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WMMS (100.7 FM) is a radio station in Cleveland, Ohiomarker, with a rich history of broadcasting both locally and nationally. From April 1974 until September 2007, its longtime promotional mascot was "The Buzzard." At the station's peak of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, it had a stable of personalities that was fundamentally unchanged for many years, and attained a dominant market share in the local ratings, often posting market-record high figures in the overall 12+ category.

The station is currently owned by Clear Channel Communications. WMMS features a hot talk/rock format and is the flagship station for Rover's Morning Glory, the Cleveland affiliate for Loveline, and the co-flagship station of the Cleveland Browns (shared with sister station WTAMmarker). Its call letters officially stand for former owner MetroMedia-Stereo.

History

Early years

In August 1946, WHK received one of the earliest experimental FM licenses, under the call W8XUB, broadcasting at 107.1 MHz. Upon receipt of a commercial license, the station became WHKX at 100.7 MHz, and eventually WHK-FM. Both WHK AM/FM were sold to Metropolitan Broadcasting (soon renamed Metromedia) in 1958. Not unlike any other early FM station of this period, WHK-FM simulcast the air signal of WHK (which carried a popular Top-40 format) for virtually this entire period.

In 1968, the FCC mandated that FM sister stations could no longer duplicate their AM sister's programming, in order to make the medium more commercially viable. Seeing a small but significant groundswell of support for the medium in the market, WHK-FM adopted a new progressive rock format. WHK-FM became one of a handful of commercial stations in the country to try that format, and one of several that Metromedia owned. To firmly establish a separate identity, and in keeping with the station's ownership, the call sign of WHK-FM was changed to WMMS on September 28, 1968.

Progressive rock radio years

Even though Metromedia found major success with progressive rock on sister stations KMET in Los Angeles, KSAN-FM in San Francisco, WNEW in New York and WMMR in Philadelphia, the format went away from WMMS on July 1969. Low ratings and revenue made Metromedia turn first to adult standards (not dissimilar to the format WHK aired at the time) and then to the Drake-Chenault "Hit Parade '69", an automated tape system that was heavily oriented towards pop and Top 40 fare.

WMMS reverted to progressive rock less than a year later, but ended up briefly battling with Nationwide Communications' WNCR-FM for listeners, as WNCR had filled the void caused by WMMS' initial absence in the rock scene. It was a battle that didn't last long, as some key WNCR personnel - including former WMMS personalities Martin Perlich ("The Perlich Project") and Billy Bass - abruptly quit that station one day, then hired by WMMS the next, taking most of their audience with them.

In November 1972, both WHK and WMMS were sold to Malrite Communications, a Michigan-based firm that relocated to Cleveland upon purchase. Under Malrite ownership, WMMS would become an album-oriented rock (AOR) stalwart much in the same vein as its former Metromedia progressive rock siblings.

Achievements

"Old Buzzard Logo," drawn by co-creator David Helton
Under the leadership of Station Manager Billy Bass and Program Director Denny Sanders (who came to WMMS from Boston in 1971), WMMS helped break many new rock artists nationally, most notably David Bowie, who along with the Spiders from Mars, kicked off his American tour in Cleveland, based on the market's huge sales figures for the Bowie album, primarily due to WMMS airplay.

In July 1973, John Gorman joined WMMS as music director and was promoted to program director and operations manager two months later where he remained for 13 years. During this time, with Denny Sanders as his creative services director and Rhonda Kiefer as programming assistant, WMMS broke all Cleveland ratings and revenue records. In 1985, Gorman added WHK to his programming duties and changed its format to rock and roll oldies.

Others acts broken by WMMS included Rush and Roxy Music. Of special note was the early support of Bruce Springsteen by disc jockey Kid Leo and others, from even before Born to Run came out. For the station's tenth anniversary in 1978, WMMS hosted and broadcast a live Springsteen concert at the Agora Theatre and Ballroommarker independent of his concert tour. Heavily bootlegged, the concert further cemented the relationship between the two in fans' minds, and well into the 2000s Cleveland remains one of Springsteen's strongest bases. From right up until his departure from the station in 1988, Kid Leo played Born to Run as his signature sign-off song on Friday nights.

WMMS was the first radio station to employ full-time promotion and marketing directors: Dan Garfinkel and his successor, Jim Marchyshyn.

Partially inspired by an annual event at Hinckley Townshipmarker, the tenuous economic state of the city, and its' reputation as a "bird of prey," WMMS adopted a buzzard as its' mascot, a co-creation of Gorman, Sanders and local artist David Helton. From the onset, Helton's streamlined artwork resulted in an aggressive, yet family-friendly symbol for the station that endured for 35 years. "The Buzzard" became synonymous with WMMS, Cleveland radio and the city itself, spawning a series of T-shirts so numerous that they are now impossible to catalog, many with the slogan "Where Music Means Something and Ruler of the Airwaves."

Through the mid 1980s, WMMS was directly influenced by then (and current) sister station "Z100," WHTZmarker in New Yorkmarker, which rose to the top of the ratings books immediately after installing a Contemporary hit radio (CHR) format. Among the more significant moves taken by WMMS was the formatting of the "morning zoo" concept created by WHTZ's Scott Shannon onto the show Jeff Kinzbach and Ed "Flash" Ferenc were already hosting. Kinzbach and Ferenc had already been a morning team—with sidekicks—since 1976, seven years prior to adopting the "morning zoo" label, so the basic structure had already been in place.

The music structure also was modified at this time as artists such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince soon found airplay on WMMS. This change was done for many reasons; first as a nod to the sudden influence WHTZ's format had on the Malrite group, in addition to Gorman and Sanders' intention to stay with the current music trends (as the Album-oriented rock (AOR) format was, even then, in a state of decline), and also as a means to attract a female audience. By 1984, WMMS had been classified as either a CHR/AOR hybrid or as a CHR outlet, though the station also started to devote weekend programming towards the classic rock format.

With its rock and roll format and its popular "Buzzard Morning Zoo" morning show with Jeff and "Flash," WMMS was long the top-rated station in Cleveland. In the station's heyday, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, the station was one of the highest rated major market rock stations in the country, often achieving 13 and 14 share ratings in the overall 12+ total listenership category.

Airstaff

A major contributor to the ratings success was that the airstaff remained fundamentally unchanged for much of the period featuring—along with Kid Leo and Jeff and Flash—Matt the Cat, Denny Sanders, Betty Korvan, Bill "BLF Bash" Freeman, Len "Boom Boom" Goldberg, Ruby Cheeks, T.R. and Dia Stein.

Start Finish Personality Tenure at Shift
  6 a.m. 10 a.m. Jeff Kinzbach and Ed "Flash" Ferenc
(titled The Buzzard Morning Zoo in 1983)
1977-1994
10 a.m.   2 p.m. "Matt the Cat" Lapczynski 1974-1988
1990-1992
  2 p.m.   6 p.m. "Kid Leo" Traviligante 1974-1988
  6 p.m. 10 p.m. Denny Sanders 1971-1986
10 p.m.   2 a.m. Steve Lushbaugh 1973-1976
10 p.m.   2 a.m. Betty Korvan 1976-1983
10 p.m.   2 a.m. Tom "T.R." Renzy 1983-1988
  2 a.m.   6 a.m. Bill "BLF Bash" Freeman 1976-1998
Of all the personalities that worked at WMMS, Len "Boom Boom" Goldberg was there the longest. He joined the station in early 1972 before its sale to Malrite, and stayed in different capacities until 2004. He was best known as the voice for the station's top of the hour IDs, music segues and sweepers, and commercials for WMMS, and was also a member of the "morning zoo" in the mid '80s. He died on December 27, 2006.

Other achievements

WMMS, at the time, was also broadcasting a remarkable amount of live concert broadcasts, many of which originated in Cleveland and were produced by WMMS itself. The station's Coffee Break Concert was a weekly music-interview show broadcast live from the station's studio (and later with an audience at The Agora Ballroom). Warren Zevon, John Mellencamp, Lou Reed, Peter Frampton, and a host of others performed on the program, recordings of which are widely available as bootlegs. The Coffee Break Concerts were booked by Denny Sanders and hosted by Len "Boom Boom" Goldberg and later, Matt the Cat.

In the mid-1980s, WMMS was an important contributor in organizing a campaign (along with former Cleveland ad agency president Edward Spizel and author-deejay Norm N. Nite) which brought the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker to Cleveland. John Gorman, Denny Sanders and Kid Leo organized the original campaign with Tunc Erim, an assistant to Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun.

The station was named in Rolling Stone's reader poll as best station several consecutive years, until 1988, when it was revealed that they were stuffing the ballot box over the previous two years. The "ballot box stuffing" revelation is still controversial, with some upset with the deception, while others claim that all stations in every city did their share of "stuffing".

"The Buzzard: The Next Generation"

By the late 80's, most of the original staff members had departed, with the most notable departures coming in 1986 from John Gorman and Denny Sanders (who left to launch the upstart WNCX) and from Kid Leo in December 1988 (who was hired by CBS Records, Bruce Springsteen's record label). As a result, four different program directors (including Rich Piombino and Michael Luczak) came in and out of the station with various programming philosophies and varying levels of success.

The station segued permanently out of a CHR/AOR mix in late 1989 to focus exclusively on AOR. However, there were promising moments. Some noteworthy deejay additions like Rocco the Rock Dog (a.k.a. long-time engineer Ric Bennett), music director Brad "Scooter" Hanson, and Lisa Dillion happened during this period.

Ratings increased around the time of the first Gulf War, but The Howard Stern Show was then picked up by a struggling WNCX in the fall of 1992. Stern's ratings exploded and this, along with a continuous urgency by ownership and management not to compete with (or mention) Howard on the air, led to a sudden and steep decline in the ratings for the Buzzard Morning Zoo.

By 1993, the station had declined significantly in popularity due to numerous factors. Erratic format modifications after the departure of many of the station's long-running staff members and ownership changes contributed to the decline. During this time management also ordered a change with the buzzard mascot, giving it a flat-top and mullet hairstyle.

In 1992, Malrite, unable to service its growing debt, was forced to leave the radio business, selling off all their properties including WMMS and WHK to Shamrock Broadcasting, Roy Disney's family-owned broadcasting firm. WMMS and WHK were then spun off to the locally-held OmniAmerica, owned by former Malrite executive Carl Hirsch, in April 1994.

Under OmniAmerica ownership, John Gorman returned as vice president and director of operations from new sister station WMJI, and redesigned WMMS as an alternative station for a brief time in the mid-90s. The station was even re-billed as "The Buzzard: The Next Generation" in this period to emphasize the change in programming. Gorman also brought back the original buzzard design, which now drawn by David Helton's successor, Brian Chalmers.

The greatest change came when Jeff Kinzbach left WMMS when OmniAmerica took over, due to the steep ratings decline, the stigma of past management in dealing with Stern - not to mention a potential mismatch with the new format. Ed "Flash" Ferenc stayed until former WENZ morning show hosts Brian Fowler and Joe Cronauer joined WMMS in morning drive. Ferenc was reunited with Kinzbach for an afternoon talk show on WWWEmarker in late 1994 under the banner "Rock 'n Roll Talk Radio," and separated for good in September 1997.

While this alienated many longtime listeners who switched to WNCX and their full-time classic rock format, the station's ratings were boosted for the first time in years, and obtained the highest post-classic WMMS ratings to this point. Gorman hosted a series of sold-out BuzzardFests at Blossom Music Center, which showcased up and coming artists WMMS was playing at the time.

Later years

2005 rendition of "The Buzzard,"used until Sept.
2007
, despite these promising moments, WMMS and WMJI were sold again to Nationwide Communications in 1996. WHK was then sold by OmniAmerica three days later to Salem Communications months later - marking the first time in fifty years that WMMS and WHK weren't under common ownership. John Gorman departed for CBS Radio/Detroit and independent media consulting, and the new management hired consultant Lee Abrams and reverted back to old programming formulas, which by then had become dated and ineffective.

Nationwide was bought out by Jacor Communications in 1998. Following Jacor's takeover, WMMS had a "death of the Buzzard" month-long stunt in October 1998; it was geared as a format change to CHR as "100.7 KISS-FM", but was instead suddenly reversed at the last-minute by management and ended up to be a change in programming philosophy. (The "KISS" format and name did end up several months later on sister station WAKS, which Jacor bought several weeks later.)

A new airstaff was assembled, including Tim Slats in afternoons and Seth "The Barbarian" Williams (who replaced Bill "BLF Bash" Freeman) in overnights. Slats helmed the afternoon drive shift for many years before being replaced by Maxwell (Benjamin Bornstein) in late 2004. In the years ever since, WMMS is still a rock station, playing a mix of old and new, although hot talk programming was added to the programming mix starting in 2006.

On the weekend of Labor Day 2007, the station quietly retired the Buzzard mascot and mention of the WMMS call letters (save for the FCC mandated top of the hour legal ID), instead referring to the station as simply "100.7." Artist Brian Chalmers left the station several years earlier, and would work for WKYC-TVmarker. WMMS debuted a new logo in March 2008. The logo features orange "wings" on both sides of a U.S. Route shield-style sign, paying tribute to "The Buzzard" and the station's great past. As of the 2008 Summer Season, The official website and the radio station itself have been re-re-branded with "The Buzzard" and the "WMMS" Call Signs. Rover has been heard saying "WMMS, The Buzzard."

At this point, the station has not again achieved the #1 total listenership audience spot which they held continuously, more or less, from 1975 to 1991. Additionally, WMMS now carries eleven hours per day of all-talk programming with "Rover's Morning Glory" in mornings, "The Maxwell Show" in afternoons and "Loveline" in late evenings. Regardless, WMMS remains one of the most important rock stations in the history of FM broadcasting. Most recently, WMMS won the Radio and Records Industry Achievement Award of "Rock Station of the Year Markets 1-25" in both 2005 and 2006.

Sports Coverage

Starting with the 2001 NFL season, WMMS has been the FM flagship station for the Cleveland Browns, a distinction it had shared for many years in the 1970s and 1980s with WHK. WTAM (the AM flagship) will carry all Browns games that do not conflict with Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians games (as WTAM is the flagship station for both teams), but will offer separate pre- and post-game shows.

WMMS also serves as the "backup" station for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians, carrying select games of each team when there are conflicts on WTAM. If the Cavaliers are in the playoffs, all conflicted Indians games air on WMMS, while the Cavaliers playoff games air on WTAM. Conversely, regular season Cavaliers games will air on WMMS while Indians games will air on WTAM.

Morning show

Since the dismissal of longtime morning duo Jeff Kinzbach and Ed "Flash" Ferenc in 1994 after a successful run of nearly twenty years, WMMS has been beset by a roster of thirteen different morning shows in as many years. Their immediant successor show, The Brian and Joe Radio Show on the Buzzard Morning Zoo, was moved to afternoon drive in 1996 after an ownership change brought the addition of shock jock Liz Wilde. Her tenure (also dubbed the Morning Zoo) only lasted several months; and her firing sparked a successful lawsuit against the station and Nationwide Communications.

Danny Czekalinski and Darla Jaye were then teamed up with Liz's former newscaster Cory Lingus in late 1997; their effort lasted one year until the takeover by Jacor Communications. (Brian and Joe also left the station at the same time to become the current morning duo at sister station WMVX.) Matt Harris was the morning host in the interim until WMMS hired Dick Dale from Tampa. His tenure also lasted around one year.

In 2001, the station turned to Wolf & Mulrooney from sister station WPYX in Albany, New York. In this instance, the show was simulcast from the Albany station, marking the first time that a morning show on WMMS did not originate from Cleveland or their home studios. The team soon relocated to Cleveland, and lasted several months until an acrimonious high-profile breakup which forced the station to look elsewhere. Other shows such as the Rick and Tom Megalis Show and the Shawn, Christie and Hunter Show came and went in quick succession.

From June 26, 2006 until March 31, 2008 the Bob and Tom Show aired on WMMS. This was the only time since becoming a rock station that WMMS carried a syndicated program in that time slot with no connection to the station.

The current morning show is Rover's Morning Glory, which broadcasts from 6 to 11AM. WMMS serves as the current flagship for the program, which had become the first radio show of its kind to be syndicated out of Cleveland at a previous station.

Maxwell Show

Cast

The Maxwell Show tries to avoid gimmicks by inviting the audience into their lives. Maxwell, Stansbury, and sometimes Chunk share their most intimate details and dark secrets. Both Maxwell and Stansbury frequently discuss instances of sexual abuse that occurred during their childhoods. They also speak candidly about Maxwell's past drug addiction, more specifically with heroin and Oxycontin, and his subsequent stint in rehab back in 2007. Other personal details include Maxwell's sleep apnea, his weight troubles, and his two daughters. Maxwell is married in real life and has two daughters, one from a previous relationship. He previously worked in the Tampa, Cincinnati, and Baltimore markets before coming to WMMS.

Stansbury, who also serves as WMMS' current music director, is the true bachelor of the show, and Maxwell as well as listeners enjoy living vicariously through Stansbury's stories of debauchery. "Chunk" became an occasional on-air contributor after former sidekick "Krackerman" left the show in fall of 2007. While Krackerman was the token black guy, Chunk is similarly asked to lend her perspective as a female. Chunk is a high school dropout with a tender heart, various knowledge loopholes, enjoys cake, and often battles Maxwell and Stansbury in critical show commentary. She was so well-received by the audience, and now is a full time on-air contributor.

WMMS program director Bo Matthews (aka "The Captain" or "Captain Showbiz") also frequently appears on the show. Matthews originally would contribute to the show via cell phone, but eventually had a microphone set up in his office so as to lend his own comments and points of view whenever needed. Area comedian Ryan Dalton will also occasionally appear as a fill-in for either Chunk or Stansbury, or alongside both of them. WTAMmarker sports reporter and Cleveland Browns Radio Network sideline reporter Andre Knott supplies sports updates at the bottom of the hour.

On April 3, 2009, The Maxwell Show went on the air claiming that Metallica - which was to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker in Cleveland the very next day - was going to be playing a free show in the parking lot of their studios at 6:00 p.m. After the first commercial break, Maxwell came on the air and was forced by management to explain that it was only a "prank" and Metallica was not going to be playing in the parking lot. An on-air fight between Maxwell and Matthews subsequently took place live on the air. On April 7, 2009, Maxwell had a meeting with WMMS' operations manager, Clear Channel corporate personnel and Matthews, and was placed on probation for 90 days.

Segments

The Maxwell Show has had several daily, weekly and other less frequent segments over the years: Drive-by Comedy, one of the few segments to have lasted throughout the entire history and evolution of the show, features short segments from prominent stand-up comedians prior to most commercial breaks; New Turd Tuesday, where Maxwell debuts new music, then voted on by both he and the cast as to whether the song is a "turd" or not; The Fixer, a new Wednesday segment where callers seek advice from Maxwell on how to solve life's problems (despite Maxwell's admitted inability to solve his own); Legalize This!, where local attorney Pasquale DiMassa (formerly Drew A. Smith) attempts to answer callers' legal questions (replacing the previous Thursday segment Are You Smarter Than a Yeast Infection? in which callers would compete against Chunk by answering random common knowledge questions); Temporary Program Director occasionally gives callers the chance to offer the show input; the Chuckle Hut, now retired (to much of the show's satisfaction, especially Stansbury's), allowed listeners to call in with their own jokes; Who's That Whore?, in which Maxwell plays one or more audio clips of an unnamed celebrity (mostly females but some male "whores," notably Kid Rock and James Hetfield) — cut to sound sexual — for callers to guess at for various prizes (past prizes include Maxwell's sleep apnea mask and tickets to local events); the nightly penultimate segment, usually around 6:30 p.m., is a "best-of" clip dubbed A Maxwell Show Relapse.

Catch Phrases/Running Gags

Maxwell (and to a lesser extent the other cast members) use a number of catch phrases on the show including Move Your Panties to the Side!, Self-ookie Fanookie, Speaking to the Judge, D-move, A Little Credit, It's Not Your Fault, The Only Way Out Is Through, And Punt!, Whoa Bitch!, Wrong (or Right) Call, Dot Com, Hey Guys, Blueberry-buds, bra and Good Morning! (frequently mispronounced by Maxwell as "Bordnigk!" or "Guuuhd-bord-ninng!"). Running gags include Three Wheels/Two Wheels/One Wheel/The Wheels Have Fallen Off (poking fun at Maxwell's temper and consequently the often gradual disintegration of on-air conversations into heated arguments); slowing down audio for comedic effect (which started after the automation system that runs WMMS played an interview clip severely off-pitch); and veiled references to the Metallica prank (i.e., having a concert/event "on a flat-bed" in the station's parking lot).

A drunken female caller rang the request line asking for help with her son's personal life, Maxwell soon proceeded to make fun of her by imitating a very drunk person saying "I don't give a crap-- I'll take a dump right here,".

Maxwell is an avid fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins and will often half-jokingly invite Stansbury and Chunk to come and watch games with him to which they always decline.

Feuds

Maxwell has had a number of feuds with other radio personalities: Rover of Rover's Morning Glory until his (Rover's) move from rival CBS Radio owned WKRK in mid-March 2008 (Maxwell now maintains he is "in the Rover business"); Opie and Anthony over their show's alleged copying of bits and other comedy routines (Opie and Anthony originally aired tape delayed on WKRK opposite Maxwell, revealing the origin of Maxwell's catch phrase "Good Morning," itself mocking the irony of O & A's morning show airing in the afternoon); and perhaps most notably, fellow Clear Channel host Mike Trivisonno of WTAMmarker.

On April 4, 2008, Trivisonno called Maxwell an "asshole" and "cunt" in the hallway of the Clear Channel Cleveland studios. Trivisonno then told Maxwell, "I don't give a crap-- I'll take a dump right here," and then proceded to do so. After heavy cleaning of the hallway, a small stench and stain remains. This incident started a feud with Trivisonno, who battles Maxwell for the top afternoon show in the Cleveland ratings. Following the budget-related dismissal of Trivisonno's original sidekicks Marty Allen and Paul Rado in April 2009, both Rover and Maxwell started an on-air feud with Trivisonno (who, coincidentally, was not permitted to openly address it on his show).

Maxwell is also very much against many forms of digital distribution, such as podcasting the broadcast, and social networking. He claims that they hurt ratings as no one will listen to the radio if they are offered. Maxwell is also strongly against Wikipedia claiming that "Anyone can edit those pages, how do you know what you're reading is fact?". Stansbury takes the opposite side almost every time the issue is talked about.

Cancellation

Maxwell often mentioned that his contract would expire in 2010 and hinted that he would demand a substantially higher salary and more control over his show's content. On November 23rd, Rover announced on his show, Rover's Morning Glory, that negotiations came to a halt when Maxwell's "ridiculous demands" prompted Clear Channel to cancel the show. Although no official announcement was made by either Clear Channel or WMMS, links and references to The Maxwell Show were immediately removed from the WMMS website.

Later that same day, Chocolate Charlie and Dumb of Rover's Morning Glory debuted The Experiment, a temporary show which was originally planned for one day, but has run in Maxwell's time slot each day since the cancellation. So far each segment of the show has consisted of both music and talk on The Captain's recommendation.

On the day following the announcement of the show's cancellation, Maxwell Show became the 17th hottest search trend on Google. An online petition called "Bring Back Maxwell Show" was started by listeners hoping to convince the radio station to bring it back. The petition has over 2,200 signatures as of December 1st, 2009.

References

  1. [1] MWL Friday April 4th Part 1 :Throwdown / Sports With Chuck Galeti !. Accessed April 26, 2008.


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