The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio--A Memoir Info

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This rock and roll radio memoir takes you behind the scenes at
the nation’s hottest station during FM’s heyday, from 1973 to 1986. Sex
and drugs, music and merchandising—it was a wild time when the FM
airwaves were wide open for creativity and innovation. John Gorman led a
small band of true believers who built Cleveland’s WMMS from a
neglected stepchild into an influential powerhouse. The station earned
high praise from musicians and even higher ratings from listeners.
Gorman tells how WMMS remade rock radio while Cleveland staked its claim
as the “Rock and Roll Capital” by breaking major international music
acts. Filled with juicy insider details, this fast-paced story will
entertain anyone who listened in during those glory days when FM
delivered excitement and the Buzzard ruled the airwaves.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio--A Memoir:

4

Jun 15, 2010

Makes me feel nostalgic for the days when radio was worth listening to, and not just run by faceless corporations that think we ought to hear the same Nickleback song 80-billion times a day.
3

Jun 11, 2012

I nice little remembrance if you lived in Cleveland during the heyday of WMMS, a true phenomenon. If you didn't, there's no point to reading this book.

But it's largely a recounting of the various marketing techniques used to build the station's popularity ("we bought 7,000 t-shirts for $34,000!") as well as some more interesting tidbits about bands local and national.

There is some insight into the radio industry here, but it's scattered about. Could've been a much, much more interesting book.

But I nice little remembrance if you lived in Cleveland during the heyday of WMMS, a true phenomenon. If you didn't, there's no point to reading this book.

But it's largely a recounting of the various marketing techniques used to build the station's popularity ("we bought 7,000 t-shirts for $34,000!") as well as some more interesting tidbits about bands local and national.

There is some insight into the radio industry here, but it's scattered about. Could've been a much, much more interesting book.

But John Gorman, the author, has done a service by capturing this of history. ...more
3

Sep 16, 2012

An interesting insight into the world of radio, or at least the way radio used to be. I have to say though that it was disillusioning as corporate mentality took over.
4

Jun 05, 2011

The rise and fall of a great radio station. I lived in Cleveland and this was my station, seeing behind the scenes is funny and sad at the same time. Too bad it had to end.
3

Dec 25, 2007

This proved an interesting read from an insider's point-of-view to a radio station that was a driving force in FM radio and music in Cleveland for a long time. The book was organized into quick chapters that read a lot like serial newspaper reporting, which was appealing.
3

May 27, 2013

Entertaining if -- especially as the years and pages go by -- self-serving. But what would you expect? The guy was a proud employee and molded a great station. I wish others in radio would follow WMMS' lead - not so much in music, but in attitude and foresight.
5

Jun 04, 2016

Loved this book! If you grew up listening to WMMS in the 70's & 80's this will bring back memories. In the 70's Cleveland was a national joke. The Buzzard grew into the most influential radio station of the time and was THE reason Cleveland is known as the Rock & Roll Capital of the World!.
3

Apr 26, 2010

It is a good book if you grew up in the 70's and early 80's and listened to WMMS. A lot of good memories and the behind the scenes stories.

The last third of the book was one long pat on the back for the author. The last couple of chapters is like he just wanted to get the book done and hurried through it.

Still, it is a good book and I would recommend it.
3

Aug 21, 2013

Interesting times and this book covers a lot. More an overall look at the programming/marketing side of things rather that a great rock and roll book. All the great stuff happened over the air but this book missed the point in that regard. Somewhere, someone has a great 70's FM book that truly captures that time. This is not it.
4

May 31, 2009

If you grew up in the greater Cleveland area in the 70s and 80s, then you grew up with WMMS, and this book would be a good read. Not sure how others might feel about it, but I enjoyed it. For once I wish I was a little bit older so I would have grown up and been able to enjoy WMMS more during its glory days.
4

Jan 14, 2009

This book was a fun, quick read. I grew up near Cleveland so we listened to "The Buzzard" frequently.

Of course, the book is a memoir and John Gorman paints a picture of the Buzzard's "glory days" how he saw it. I am sure there are many sides to a story but it was a fun read.

If I still worked in the radio industry, I would use this book to help me create marketing plans...it is chock full of unique and fun marketing ideas that really worked!

3

Jun 09, 2013

Being a native Clevelander, I found this book very interesting. I loved the stories and the history but the writer could use a good editor. The author continuously jumped back in forth in time making it hard to fully understand exactly when events took place. Many times I was asking myself who was still working at the company because he would talk about them leaving in one chapter and three chapters later he would tell a story about them. Other than the chronological issues, I think it is a fun Being a native Clevelander, I found this book very interesting. I loved the stories and the history but the writer could use a good editor. The author continuously jumped back in forth in time making it hard to fully understand exactly when events took place. Many times I was asking myself who was still working at the company because he would talk about them leaving in one chapter and three chapters later he would tell a story about them. Other than the chronological issues, I think it is a fun read from anyone interested in rack and roll, radio, and Cleveland history. ...more
4

Nov 07, 2009

This book is amazing. WMMS had been on the air for fifteen years when I was born, but as a northeastern Ohio resident and music fan, I am fascinated by the history we have here that people so tend to overlook. This memoir showcases in a fascinating narrative the rise and fall of WMMS, a renegade station unique unto itself who fought battles with competitive radio stations, station politics, and the changing musical landscape to continue to stay at the top. And the way they did it is nothing This book is amazing. WMMS had been on the air for fifteen years when I was born, but as a northeastern Ohio resident and music fan, I am fascinated by the history we have here that people so tend to overlook. This memoir showcases in a fascinating narrative the rise and fall of WMMS, a renegade station unique unto itself who fought battles with competitive radio stations, station politics, and the changing musical landscape to continue to stay at the top. And the way they did it is nothing short of astounding - the creativity of this group of eight or ten closeknit jockeys and managers amazed me throughout the whole book, and come to life through Gorman's wonderful descriptions and characterizations. Everything you wanted to know about WMMS and Cleveland radio is here. Don't miss. ...more
4

Dec 30, 2010

I too grew up in NE Ohio during the glory days of WMMS. I could not put this book down once I started it. Really enjoyed the details on "going to war vs going to work" and the amazing creativity of the promos they came up with.

I scoured the Internet for the other side of the story on how Gorman and Sanders left the station, but couldn't find anything especially from Kid Leo and Jeff Kinzbach who Gorman says were involved in him being "set up".

I have one of the Coffee Break Concerts on cassette I too grew up in NE Ohio during the glory days of WMMS. I could not put this book down once I started it. Really enjoyed the details on "going to war vs going to work" and the amazing creativity of the promos they came up with.

I scoured the Internet for the other side of the story on how Gorman and Sanders left the station, but couldn't find anything especially from Kid Leo and Jeff Kinzbach who Gorman says were involved in him being "set up".

I have one of the Coffee Break Concerts on cassette - a fantastic, raw recording of Mike Reno (who sounds wasted out of his mind) and Loverboy right after their first album was released. According to Gorman, these recordings were all destroyed at the old WMMS offices.

Highly recommend this book! ...more
4

Sep 16, 2012

I admit, I don't recall a lot about this era other than the ubiquity of the Buzzard logo (I was too young) so this was a nice local history lesson. Gorman relates the days of WMMS, from when he joined - in the days when FM was new and, to the more jaded in the industry, stood for Find Me - to his departure. WMMS went from the neglected company stepchild into a nationally-known station. An amusing story was when the management was looking over the radio ratings numbers, and lamenting how the I admit, I don't recall a lot about this era other than the ubiquity of the Buzzard logo (I was too young) so this was a nice local history lesson. Gorman relates the days of WMMS, from when he joined - in the days when FM was new and, to the more jaded in the industry, stood for Find Me - to his departure. WMMS went from the neglected company stepchild into a nationally-known station. An amusing story was when the management was looking over the radio ratings numbers, and lamenting how the flagship station in Cleveland wasn't doing well, then saw a station that was doing incredibly well- then realizing the station doing so well was one of theirs. There are some great stories - one of my favorites involves a tray of doctored brownies. I also enjoyed Gorman's tales of how he and the other staff one-upped the other radio stations. The ending is rather sad, where Gorman details how things began to splinter (basically due to bad corporate management).
...more
5

Feb 07, 2013

I grew up in a suburb on the east side of Cleveland. I was about 11 years old when Murray Saul stopped doing Friday night Get Downs (1977). I had completely forgotten about Murray Saul and his Get Downs until I was reminded of them by reading this book. I would never have known of the Get Downs when I was a kid if my brother hadn't turned on WMMS and told me to listen to this guy. At the time, I asked my brother if the guy was on drugs. I really like this book even if Gorman does sound full of I grew up in a suburb on the east side of Cleveland. I was about 11 years old when Murray Saul stopped doing Friday night Get Downs (1977). I had completely forgotten about Murray Saul and his Get Downs until I was reminded of them by reading this book. I would never have known of the Get Downs when I was a kid if my brother hadn't turned on WMMS and told me to listen to this guy. At the time, I asked my brother if the guy was on drugs. I really like this book even if Gorman does sound full of himself at times. No doubt the promotions that came out of WMMS during those years were marvelously creative and effective. Certainly the station was immensely popular during his time there. And Gorman went on to additional successes in the radio biz subsequent to his time at WMMS. I don't mean to knock him for sometimes sounding full of himself in this book; I'm just saying it doesn't suit my taste. My memories of Cleveland and the people there include more of the self-effacing humor evident in, for example, TV hosts Big Chuck & his partners (Houlihan, Lil John) and SuperHost. And in fact, that's exactly how the Buzzard mascot was conceived - by Gorman: at that time, Cleveland was a shrinking town with businesses which were struggling to keep their doors open. The Buzzard was just waiting around for the carcass. I think the book could be improved by Gorman and/or Denny Sanders elaborating on the vision they shared of what FM radio could achieve. I got an idea of Sanders' vision when I watched a YouTube video of him talking about the station. His idea was to have fun, keep from sounding like a lecture, and keep it entertaining. Certainly, Sanders and Gorman enjoyed success while at WMMS, but did they accomplish what they set out to do? I suppose the project of writing this memoir was simplified by not involving Denny Sanders, Kid Leo, and others as co-authors. I remember hearing a station promo in the early 80s that said, "Cruisin and boozin with The Buzzard, WMMS, Cleveland." Then Mothers Against Drunk Driving got going on a national scale, and they paid for advertising on WMMS. So the station promo with the mention of booze aired, followed by what sounded to me like a public service announcement about driving while intoxicated, paid for by MADD. You know that station promo went away shortly after that. No mention of anything of this sort in Gorman's book. Gorman does mention the decision to play hits by Michael Jackson and Prince despite the songs being more Top 40 than rock. He says something to the effect of "These songs were so popular we'd have been crazy to not play them." These examples I think indicate an area available for rich discussion of how preferences form within a community. Likewise with Gorman's mention of a number of Cleveland rock 'n roll acts including the Michael Stanley Band, Alex Bevan, and others that didn't make it big (outside of Cleveland) due to short-sighted management. Why didn't the bands find new managers for themselves after learning the hard way what they don't want in a manager? The book could be improved by elaborating a bit on the sort of vision a manager had with bigger successes like Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and so forth. Gorman does mention a few details of deals gone bad for the Michael Stanley Band when the band's management made poor business decisions on behalf of their client. And kudos to him and to MSB for no sour grapes. There's so much to talk about with this book; I love it. It brings back a lot of memories for me, and it teaches me about the radio business which I had only known in a superficial way previously. ...more
4

Apr 12, 2010

Anyone growing up in Cleveland in the 70's was affected by the "Rock and Roll Wars" of radio stations battling it out for supremacy of the airwaves. WMMS, M105, and to a lesser extent, G-98, KCLW, WGAR, and a few others were what played out of car radios, warehouses, garages, transistor radios on the schoolyard. They slandered each other on the air and in back-room hijinks, but most of all they tried to one-up each other with programming. Commercial-free weekends, exclusive concert simulcasts, Anyone growing up in Cleveland in the 70's was affected by the "Rock and Roll Wars" of radio stations battling it out for supremacy of the airwaves. WMMS, M105, and to a lesser extent, G-98, KCLW, WGAR, and a few others were what played out of car radios, warehouses, garages, transistor radios on the schoolyard. They slandered each other on the air and in back-room hijinks, but most of all they tried to one-up each other with programming. Commercial-free weekends, exclusive concert simulcasts, on-air interviews, and other program surprises all spoiled us for rock and roll radio. We spun the dial from one amazing broadcast to the next.

On the way home from a track meet in the early 80's, I was stretched out in the back of Tom Scanlon's 1978 Buick LeSabre (i.e. a ridiculously huge land yacht), bobbing my head to some Pink Floyd melody. A pickup truck cruised by us on the freeway, the driver singing the same song. Suddenly he glanced over at me, both of us in mid-chorus. We smiled as our vehicles drifted apart down the highway. That was M105 for ya, "The Home of Continuous Music."

The real king of the airwaves, though, was the Home of the Buzzard, WMMS 101 FM. 'MMS was a hotbed of radio personalities: Jeff and Flash, Kid Leo, Denny Sanders, Matt the Cat, Dia, Ellen Foley, and Betty "Crash" Korvan (who, amazingly, I ran into on a remote trail in Wyoming one October in the 90's. We mentioned our respective hometowns, and she was thrilled to know she had a fan in Seattle who remembered her).

If you knew WMMS, then the mere mention of those names--and the sound of their voices--will register directly into your cerebral cortex. So will the music. It's hard to imagine now, but back then even the Rolling Stones needed to get airplay. So did Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and then-new bands like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Heart, Tom Petty.

Gorman helped create the successful version of the station in 1973, and with it, FM rock, and a kind of radio production that dominated the airwaves for 20 years. Best of all, Gorman & co did not stay stale. Perhaps because of the competition chasing them, they kept it fresh--a fact lost on so much corporate radio of today. 'MMS created "Modern Rock," playing bands like the Talking Heads, the Jam, and Roxy Music when no one else dared. (Arguably, without WMMS, almost no one would know Roxy Music in the US.) The station also played Michael Jackson, Madonna, Culture Club, and other bands that no one else knew what to do with. They seemed always on the cutting edge, playing good music for kids hungry for something to blast into the night.

This tale takes the reader through 1986, when a ballot-stuffing scandal with Rolling Stone magazine took the bloom off the rose. More importantly, management couldn't stop messing with a good thing. Record companies made fat by the 1970's album-buying public stopped doing things that made their music appealing.

In Cleveland, Gorman still has his hand in radio--on a different station, playing classic rock. If you spin the FM dial in Cleveland, you will still land--at any given moment, on four or five radio stations--on AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, the Stones, and Led Zeppelin. There was a day, not too long ago, when that situation was revolutionary. And there was one station that led the way.

John Gorman--with Tom Feran, who should get special mention as co-author--has written an excellent book not just for aficionados of Cleveland, rock music, or radio, but for anyone interested in a good non-fiction read.

*

WHY I READ THIS BOOK: A trip last fall to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while visiting family led me eventually to the gift shop, where I saw this book. I thought I'd revisit some of the glory days of my high school youth and subsequent radio career.
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4

Feb 04, 2018

I most enjoyed the chapters about the various Radio Wars WMMS were involved in over the years. A good fun read, that was loaded with detail, but never bogged down by it. I most enjoyed the chapters about the various Radio Wars “WMMS” were involved in over the years. A good fun read, that was loaded with detail, but never bogged down by it. ...more
4

Oct 22, 2018

John Gorman was head of Cleveland's WMMS radio station. He was approached by the publishers to write a memoir or compilation of stories from his time there. I was lucky enough to hear Gorman speak in Westlake, OH and enjoyed his stories. I particularly enjoyed his take on how radio has changed since his days at WMMS and how they used to make copies of "new music" brought in by studio representatives. I purchased this book after his talk and had him sign it for me.

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