The First WMMS “End of the Decade” special – the Seventies!

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

A WMMS print ad by David Helton from early 1975

Since we’re commemorating the end of a tumultuous decade this week, it’s only fitting that we turn back the clock thirty years ago this week and present a review of an equally tumultuous decade – the seventies!

Though decades actually end on their tenth year, which end in 00, following World War II media began to review the prior ten years and observe the new decade a year earlier – so we did the same.

For weeks leading up to the end of 1979, the WMMS staff collected and compiled the music, the pop culture, and the newsworthy events of the seventies for a special presentation, which we ran at the end of the year.

Ed “Flash” Ferenc, Denny Sanders, Betty Korvan, and Al “The Bear” Koski provide the commentary.

Though the original masters of the 1979 decade review were lost, we owe special thanks to one of our WMMS listeners, who prefers to remain anonymous, for taping and saving the original broadcast.

The original special ran commercial-free for twelve hours on  Sunday, December 30, 1979.

Due to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we cannot feature the music played during the special.

Here it is for your downloading pleasure:

WMMS 1970s Decade special, tracks 1 -20 – click here.

WMMS 1970s Decade special, tracks 21-40 – click here.

WMMS 1970s Decade special, tracks 41-62 – click here.

WMMS 1970s Decade special, track 63 – click here.

The WMMS Christmas Carol – 34th Anniversary!

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media on December 23, 2009 by John Gorman

We closed out 1975 with a project that became one of our crowning achievements, a contemporary version of A Christmas Carol.

Denny Sanders and promotion and marketing director Dan Garfinkel scripted the adaptation from Charles Dickens. Murray Saul was Iggy Scrooge, and he played it to the hilt.  David Spero was his ghostly partner, steel magnate David MarleyKid Leo was Little Leo, Matt the Cat played Matt the Crachit, and Shelley Stile was Mrs. Cratchit, with Betty Korvan as daughter Martha.

The three spirits – of Christmas past, present, and future – were Len “Boom” Goldberg, Charlie Kendall, and Steve Lushbaugh. Our “world’s greatest” receptionist for WMMS, WHK, and Malrite corporate Verdelle Warren played Scrooge’s fianceeSteve Lushbaugh, Jeff Kinzbach, and Ed “Flash” Ferenc were various men about town.    Denny Sanders narrated. Guests from outside the staff included Michael Stanley and Alex Bevan.  It was directed and produced by Jeff Kinzbach and Steve Lushbaugh.

We recorded it during the busiest production time of the year and its recording and production had to be  worked around the commercial production schedule, which, during the Christmas season, was limited to late Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings. Since we hadn’t budgeted in advance for the project, no one could claim overtime for participating. It was a true labor of love.

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 called it a production of the Buzzard Theater of the Air, a satirical take-off on Orson Wells’ 1930s radio series, the Mercury Theater of the Air.


Murray Saul on A Christmas Carol

My first thought is how much the production reflects the mood we’ve been talking about of all being on the SAME TEAM and enjoying it.  From the Dan Garfinkel script to Jeff Kinzbach in the control room.  Denny Sanders keeping his eye on the whole project. To call it a labor of love is not hype.  Me, being Scrooge was a great kick.  It was very much like being in your high school play Buzzard-style.

Denny Sanders on A Christmas Carol

I remember that it was taped over two consecutive weekends in December, and edited on the third in time for broadcast on Christmas Eve, 1975.  It was all manual cuts, and fly-in dubs from second and third machines.  Here’s a story:  In the final scene before Murray wakes up everything went quiet.  There was a pause and then the next taped segment (waking up) was to be inserted.  Because it was dead quiet, you heard the electronic relay click of the tape machine starting.  I remember that this drove me crazy, so either Steve Lushbaugh or Jeff Kinzbach (I forget who) backed the tape way up, timed the insert, and rolled it early so that the click was buried in the music bridge just before it went quiet.  When working manual and with old gear, you just had to be resourceful!

To  hear A Christmas Carol, click here

For more info on A Christmas Carol and the Buzzard Theater of the Air – see Chapter 11 of The Buzzard

The WMMS John Cougar Mellencamp Coffee Break Concert

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on December 18, 2009 by John Gorman

Backstage at the Agora following John Mellencamp's Coffee Break Concert. L to R: Matt the Cat, John Gorman, Jim Marchyshyn, Kid Leo, John Mellencamp, Dia Stein

Never give up.

It started with a dinner, months earlier, either sometime 1983 or early 1984 at a restaurant in the Marriott Airport hotel on W 130th, where John Mellencamp was staying.   It could have coincided with a tour date or a promotional appearance.

John Mellencamp, a few of us from the station (Can’t remember who was there. My guess is Kid Leo and Jim Marchyshyn for starters),  a label rep and either his manager or road manager, were discussing artists with songs that sound equally good when performed acoustic or electric.   That conversation led to a discussion about the history of our Coffee Break Concerts – and how they started as acoustic studio affairs and evolved into a weekly afternoon live performance.   Somewhere in that conversation a pitch was made to John and his band to do a Coffee Break Concert show and broadcast.

It was a long shot.  John had been performing for a decade.  He started out playing clubs in Indiana over a decade earlier and was now able to sell out major venues, including the Richfield Coliseum.

We played John’s first album, Chestnut Street Incident in 1976, which was released under the name “Johnny Cougar” – against his better judgement by his mangaer, Tony DeFries, who was best known as David Bowie’s manager during his Ziggy Stardust period.  Though we gave it a fair shot, it didn’t catch on with our listeners. It was also around that time that music director Shelley Stile went to Bloomfield, Ind. to see John in concert.  We also played his second album, The Kid Inside, in 1977, but that album failed to ignite as well.

In early 1978, his third album (as “Johnny Cougar”), A Biography was not released in the U.S. Someone sent us an import copy, and we played the track “I Need A Lover” a few times – but it was up against some stiff domestic-release competition that year – and our listeners were anticipating the long-awaited, long-delayed (due to legal issues) release of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run follow-up album, Darkness at the Edge of Town.

1978 was also our tenth anniversary, which was packed with concerts and special events – and it was also a year filled with superstar album releases – and break-out artists like Meatloaf, Eddie Money, The Cars, Dire Straits, Van Halen, and Bob Welch as a solo artist.

But in 1979, MCA records released the self-titled John Cougar album, which included the “I Need A Lover” track from the import.  We started playing it again and this time it took off becoming one of our most-requested tracks – though it was the only track on the album to catch on.

The following year, John released It Doesn’t Matter and What if it Did – and the tracks “Ain’t Even Done with the Night” and “This Time” became top-requested tracks.

In 1982, when American Fool was released, Cougar went straight to number one on the strength of two tracks – “Hurt So Good” and “Jack and Diane.” It also helped that their radio airplay was augmented by their music videos picking up heavy spins on a new cable channel called MTV. A few weeks after hitting number one in Cleveland sales – it did the same nationally.

In late 1983, when Uh-Huh was released, John went from being an established artist to superstar.  That was also the year he added his real surname, Mellencamp.

It took a few months of heavy lobbying – but John finally agreed to do a Coffee Break Concert – but instead of doing it will a full band – he asked to do it as an acoustic performance – a throwback to the original version of the show.   We agreed to a one-time only broadcast, which was stipulated in the contract – nor were we to play any excerpted songs from the performance, which we often did with our other live broadcasts.

The opportunity of having John Cougar Mellencamp do a special Coffee Break Concert was a major coup for us.   He was now one of the biggest names in rock and roll.  For crowd control purposes, we gave away tickets for his Coffee Break Concert in advance of the show.

John took the stage at the Agora at 1 PM on Wednesday, August 25th and performed a 20-song acoustic set, which included a number of cover tunes, including the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda,” Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” John Prine’s “Sam Stone,” the Vogues’ “Five O’Clock World,” the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man,” and Elliot Murphy’s “Last of the Rock Stars.”

The show was one of our finest and proudest moments.

The concert broadcast has turned up on occasion at various Bit Torrent and bootleg trading sites.  There are also a couple of bootleg CDs of the show.  One can only hope that this concert sees a legitimate release in the near future.

Photo courtesy of Jim Marchyshyn.  A few interesting notes about this photo.  When it was first shown, the question was whose clothes were worse?  My shirt or Leo’s pants.  Related to that, a few months earlier I had kicked up my 3-½ packs a day cigarette habit – and gained a ton of weight.   Today, John Mellencamp’s 14-year-old son has a Facebook group campaign to help his father kick the habit.   He says, “I made a deal with my dad that if I get 1,000,000 to join this group he will quit smoking.”   If you’re a Facebook user – find his page, sign up, and help John Mellencamp ditch the smokes.

No video was made of John Mellencamp’s Coffee Break Concert but here’s one featuring John with Johnny Cash from the Concert Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in September, 1995.

For more on the Coffee Break Concerts turn to Chapter 16 in The Buzzard

WMMS TV simulcasts

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Audio, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos, Buzzard Video on December 13, 2009 by John Gorman

Here are a couple of David Helton ads promoting our stereo simulcasts.

Back in the seventies and much of the eighties, television audio was delivered in monaural sound.

We knew technology would eventually change that – but until then we took full advantage of providing the stereo soundtrack to musically-oriented television shows.

We did a number of network – and even early cable and pay-TV (remember Preview?) – stereo simulcasts.  It was a boon for us since television, which had a much larger audience than radio, would run a crawl on the screen inviting viewers turn to WMMS’s 100.7 frequency to hear the audio in stereo.

Locally, we also did a series of Live at the Agora concerts with WJW-TV, featuring artists from WMMS Nights Out at the club.

Note the hemostat, joints, and talon styled sneakers in the first ad and the two slightly hidden joints in the second.

Here’s Todd Rundgren from a Live at the Agora TV show.

Still more Fleetwood Mac Attack….

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

L to R; Jules Belkin (Belkin Productions) Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Bob Welch.

Here are more photos from the Bond Court Fleetwood Mac press conference from David Helton. These photos show a panorama view of the press conference, including the ring of penguins David created for it.

The press conference was the result of a last-minute cancellation of Fleetwood Mac’s WMMS World Series of Rock concert at Cleveland Stadium the following day, August 4, 1978.  Lindsey Buckingham hadn’t sufficiently recovered from a spinal tap.  He’d been hospitalized following a collapse on July 30, but was able to play a concert later that night in Philadelphia. At the press conference it was announced that the show was being rescheduled for August 26.

Since all radio and TV stations were invited to cover the press conference, we were not allowed to display any WMMS Buzzards, even though we were co-sponsors of the World Series of Rock. It was understandable – but we asked anyway.

Actually, we didn’t mind since those penguins looked suspiciously like Buzzard cousins.

David Helton remembers:

It was when the band had to postpone the show because of Lindsey’s illness. They decided to have a major press conference in Cleveland to explain the problem. After all, it was a big stadium show and they knew how passionate Cleveland fans were about music and about Fleetwood Mac. They wanted a sincere effort to explain that they would be back when Lindsey had recovered.

I was asked by the show’s promoter, Belkin Productions, to paint and construct some penguins to personalize the band’s dressing room for the show – but when it was postponed, Belkin decided to use the penguins in the press conference.

I remember the guys from our rival station were going to the press conference as well, so when they walked in and saw those penguins that look strangely like our own WMMS Buzzard, they flipped out!  There were all these penguins in front of the band during the conference and it was glorious! It made me very proud.

Later in the summer, when the band returned for the show, my penguins were used to decorate Fleetwood Mac’s dressing rooms.

I used acrylic paint on a somewhat stiff board called foamcore. Each one was hand-painted and cut out individually. It looks like they were about 3 to 4 feet tall. I think I may have done about 8 to 10 of them. They took 2 or 3 with them when they left. I don’t know what happened to the rest.

I received one of them back, all signed with gratitude from the band. It’s one of my prized possessions and I’ll never forget the experience.

Click photos to enlarge

More Mac attacks and Buzzard wars in The Buzzard

More Mac Attack…

Posted in Buzzard, Buzzard Media, Buzzard Photos on December 7, 2009 by John Gorman

Here are a couple of bonus Fleetwood Mac items I came across over the weekend.

The first is what we used to call a “hype sheet;” a one-pager, selling our attributes of advertising on WMMS to prospective clients.

With Fleetwood Mac-mania in full throttle at the time of this piece, we took the Rumours penguins and transformed them into Buzzards.

The second is an additional shot from the Fleetwood Mac press conference at the Bond Court Hotel (see story below), taken by Bob Farrell, who should’ve been Fleetwood Mac’s official photographer.

Click images multiple times to enlarge size.

The WMMS Fleetwood Mac Attack!

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

It was September 1973. We had just added the Buckingham-Nicks album and the track “Long Distance Winner” was picking up a few curiosity calls and requests.  At that time we did not have a relationship with the Agora, so we called Rodger Bohn at the Smiling Dog Saloon, where we sponsored “nights out” at and mentioned the act as a possible WMMS-sponsored show.   Rodger put in a few calls to see if they were touring.  They were – but their label Polygram, wasn’t really supporting the act because the album was getting only spotty airplay in a couple of cities.  Logistics for a “night out” didn’t work out. We played a couple of other tracks from the album (“Crying in the Night” and “Don’t Let Me Down Again”) before it faded into that limbo land of forgotten albums.

That same month Fleetwood Mac released the album Heroes are Hard to Find, whose title cut ended up being one of the most played and requested tunes on WMMS.  Fleetwood

Fleetwood Mac's mirrors designed and hand-painted by David Helton

Mac formed as British blues-based group that eventually evolved into the mainstream, but suffered from a steady stream of personnel and musical style changes.  Though it got extensive play, the track was largely a turntable hit and never translated into sales.

John Gorman, Mick Fleetwood, Rhonda Kiefer at WMMS

Fast forward to July 1975.  The Fleetwood Mac album is released – and we noted that Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, whom we remembered from that Buckingham-Nicks album, were now band members.

Fan banner at the Coliseum

The band went on tour in support of the album and played Kent State on a Sunday night.  As was customary at the station, our airstaff took turns on m.c’ing WMMS-sponsored concerts – and Kid Leo did Fleetwood Mac. Though I planned to go I had to bow out because of an early Monday morning department head meeting.  Later that day, Leo told me Fleetwood Mac live

Mick Fleetwood just returned from a vacation in Bora Bora and flew to Cleveland to surprise Christine McVie and Bob Welch. Christine was touring with Bob Welch as a surprise guest singer on "Sentimental Lady."

were nothing like the softer version on the album – and that the Buckingham-Nicks material rocked, citing a balls-out version of “Rhiannon” and a reworked “I’m So Afraid” that showed Lindsay as a guitarist to be reckoned with.

Around the same time, The King Biscuit Flower Hour, a syndicated concert show we carried on Sunday nights featured a live Fleetwood Mac performance – and like Leo said – it rocked. We swapped the softer studio versions for the live rock versions – and within days the live “Rhiannon” became our most-requested song on nights and weekends – and the other live Macs from that

All that Jazz: Bruce Ravid (Capitol), Len "Boom" Goldberg, Steve Lushbaugh, Dan Garfinkel, Bob Welch, Denny Sanders, John Gorman, David Helton, Barry Haughin (Capitol), Matt the Cat

concert were also in our requested top 15.

Mick checking out the artwork in my office

That set the stage for Rumours. Shelley Stile was music director and pulled off a daylong exclusive of the album in February 1977. The immediate reaction gave little clue of how huge the album would be.  But we new it was something unique and special – product that would draw more audience from AM to FM, and from other stations to WMMS. We cemented our relationship with the band, getting to know everyone in it and connected to it.  What gave us a solid edge with the band was our airplay of their pet side projects, which

Dan Garfinkel, Jeff Kinzbach, Denny Sanders, Bruce Ravid (Capitol), Mick Fleetwood, Bob Welch

were all gems – but usually neglected in other markets.

Walter Egan, formerly of the cult surf band the Malibooz, had one hit song nationally, “Magnet and Steel,” a duet with Stevie Nicks, off the Not Shy album coproduced by Buckingham and Nicks, who also played on it; in Cleveland he was a superstar, with a half-dozen tracks receiving airplay. Buckingham and Nicks also played on John Stewart’s Bombs Away, Dream Babies, with the song “Gold,” which was a major hit in Cleveland months before it broke nationally.  Rob Grill, the former lead singer of the Grassroots,

Another day, another penguin: John McVie, Cleveland Metropark Zoo official, John Gorman, Rhonda Kiefer

was a fishing buddy of John McVie, who produced his one solo album, Uprooted – with guest appearances by Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood. Most successful of all was Bob Welch, a former Fleetwood Mac guitarist, who scored three hit singles off his 1977 album, French KissCleveland was also one of the few markets that supported Welch’s earlier project, Paris, which had a popular track, “Big Town 2061,” in 1975.

At the zoo: Jeff Kinzbach, Matt the Cat, Steve Lushbaugh, David Helton, Debbie O'Donnell, Dan Garfinkel, Betty Korvan, Denny Sanders, John Gorman, Dave Lucas (Warner Bros.), John McVie, Christine McVie. Front: Unknown , Rhonda Kiefer

By the time Fleetwood Mac played the Coliseum in September 1977, the band supposedly sold a million copies of Rumours from the Cleveland distribution branch alone.  We launched what we called our “WMMS Fleetwood Mac Attack,” and took full ownership of what had become the biggest act in the world.   We landed exclusive interviews, and we had them cut station IDs. The day after Stevie Nicks flubbed on stage and accidentally thanked Cincinnati instead of Cleveland, she cut a humorous ID, which said, “When I’m not in Cincinnati, I’m in Cleveland, and listening to WMMS.”

John & Christine at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo with the donated penguin

We also landed an exclusive with advance tracks from the Tusk album, early fall 1979. That one came on cassette, from a  New York record executive, whose identity I promised I would never reveal – and never will.  I had to buy a seat for it on a commercial

Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks at the Bond Court Hotel press conference

flight.  When it arrived at Hopkins, I drove it to the station where it was transferred for broadcast and Denny Sanders immediately put it on the air.  We played one cut every half-hour, inserting “WMMS exclusive” in case a rival station tried to tape it.  Warner Bros. was furious because Fleetwood Mac was the label’s most important act, and they worried about Tusk being a somewhat experimental double-album, which sounded nothing like its predecessor.

Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood at Bond Court Hotel press conference

Fleetwood Mac and WMMS donated penguins (the Fleetwood Mac mascot) to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. We

At WMMS: Denny Sanders, Marty Schwartz (Elektra), Lindsay Buckingham, John Gorman, Matt the Cat, Murray Saul. On table: Kid Leo

outfitted the band with WMMS merchandise and paraphernalia.  For months to come, it wasn’t usual to see a band member or associate of Fleetwood Mac sporting a WMMS item on national TV.

When a WMMS World Series of Rock concert at Cleveland Stadium was postponed due to a spinal problem suffered by Lindsay Buckingham, the other members of the band, plus Bob Welch, flew to Cleveland to do a press conference at the Bond Court Hotel, we strung up lines and carried it live.

A few weeks later, backstage at the rescheduled WMMS World Series of Rock concert, we presented the band with personalized, hand-painted mirrors individually created by David Helton. By that time they were consuming massive quantities of cocaine.  Christine McVie, who got the first one, commented, “I’m afraid we’ll scrape the mirror down to the paint.”

More on Buzzards and penguins in The Buzzard

Photos by Bob Ferrell except mirror photo by David Helton

Click images multiple times to enlarge size and click on song titles to hear the music.

The Buzzard Blog celebrated its second year.  For those new to the blog, you can use the search engine or reference the archives for hours of audio (including original airchecks and music) and video and hundreds of photos and documents covering WMMS from 1973 to 1986.