seventies to the early eighties, found a cassette recording he had made of the broadcast back in 1976 and sent it my way.

Since February 13, 2009 is coincidentally a Friday the 13th, this is the apposite time to give Cleveland and the world a repeat performance of that 1976 Get Down, which is available here as a free download.

wmms-archives-print-ads-articles-1975-0563Murray Saul on the Friday the 13th Get Down

Listening to this get down pushes the rewind button in my memory banks.

Proposing a statue on Public Square of Alan Freed to a Buzzard audience in 1976, was anticipating one of the arguments used to lure the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland.

In between the swing, big band era, and Elvis, music went through a rather bland generation.  Radio was still mostly network. There was only a couple of full time middle of the road music stations.  AM only, of course.   This is from the end of World War II in 1945 to almost the ’60s.

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When I was in Glenville High School in the ’40’s during the war, I sold ladies shoes downtown.  My girlfriend worked in a department store nearby and we’d sometimes walk over to Record Rendezvous, near 4th and Prospect; an edgier part of downtown.  They had the widest range of music, and all the hip new stuff. They had open stacks to browse and big listening booths where we would jitterbug. Back then it was all 78’s. A high end i-Pod can probably hold as much music as the whole fucking store would have had.

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Fast forwarding to the 50’s Leo Mintz, owner of Record Rendezvous notices more white kids and they are buying blues, and what was known as “race music.”

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On July 11, 1951, Alan Freed, a radio pro, signed on with a 3-hour show on WJW 850 AM playing only music picked by Record Rendezvous. They bought the time and Freed created a high powered show.  It was great radio.  He was “King of the Moondoggers,” keeping the beat, by banging on the phone book.  Energy, yeah….

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By March 1952, he was able to mount a full blown Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, which was like the Q is today.  It was so oversold and out of control it had to be shut down.

Years later I ran into a guy, still in the music biz who liked to say he picked the records Alan played.

During this time he came up with “rock and roll” as the category, and it stuck.  The idea was to keep building that white kid audience.

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The show was a hit, and became known everywhere.  Freed moved to the big time in New York, but then got caught up in the payola scandal.  It was downhill after that.

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Back in the days when he was here I would see him at the Theatrical Grill or another club:  alone, with a drink .     Yayza!

Download Murray’s Friday the 13th Get Down here

Chapter 9 tells the implausible story of Murray Saul and the Get Downs in The Buzzard

murray-saul-cdMurray Saul’s The Get Downs, Vol.1 CD. Click on the CD cover for more info. Distributed by Traditions Alive, Lakewood, OH 216.226.6200

A Temple of Baboons episode, summer 1984

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on February 5, 2009 by John Gorman

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As mentioned earlier, our summer of ’84 war with rival WGCL was taken to the streets and on our air..   Unlike our previous battles with M-105, WZZP, and 92 Rock from the mid-seventies through the early eighties, we not only acknowledged WGCL on-the-air, we even created a number of song parodies (“Baboonbusters,” “I Can Lip Sync for You,” “This is not Baboon Land”) based on popular songs of the time and a weekly radio play on the Buzzard Morning Zoo, which featured their program director Bobby (played by Spaceman Scott) and his assistant Phil (played by Denny Sanders), lamenting over their most recent defeat at the wings of the Buzzard.     They were based on real-life events – leaked to us by disgruntled WERE-WGCL staffers – and enhanced with a few inside jokes.

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We called the series The Temple of Baboons – our name for WGCL – along with WIMP Radio, and a play-on-words of the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  

Each episode featured frequent interruptions from an unidentified person (played by Kenny Clean) knocking on WGCL’s front door asking “Is this the bus station?”  WGCL’s studios were opposite the old Greyhound Bus Terminal on Chester Avenue near the East 13th intersection.

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The building that housed WGCL and WERE (and for a brief time, WNCX) was demolished in the early nineties and the Greyhound Bus Terminal has now been converted to the Flex Spa.

Though the masters of the song parodies and The Temple of Baboons were lost or destroyed in the WMMS Archives purge, a cassette dub of one episode was just found and is available here for your downloading pleasure.   As we find more, we’ll post them.

Download Temple of the Baboons here

Much more on the most vicious radio war in Cleveland can be found in Chapter 25 of The Buzzard

Special thanks to Jim Davison for successfully dubbing the cassette’s contents and Chuck Matthews for housing it.

Denny Sanders/Classic Rock Weekend aircheck – 1/4/85

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 28, 2009 by John Gorman

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A few days after Thanksgiving 1984, I was at a Christmas party at Akron auto dealer Dale Haggarty’s home.   I overheard WAKR-AM and WAEZ-FM/Akron General Manager Fred Anthony mention that he was dropping the beautiful music format on WAEZ on New Year’s Day, 1985, for a classic-leaning album rock format, with new call letters, WONE-FM.

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I learned that their parent company had station with the same format in Denver. Malrite also owned a station in that market.  I called the program director there and asked him to run a few hours of tape on  it and alerted Denny Sanders and Kid Leo that we were about to get some new competition from the south.  Their signal reached much of our turf but had a huge hole in Parma because of a ridge to the south and interference from nearby FM antennas there.   I spent a couple of days with the cassettes from Denver, studying their music rotations.  I believed WONE would adopt the same format in Akron.  I was impressed and also annoyed. It went deep on tracks by familiar artists and played some forgotten songs: “Callin’ Me Home” by the Steve Miller Band, “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by Traffic, “Sea of Joy” by Blind Faith, and “In the Memory of Elizabeth Reed” by the Allman Brothers Band.

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It could be a difficult challenger.  We were headed in a different music direction, with a strong emphasis on current rock.  WONE would be playing our past. A certain percentage of listeners would try a new brand just because it was there.  The station wouldn’t make a dent in Cleveland, but it could hurt us in Akron and Canton, and its classic rock lean could hurt us with older males.   Unlike our powerful, in-your-face, forward motion format, theirs recalled the earlier low tech days of album radio.  We had strong, dominant ratings in Akron and businesses from the region advertised on WMMS.

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I proposed a Classic Rock Weekend on WMMS before WONE-FM signed on the air.  We’d have to make it work in tandem with our current format – and we had to act fast – the coming weekend – to be far enough ahead of WONE-FM’s format change so it wouldn’t appear we were heading them off at the past though we clearly were.  Denny and I assembled a special card file system to daypart key tracks and avoid any repetition.  And we needed to secure greatest hits albums from classic rock artists for giveaways.  We billed it as a unique venture into the past “as only the Buzzard could do it.”

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It was a smash.  Everyone on the air stressed that “once in a great while it’s OK to visit the past, as long as you don’t live there” and that we were playing music reserved for “this special occasion.”  I also felt we’d be able to do something WONE couldn’t -put heavy emphasis on Cleveland-style classic rock, featuring artists that were uniquely popular in this region like Roxy Music, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Todd Rundgren, Southside Johnny, and selections from our live concert archives.  Response was so strong that we went on with a new promo saying we were breaking all the rules and announced a second Classic Rock Weekend the following week.  We also made subtle mentions that anything this good was bound to be copied, but imitation is never close to the original.

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When WONE-FM signed on, its format was something WMMS had already done – twice.  The debut was anti-climactic, and we lost no ratings ground in Akron and Canton.

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The success of our Classic Rock Weekends led to the birth of a weekly WMMS Classic Rock Saturday Night, hosted by Betty Korvan and later Spaceman Scott, 7 PM to midnight, where we dug deep to find forgotten and unique tracks to make the show special – with BLF Bash and his own unique style right afterward, to keep the party going with a mix of old and new and, of course, the obligatory “Maggot Brain.”

This is a just-found recording of the first hour of our second Classic Rock Weekend, hosted by Denny Sanders (and Kid Leo’s Friday night close-out).  We kept the original commercials intact – including one from Larry Robinson, the Diamond Man – and you’ll also hear something you’d never hear on nighttime rock radio today – a news bulletin. This one dealing with a hostage crisis at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

This aircheck is courtesy of former WMMS listener Tim Cassidy who we thank for sharing it with us.

Download here

See Chapter 27WMMS Can Call Itself Anything It Wants – in The Buzzard.

Kid Leo aircheck 12/31/85

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on January 26, 2009 by John Gorman

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This aircheck features Kid Leo’s final “afternoon session” for the year 1985.  WMMS listener Phillip LeAnza recorded it from his car stereo on a cassette tape recorder, while sitting in his car at Parmatown Mall on Ridge Road.

As Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

1985 was a defining year for the future of WMMS.  We were breaking all ratings and revenue records in Cleveland radio.  We parlayed our legitimate Rolling Stone “Station of the Year Award” to a series of free WMMS Appreciation Day concerts.   We presented two to three weekly Nights Out at the Agora and Coffee Break Concerts, which were also carried on-air as live broadcasts.  If an act was touring, they’d play Cleveland and we’d co-sponsor their show with Belkin Productions or Blossom Music Center.  Our efforts to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland had complete backing from the city, state, the regional private sector, and much of the music industry.

There were many people responsible for the success of WMMS.  First was Carl Hirsch, the President of Malrite Communications, who afforded us the wide berth and encouraged us to be innovative and cutting-edge.    His split with Milton Maltz, Malrite’s CEO was the first in a series of occurrences that would make 1986 a tumultuous year at WMMS.

Phillip, thank you for sharing this aircheck.

Part 1……4 minutes, 30 seconds……..Download here

Part 2……2 minutes, 31 seconds……..Download here

Part 3……4 minutes, 43 seconds……..Download here

buzzard-book-cover-smallThe story continues in Chapter 28Departures and Divisions – in The Buzzard.

The Buzzard Theater of the Air’s “War of the Worlds” from 1976

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media on January 19, 2009 by John Gorman

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Our next Buzzard Theater of the Air production in 1976 was an obvious one – a new version of H.G. Welles’ War of the Worlds.  The original Mercury Theater of the Air production, which was broadcast on October 30, 1938 on the CBS Radio Network, was presented as news bulletins interrupting regular programming. It caused scores of listeners to believe that there was an actual Martian invasion taking place.   

Unlike the familiar Christmas Carol, War of the Worlds was a complete rewrite. The outline was prepared by Denny Sanders and a sizeable share of the script was written by Promotion and Marketing Director Dan Garfinkel with supplementary input from the staff.  The writing and production was influenced by, among other things, the cutting-edge humor of the time from the Firesign Theater, National Lampoon, and even Cheech y Chong.

The entire production was done with antiquated equipment and recording tape at our decrepit studios at 50th and Euclid, and took hundreds of hand-made tape splices to complete.

We wanted War of the Worlds to be edgier than A Christmas Carol. It included some self-parodies of our Instant Radio Spectacular live remote broadcasts, a few inside jokes – even a couple at the expense of our frequent request-line callers asking to hear “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd five minutes after we just played it.

In retrospect, we tried too hard and over-wrote the script, which made it a major challenge for the considerable production skills and imagination of Jeff Kinzbach and Steve Lushbaugh

As a result, the final product was somewhat disjointed and lacked the charm and appeal of A Christmas Carol Still, 33 years later, it holds up well.

Though the master of A Christmas Carol survived, War of the Worlds was one of the casualties of the WMMS archives purge in the early nineties.

This copy comes from a cassette recording made on October 31, 1976 by Kyle Cooley, a former WMMS listener who now lives in Michigan, and we thank him very much for this rare find.  Since the cassette tape audio had deteriorated, it was remixed to mono and equalized by Chuck Matthews.  

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Denny Sanders on the making of War of the Worlds:

I had reference cassettes of the Christmas Carol over the years, and eventually found a high-quality, studio copy (which is the version posted), but I never had anything on War of the Worlds.  This recording is the first time I have heard playback since it aired in 1976.

Well, if anything, we were certainly ambitious.

At the time, I remember being disappointed in how it came out.  We really got in deep water with this one, and we may have overreached a bit.  It turned out to be far more complicated to produce and edit than originally anticipated, and I recall that Jeff Kinzbach and Steve Lushbaugh were still cutting and adding effects to the production right up until airtime.  Maybe if we had a couple of more weeks it could have been smoother, and more streamlined.  However, listening again after over 30 years, I got a kick out of Leo’s hilarious MC-ing of what must have been a hell of a concert, G-Man himself in a rare on-air appearance as a cop (pure type casting) and Matt the Cat as Mayor Perk (the tape was slowed down to match the real Mayor’s typical delivery).  Oh yeah, “Mr. Greenback”, the fictitious WMMS station executive:  That was me doing my best Milt Maltz imitation!   

War of the Worlds download