WMMS

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WMMS
WMMS logo.png
City of licenseCleveland, Ohio
Broadcast areaGreater Cleveland
Northeast Ohio
Branding100.7 WMMS: The Buzzard
SloganCleveland's Rock Station
Frequency100.7 MHz
(also on HD Radio)
Translator(s)W256BT/Cleveland 99.1 MHz
First air dateMarch 30, 1946 (experimental license)
November 13, 1947 (commercial license)
September 28, 1968 (as WMMS)
FormatActive rock/hot talk
HD2: Alternative rock
ERP34,000 watts
HAAT183 meters
ClassB
Facility ID73273
Transmitter coordinates41°21′30.00″N 81°40′3.00″W / 41.3583333°N 81.6675000°W / 41.3583333; -81.6675000
Callsign meaningMetroMedia Stereo
Former callsignsW8XUB (1946–47) (experimental)
WHKX (1947–48)
WHK-FM (1948–68)
Former frequencies107.1 MHz (1946–47) (experimental)
AffiliationsCity Club of Cleveland
Cleveland Indians
Compass Media Networks
iHeartRadio
Premiere Networks
Premium Choice
Total Traffic and Weather Network
United Stations Radio Networks
WOIO/Cleveland
OwnerClear Channel Media and Entertainment
(Citicasters Licenses, Inc.)
Sister stationsWAKS, WGAR-FM, WHLK, WMJI, WTAM
WebcastListen Live (Analog/HD1)
Listen Live (HD2)
Websitewmms.com
 
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WMMS
WMMS logo.png
City of licenseCleveland, Ohio
Broadcast areaGreater Cleveland
Northeast Ohio
Branding100.7 WMMS: The Buzzard
SloganCleveland's Rock Station
Frequency100.7 MHz
(also on HD Radio)
Translator(s)W256BT/Cleveland 99.1 MHz
First air dateMarch 30, 1946 (experimental license)
November 13, 1947 (commercial license)
September 28, 1968 (as WMMS)
FormatActive rock/hot talk
HD2: Alternative rock
ERP34,000 watts
HAAT183 meters
ClassB
Facility ID73273
Transmitter coordinates41°21′30.00″N 81°40′3.00″W / 41.3583333°N 81.6675000°W / 41.3583333; -81.6675000
Callsign meaningMetroMedia Stereo
Former callsignsW8XUB (1946–47) (experimental)
WHKX (1947–48)
WHK-FM (1948–68)
Former frequencies107.1 MHz (1946–47) (experimental)
AffiliationsCity Club of Cleveland
Cleveland Indians
Compass Media Networks
iHeartRadio
Premiere Networks
Premium Choice
Total Traffic and Weather Network
United Stations Radio Networks
WOIO/Cleveland
OwnerClear Channel Media and Entertainment
(Citicasters Licenses, Inc.)
Sister stationsWAKS, WGAR-FM, WHLK, WMJI, WTAM
WebcastListen Live (Analog/HD1)
Listen Live (HD2)
Websitewmms.com

WMMS (100.7 FM) – branded 100.7 WMMS: The Buzzard – is a commercial radio station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, serving Greater Cleveland and much of surrounding Northeast Ohio. Widely regarded as one of the most influential rock stations in America throughout its history,[1][2][3][4] the station has also drawn controversy for unusually aggressive tactics both on and off the air.[5][6][7]

Owned by Clear Channel Media and Entertainment and currently broadcasting a mix of active rock and hot talk, WMMS serves as the flagship station for Rover's Morning Glory; the Cleveland affiliate for Skratch 'N Sniff and The House of Hair with Dee Snider; the FM home for the Cleveland Indians; and the home of radio personality Alan Cox. Besides a standard analog transmission, WMMS broadcasts over two HD Radio channels, and is available online via iHeartRadio. The HD2 digital subchannel, which airs alternative rock under the brand 99X, also simulcasts over Cleveland translator W256BT (99.1 FM).

The WMMS studios are located at the former Centerior Energy building in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, while the station transmitter resides in neighboring Seven Hills. The WMMS call letters first referred to an owner – "MetroMedia Stereo" – but have since taken on a variety of other meanings.

Overview[edit]

Created in April 1974 as "an ironic twist on Cleveland's down-and-out reputation as a decaying Rust Belt city," the station's longtime promotional mascot has been The Buzzard.[8] In 1981, Radio & Records identified "the malevolent feathered figure" as "the best-known station symbol in the country."[9] "De-emphasized" in the fall of 2007, the iconic scavenger was revived the following spring to coincide with both the station's 40th anniversary and the arrival of current morning personality Rover.[10][11]

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, WMMS had a stable of personalities that remained fundamentally unchanged,[1][4] attained a dominant market share in the local ratings[4][12][13][14] and posted market record-high figures "never duplicated by any other station."[4][13] WMMS played a key role in breaking several major acts in the U.S., including David Bowie, Rush, and Bruce Springsteen.[1] Station employees went on to take director and executive-level positions in the recording industry, namely with labels RCA, Mercury, and Columbia.[15][16] Considered "a true radio legend," WMMS DJ Kid Leo was chosen for Rolling Stone's "Heavy Hundred: The High and Mighty of the Music Industry" (1980) and named "The Best Disc Jockey in the Country" in a special 1987 issue of Playboy.[16][17] Noted filmmakers, including Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) and Paul Schrader (Light of Day), have called on both The Buzzard and its personnel while preparing for various rock-themed productions.[18][19] WMMS was also a major driving force behind the successful campaign to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland.[1][20]

The station is not without controversy. Although Rolling Stone named WMMS "Best Radio Station" (Large Market) nine straight years (1979–87) as part of the magazine's annual Readers' Poll,[1] the station admitted to stuffing the 1987 ballot following a February 1988 front-page story in The Plain Dealer exposing manipulation.[21][22][23] Seven years later, members of both the station's staff and management pled guilty to disrupting a national broadcast of The Howard Stern Show that originated via the local Stern affiliate, cross-town rival WNCX. A federal offense, the act nearly cost WMMS its broadcasting license.[24]

History[edit]

First years[edit]

On March 30, 1946,[25] radio station WHK – owned at that time by United Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of Forest City Publishing, itself the parent company of The Plain Dealer – launched an experimental FM station under the callsign W8XUB at 107.1 megahertz (MHz).[26] On July 31, 1947, W8XUB began broadcasting at 100.7 MHz.[27] On November 13, 1947, the new FM station transitioned from experimental to commercial status; increased its power; and changed its callsign to WHKX.[28]

WHK-FM (100.7)[edit]

On November 11, 1948,[29] the station adopted the callsign WHK-FM. In 1958, both WHK and WHK-FM were sold to Metropolitan Broadcasting, itself renamed MetroMedia two years later.[26] Like most early FM stations, WHK-FM mostly simulcast the Top 40 programming of its AM sister station. In 1966, in an effort to make the medium more commercially viable, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that FM stations could no longer duplicate the programming of their AM sister stations.[26] Seeing a small but significant groundswell of support for the medium in the market, WHK-FM adopted a new progressive rock format on August 15, 1968. WHK-FM became one of a handful of commercial stations in the country to try that format, many of which were owned by MetroMedia.[26] In order to firmly establish a separate identity, and to reflect the station's ownership,[30] the WHK-FM callsign was changed to WMMS ("MetroMedia Stereo") on September 28, 1968.[31]

Progressive rock (1968–73)[edit]

MetroMedia found major success with progressive rock at KMET/Los Angeles, KSAN/San Francisco, WMMR/Philadelphia and WNEW-FM/New York, but low ratings and revenue in Cleveland led the company to drop the format at WMMS by May 1969. The station first turned to adult contemporary, then Top 40, big band and finally the Drake-Chenault automated Hit Parade '69.[32]

WMMS reverted to progressive rock on September 11, 1970. Following a legal dispute with a competing station owner over non-compete clauses in their contracts, former WIXY personalities Dick "the Wilde Childe" Kemp and Lou "King" Kirby were signed by MetroMedia. The station briefly battled with WNCR of Nationwide Communications, itself filling the void created by the brief absence of WMMS on the rock scene. Key WNCR personnel – including former WHK-FM/WMMS personalities Martin Perlich and Billy Bass, and station newcomer David Spero – were soon hired by WMMS, taking most of their audience with them.[33][34] During this time, WMMS was billed first as "Music Means Satisfaction", and later as the place "Where Music Means Something".[35]

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. Based on considerably high record sales in the Cleveland market, Bowie – in his Ziggy Stardust persona alongside The Spiders from Mars – kicked off his first U.S. tour in the "The Rock Capital" (a term coined by Bass).[36] The WMMS-sponsored concert was a "phenomenal success"[33][37] and prompted the station to sponsor a second show that year – rarely done at that time for an artist's first tour. This second show sold out immediately, and was held at the city's largest venue: Cleveland Public Hall.[37]

In November 1972, WMMS was 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) powerhouse, much in the same vein as its former MetroMedia progressive rock siblings.

Coffee Break Concerts[edit]

During this time, WMMS also began broadcasting a remarkable amount of live concerts, many of which originated in Cleveland and were produced by the station itself. The WMMS 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 over the years, recordings of which are still widely available as bootlegs. The WMMS Coffee Break Concerts were booked by Denny Sanders and hosted by Len "Boom" Goldberg, and later, Matt the Cat. The concert series continued on well into the 1990s and early 2000s, albeit much less frequently.[38][39]

Album-oriented rock (1973–94)[edit]

From "Find Me" to FM powerhouse[edit]

First logo used after station's sale to Malrite.

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

In time, the station adopted new slogans reflecting the callsign: "We're your Modern Music Station" and "your Music Marathon Station."[40][41] Although never used on the air, listeners alternately knew the callsign as an acronym for "Weed Makes Me Smile" and "Magic MushroomS," the latter referencing the somewhat controversial logo used before the Buzzard.[35][42] WMMS also began referring to its frequency in promotions as "101 FM", a rounding-off which continued for the next decade.

Roughly one year after its debut, the Buzzard was arguably the most recognizable logo in Greater Cleveland. Poster by David Helton.[43]

Contrary to what many believe, the choice of the second Malrite logo had nothing to do with Buzzard Day, the annual "folksy event" held in Hinckley Township, Ohio.[44] Rather, WMMS adopted a buzzard as its mascot in April 1974 because of the then tenuous economic state of Cleveland – less than five years away from becoming the first major American city to enter into default since the Great Depression[45] – and the winged-creature's classification as a scavenger. In other words, the carrion-eating bird represented "death and dying" – a darkly comic reflection of the city's decline. EC horror comics, Fritz the Cat, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and even Looney Tunes – all served as inspirations for the "bird of prey with attitude" concept. The station was known as The Home of the Buzzard at first. The Buzzard was the co-creation of Gorman, Sanders and American Greetings artist David Helton.[8]

We joked about the Buzzard becoming Cleveland's Mickey Mouse... a "Buzzard Land" amusement park filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll...

John Gorman

A study conducted by MBA students at Case Western Reserve University in 1975 found that the new WMMS logo was more recognizable to those living in Greater Cleveland than both Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians and even Coca-Cola.[43]

From the onset, Helton's streamlined artwork resulted in an aggressive, yet family-friendly symbol for the station, one that continues to endure more than 40 years later. 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 slogans like "Where Music Means Something" and "Ruler of the Airwaves."

A major contributor to the ratings success was an airstaff that remained fundamentally unchanged for many years: personalities like Kid Leo, Jeff & Flash, Matt the Cat, Dia Stein, Denny Sanders, Murray Saul, Betty "Crash" Korvan, Ruby Cheeks (Debra Luray), BLF Bash (Bill Freeman), TR (Tom Renzy) and the late Len "Boom" Goldberg were invaluable to the station's popularity.[46] Of all the personalities that worked at WMMS, Len "Boom" Goldberg remained 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 hourly IDs, music segues, sweepers, and commercials, and was also a member of The Buzzard Morning Zoo in the mid-80s.

"Born to Run" was the essence of everything I loved about rock 'n' roll. Bruce held on to the innocence and the romance. At the same time, the music communicates frustration and a constant longing to escape.

Kid Leo

WMMS during this period would play a key role in breaking several major acts in the U.S., including: Rush, Roxy Music, Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Fleetwood Mac, Meat Loaf, the Pretenders, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople, Boston, and Cheap Trick. Of special note was the early support of Bruce Springsteen by Kid Leo and others, prior to the release of the Born to Run album. For the station's tenth anniversary in 1978, WMMS hosted and broadcast a live Springsteen concert at the Agora Theatre and Ballroom 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. Right up until his departure in 1988, Kid Leo played "Born to Run" as his signature sign-off song every Friday night at 5:55 to kick off the weekend for area listeners.[1][15][16][47][48][49][50]

World Series of Rock[edit]

The World Series of Rock was a recurring, day-long and usually multi-act summer rock concert held outdoors at Cleveland Municipal Stadium from 1974 through 1980. Belkin Productions staged these events, attracting popular hard rock bands and as many as 88,000 fans. WMMS sponsored the concerts. Attendance was by general admission.[51] Concertgoers occasionally fell – or jumped – off the steep stadium upper deck onto the concrete seating area far below, causing serious injury. The Cleveland Free Clinic staffed aid stations in the stadium with physicians, nurses and other volunteers, and through 1977, made its treatment statistics public. From 1978 on, Belkin Productions conditioned its funding of the Free Clinic on the nondisclosure of the number of Clinic staff on duty at the concerts, the nature of conditions treated and the number of patients treated.[52][53]

Rock Forty and the Rock Hall[edit]

WMMS was directly influenced by then and current sister station WHTZ/New York (Z100), 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 Z100's Scott Shannon onto the show Jeff & Flash (Jeff Kinzbach and Ed 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 was already 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. The change was done for many reasons: as a nod to the sudden influence Z100's format had on the Malrite group; 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 as a means to attract a female audience. By 1984, the WMMS format moved to an CHR/AOR hybrid, playing a great deal of Top 40 rock singles in hot rotation mixed with album cuts; this new blended rock/Top 40 format was soon known by those at the station as Rock Forty. The station also started to devote weekend programming to the classic rock format.[54]

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 Fame to Cleveland. John Gorman, Denny Sanders and Kid Leo organized the original campaign with Tunc Erim, assistant to Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun.

John Gorman and Denny Sanders left the station in fall of 1986, leading 14 staff members with them to start rival station WNCX. Gorman credits his decision to leave to changes in management, and the station's overall shift to a more "corporate" mentality.

Rolling Stone Readers' Poll[edit]

Rolling Stone named WMMS "Radio Station of the Year" nine straight years (1979–87) as part of its annual Readers' Poll, but a February 1988 front-page story in The Plain Dealer revealed station employees had stuffed the annual survey's ballot box for the 1987 poll to allow for the possibility of a tenth straight win the following year. Lonnie Gronek, then general manager of the station, claimed in The Plain Dealer article that the process had gone on "for years", however other accounts dispute Gronek's claim.

The station claimed it was simply "a marketing strategy" and "much in line with what many stations did."[55] Negative reaction was swift and widespread;[21][22] some called the scheme a mere "lack of judgement,"[21] while a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal compared the station's response to that of discredited former Vice-President Spiro Agnew.[56]

Changing times[edit]

By the late 80s, most of the original staff members had departed: John Gorman and Denny Sanders left in 1986 to launch upstart station WNCX, and Columbia Records hired Kid Leo in 1988.[57] Four different program directors, including Rich Piombino and Michael Luczak, came and went with varying levels of success. DJ additions included station engineer Ric Bennett as "Rocco the Rock Dog,"[58] Scooter (WMMS music director Brad Hanson), Lisa Dillon[58] and station veteran Matt the Cat,[58] who returned to the midday slot in 1990 after a two-year absence. However, Matt would be dismissed permanently from the station in late 1992, the victim of budget cuts.

Ratings steadily increased during the time of the First Gulf War, but The Howard Stern Show was soon picked up by a then struggling WNCX. Stern's ratings exploded and this – along with a growing urgency from management not to compete with or mention Stern on the air – led to a sudden and steep ratings decline for The Buzzard Morning Zoo. Matt the Cat was permanently let go in December 1992 due to "budget problems."[58] From 1991 to 1993, WMMS served as the FM flagship for the Cleveland Browns, sharing coverage with then-sister WHK; the late Nev Chandler served as play-by-play announcer.[59] Unable to service its growing debt, Malrite chose to leave radio and sold off all its remaining properties in 1993:[14] WMMS went to Shamrock Broadcasting, the Roy Disney broadcasting firm.[60] Management ordered a change to the Buzzard by giving it a flat-top and mullet.

The station continued to decline during the ownership transition from Malrite to Shamrock; then Shamrock sold both WMMS and WHK to OmniAmerica, a broadcasting company run by former Malrite executives Carl Hirsch and Dean Thacker, which already owned oldies station WMJI. WMMS' decline culminated on April 14, 1994 with the high-profile departure of Jeff Kinzbach effectively ending "Jeff & Flash" on WMMS (Ferenc would leave the station several weeks later; both would pair up again at WWWE).[55] Lisa Dillon, Ric Bennett and Tom Renzy also would depart the station that same day.[26]

The Cleveland Funeral[edit]

Among the most notorious broadcasts of The Howard Stern Show occurred on June 10, 1994.[61] Stern had arrived on the Cleveland airwaves less than two years earlier, and in that time took his syndicated program on rival WNCX from an Arbitron ranking of thirteen to number one.[62] As promised, Stern held a party for his fans on the streets of Cleveland – a "Funeral" for his local rivals, much like similar events held in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia – and broadcast it nationwide.[61][63]

During the now infamous broadcast, WMMS engineer William Alford snipped a broadcast wire used for the Stern show's satellite feed.[24][64] Stern continued on with the program over a phone line as engineers worked to quickly patch together the severed broadcast wire. Alford was subsequently caught, arrested and later sentenced to ten days in jail and a $1,000 fine.[65] Station management initially claimed that Alford acted alone,[64] however WMMS Promotions Director Heidi Klosterman – working under the name Heidi Kramer – later pled guilty to a felony charge of attempted disruption of a public service and a misdemeanor of receiving stolen property; Greg Smith, a former Klosterman colleague, pled guilty to a misdemeanor of breaking and entering.[66]

Alternative rock (1994–97)[edit]

The Next Generation[edit]

Already program director at OmniAmerica station WMJI, station veteran John Gorman returned to WMMS as vice-president and director of operations in early 1994.[67] Gorman changed the WMMS format to alternative rock,[68] playing new acts like Nirvana, The Offspring, and Nine Inch Nails.[68][69] To emphasize this change, WMMS was re-branded and aggressively promoted as Buzzard Radio: The Next Generation, a reference to the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its continuation of the Star Trek franchise.[69][70] Gorman brought back the original Buzzard design, now drawn by David Helton's successor Brian Chalmers.[18] WMMS also lured popular morning personalities Brian Fowler and Joe Cronauer away from rival WENZ – then an alternative rock station known as 107.9 The END – as the successors to Jeff and Flash (Jeff Kinzbach, Ed Ferenc) on The Buzzard Morning Zoo.[71]

While the change in programming alienated many longtime listeners – many of whom switched to WNCX and their full-time classic rock format – WMMS boosted its ratings for the first time in years with a new, younger audience.[67][69] Billboard and Airplay Monitor magazines together named WMMS Rock Station of the Year (Medium Market) in 1995,[72] and Modern Rock Station of the Year (Medium Market) in 1996.[73] John Gorman was named Program Director of the Year (Rock) in 1995.[72]

Despite signs of success, the station was sold again in 1996. WMMS went to Nationwide Communications; longtime sister station WHK went to Salem Communications – the first time the two had ever operated under separate ownership.[69][74][75] The sale came almost immediately after passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a time when radio companies nationwide rushed "at a fever pitch" to acquire new properties.[74] John Gorman – who has since openly criticized the industry's current state – first departed for CBS Radio in Detroit, but soon moved to media consulting.[76][77][78][79]

BuzzardFest[edit]

During this time, WMMS held a series of sold-out rock festivals that featured many of the new up-and-coming artists receiving station airplay. Buzzard-Palooza was the first of these: held in July 1994 at the Nautica Stage, the all-day concert included sets from Collective Soul, Junkhouse and Fury in the Slaughterhouse,[80] but was cut short after turning into a "rock-and-bottle-throwing melee." Cleveland Police wearing riot gear were called in just as headliner Green Day took the stage.[81] WMMS scheduled a second Green Day performance just two months later – this time at Blossom Music Center – and at a near-record-low cost of $5 per ticket, the station gave fans a "second chance" to see the band live.[82]

The Ramones headlined BuzzardFest '95 the following spring (May 1995) at Blossom;[83] other acts included Our Lady Peace, The Rugburns and Face to Face.[83] BuzzardFest II was held the very next fall (September 1995) – again at Blossom – and featured performances from the Goo Goo Dolls, Alanis Morissette, Jewel, as well as the Dance Hall Crashers, Eleven, Green Apple Quick Step, Prick and Sons of Elvis.[84][85]

The next of these multi-act shows – simply titled BuzzardFest – was held in May 1996 at Blossom Music Center and featured performances from 311 and No Doubt, along with Candlebox, The Nixons, Goldfinger, Gods Child, Dash Rip Rock and the Holy Barbarians.[86]

BuzzardFest 2000 was held June 30, 2000 at the Nautica Stage.[87] Stone Temple Pilots, performing in Cleveland for the first time in six years, headlined the event.[87]

Active rock/mainstream rock (1997–present)[edit]

WMMS owner Nationwide Communications was bought out by Jacor Communications in 1997.[88] Following Jacor's takeover, WMMS ran a "Death of the Buzzard" month-long stunt in October 1998.[89] Geared as a format change to Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) as KISS 100.7,[7][90] the decision was reversed last-minute by management,[12] though the "KISS" brand and format did later end up on WMMS sister station WAKS.[91] In the wake of the month-long stunt, a new airstaff was assembled. Most notably, Slats (Tim Guinane) was hired for afternoon-drive replacing Brian & Joe, who took the morning slot on sister station WMVX, and music director Mark Pennington replaced "BLF Bash" (Bill Freeman) during overnights. Seth the Barbarian (Seth Williams) took the overnight shift when Pennington moved to evenings in 2001.[92]

Less than a year later, Jacor was absorbed by media giant Clear Channel: the May 1999 sale continued the buying frenzy brought on by controversial and far-reaching federal deregulation.

Bo Matthews (Alex Gutierrez), who became program director for WMMS in early 2004, hired Maxwell (Benjamin Bornstein) that April for a more "personality-driven" afternoon show: The Maxwell Show gradually evolved from airing mostly music to all talk, and by 2009 had become the number one afternoon program in several key demographics.[93] LovelineWestwood One's nationally syndicated call-in show hosted by Dr. Drew – aired weeknights from August 2008 through June 2010.[94]

WMMS veteran John Gorman has remained a vocal critic of Clear Channel; Gorman recently commented on the company's former Cleveland executive, Kevin Metheny (the man dubbed "Pig Virus" by Howard Stern during their time at WNBC): "He had a volatile time here. People in radio say he was not an easy guy, that dealing with him was like a daily root canal."[79]

In September 2007, WMMS management chose to "de-emphasize" both the Buzzard and WMMS call letters, referring to the station as simply 100.7, save for the FCC-mandated legal ID at the top of every hour.[10] Regarding the change, WMMS program director Bo Matthews (Alex Gutierrez) said, "… nobody's killing anything... Chief Wahoo is not on every piece of Indians promotional material... Ronald McDonald is not in every McDonald's commercial... We're not losing the letters. All we're doing is shifting an image."[10] By April 2008, the station had reverted to its traditional branding, once again frequently making use of both the noted mascot (in name) and famed call letters – though the station had also opted to replace the classic Buzzard design (David Helton's original is still used for promotional purposes). The change continued the reduced emphasis on the station's earlier years while also acknowledging The Buzzard's storied past. The current WMMS logo displays orange wings on the sides of a weathered black sign in the shape of a U.S. Route shield, with white print reading "100.7 WMMS".[11]

WMMS served as the FM flagship for the Cleveland Browns for a second time from 2002 to 2012, sharing coverage with AM sister WTAM. Games were covered on-site by play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan, sports director for WKYC (TV channel 3); and color commentator Doug Dieken, a former Browns offensive tackle. Play-by-play coverage did not stream online due to league restrictions.[95][96]

Comedian Chad Zumock was co-host of The Alan Cox Show from early 2010 to late 2012; on December 3, 2012, it was announced that he was no longer with WMMS after being arrested for driving while intoxicated.[97] However, on May 3, 2013, Cleveland Scene reported that Zumock had been acquitted of the charge.[98]

At this point, WMMS has not regained the number one total listener audience which it held, more or less continuously, from 1975 to 1991. Additionally, the station now carries more than nine hours of talk programming every weekday (moreover, during drive time). The station's problems are further compounded by lesser emphasis on local personalities (in particular, voice-tracking nights and weekends); ever shrinking and homogenized playlists; over-commercialization; greater censorship; and increasingly limited creative control. Much of this is attributed to the station's current ownership of Clear Channel Communications. Regardless, WMMS remains one of the most important rock stations in the history of FM radio. Radio & Records twice named WMMS "Rock Station of the Year: Markets 1-25" (2005–06) as part of the now defunct publication's annual Industry Achievement Awards.[99][100]

Morning troubles[edit]

From the 1994 exit of Jeff & Flash (Jeff Kinzbach, Ed Ferenc) – themselves enjoying a run of nearly twenty years – until the arrival of Rover (Shane French) in 2008, WMMS was beset by a roster of thirteen different morning shows in as many years. Ross Brittain temporarily filled in prior to the arrival of Brian and Joe (Brian Fowler, Joe Cronauer). Brian and Joe were moved to afternoons in February 1997 after a change in ownership; the station then turned to shock jock Liz Wilde (Anne Whittemore) from WPLL/Miami. Her firing less than a year later sparked a successful lawsuit against both the station and then-owner Nationwide Communications. Danny Czekalinski and Darla Jaye teamed up in October 1997 with Liz Wilde holdover Cory Lingus (Cory Gallant) until August 1998. Matt Harris served in the interim until WMMS hired Dick Dale (Bert Morris) from WPLA/Jacksonville.[101][102]

In 2000 the station turned to Wakin' up with Wolf and Mulrooney (Bob Wolf, John Mulrooney) from sister station WPYX/Albany. The show was simulcast from Albany, marking the first time that a morning show on WMMS did not originate in Cleveland. The team did later relocate to Cleveland, but lasted only months until an acrimonious breakup forced the station to look elsewhere. Other shows, like The Buzzard Morning Show with Rick and Megalis (Rick Eberhart, Tom Megalis) and WMMS Mornings with Sean, Cristi, and Hunter (Sean Kelly, Cristi Cantle, Hunter Scott), came and went in quick succession. The Bob and Tom Show aired from 2006 through early 2008, the only time since adopting a rock format that WMMS carried a syndicated program in that time slot with no connection to the station throughout the duration of its run.[101][103]

The Maxwell Show[edit]

Ohio native Maxwell (Benjamin Bornstein) was hired on for the WMMS afternoon drive in April 2004 following the departure of Slats (Tim Guinane) for rival station WXTM.[104] An experienced on air personality,[105] Maxwell was joined by WMMS music director Dan Stansbury and Chunk (Tiffany Peck), a young phone screener whose role grew significantly during the course of the show's run.

The Maxwell Show began as a mostly a kind-of rock/talk hybrid, but gradually became all talk. Maxwell was known for having feuds with other radio personalities during the show's time at WMMS, including fellow WMMS personality Rover of Rover's Morning Glory and fellow Clear Channel host Mike Trivisonno, airing directly opposite The Maxwell Show on WTAM.

On April 3, 2009, The Maxwell Show went on the air claiming that Metallica – in Cleveland for the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony the very next day – was playing a free show in the WMMS parking lot later that evening. Following the prank announcement, station management placed Maxwell on probation for 90 days. Already strained by ongoing contract renewal negotiations, the incident further alienated the two parties, and by November of that year the show was cancelled.[93]

Studio and transmitter locations[edit]

WMMS studios
LocationYearsAddressPhoto
WHK Building
(now Agora Theatre and Ballroom)
1968–775000 Euclid Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44103
41°30′13.00″N 81°39′14.00″W / 41.5036111°N 81.6538889°W / 41.5036111; -81.6538889
5000 Euclid Ave. - Cleveland, OH.jpg
The Cleveland Plaza/Statler Office Tower
(now Statler Arms Apartments)
1977–92Euclid Ave. at E. 12th St., 12th Floor
Cleveland, OH 44115
41°30′2.00″N 81°41′6.00″W / 41.5005556°N 81.6850000°W / 41.5005556; -81.6850000
Statler Arms - Cleveland, OH.jpg
Skylight Office Tower1992–20011660 W. 2nd St., 2nd Floor
Cleveland, OH 44113
41°29′50.00″N 81°41′36.00″W / 41.4972222°N 81.6933333°W / 41.4972222; -81.6933333
Skylight Office Tower - Cleveland, OH.jpg
6200 Oak Tree Boulevard
(formerly Centerior Energy Building)
2001–present6200 Oak Tree Blvd., 4th Floor
Independence, OH 44131
41°23′37.00″N 81°39′42.00″W / 41.3936111°N 81.6616667°W / 41.3936111; -81.6616667
6200 Oak Tree Blvd. - Independence, OH.jpg
WMMS transmitter
AddressTower 2 (primary)Tower 1 (backup)
3650 E. Pleasant Valley Rd.
Seven Hills, OH 44131
41°21′30.00″N 81°40′3.00″W / 41.3583333°N 81.6675000°W / 41.3583333; -81.6675000
Tower 2 - 3650 E. Pleasant Valley Rd. - Seven Hills, OH.jpgTower 1 - 3650 E. Pleasant Valley Rd. - Seven Hills, OH.jpg
W256BT transmitter
AddressTower
2855 W. Ridgewood Dr.
Parma, OH 44134
41°23′1.80″N 81°41′43.50″W / 41.3838333°N 81.6954167°W / 41.3838333; -81.6954167
Tower - 2855 W. Ridgewood Dr. - Parma, OH.jpg

Current programming[edit]

Billboard promoting Rover's Morning Glory in 2010, a parody of the Nike "Witness" ad campaign for LeBron James – then a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers[11]
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Station bumper recorded during 2013 on air broadcast

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Hot talk accounts for all programming during weekday drive times, and the station currently serves as the FM home for the Cleveland Indians. However, WMMS continues to air rock music during middays, nights, and overnights; during all weekend shifts; and continuously on the HD2 digital subchannel. Cleveland Magazine describes the morning and afternoon drive programs as "talk shows with a younger, rock-oriented sensibility", and readers of Cleveland Scene named WMMS the best Cleveland radio station for music in 2009. Scene readers also named WMMS the best station overall in 2010 and 2012.[106][107][108][109]

WMMS airs regular traffic and weather updates via the Total Traffic and Weather Network and former sister station WOIO (TV channel 19), and the station satisfies FCC-mandated public affairs programming on Sunday mornings with the City Club of Cleveland's Friday Forum. Most station imaging is produced out-of-market by national voice talents "David Lee" Olejniczak, Malcolm Ryker, and RenaMarie Villano; additional voice-over audio is produced on-site by WMMS assistant program director Miles Hlivko in a dual role as creative services director. WMMS also transmits text to compatible analog receivers, such as station IDs and artist and song information, via the Radio Data System (RDS); similarly, WMMS transmits text to HD Radio receivers known as Program Service Data (PSD).[110][111][112]

This radio station is known for breaking the rules, changing the game, and being successful. We all have such respect for what this station did back in the day. That will never be done again. All we can do is hope to create something cool so that in 20 years people will say, "Man, remember what WMMS used to be like? It really was an awesome time."

— Outgoing program director Bo Matthews (2004–14)[106][113]

Rover's Morning Glory[edit]

Rover

Radio personality Rover (Shane French), host of Rover's Morning Glory, took over weekday mornings at WMMS on April 1, 2008 following a contract dispute with cross-town rival WKRK-FM; former WMMS program director John Gorman compared signing the popular morning personality to a "coup". Born in Chicago but raised in Las Vegas, Rover worked for stations KISW/Seattle and KXPK/Denver prior to his time in the Cleveland market; the morning host also served as the Midwest replacement for Howard Stern following the latter's move to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006. Co-hosts Duji (Susan Catanese) and Dominic Dieter, as well as phone screener Dumb (Shaun Street), each worked on Rover's Morning Glory before the move to WMMS; since then, the show has expanded to include sound effects producer Chocolate Charlie (Mike Toomey), show producer Rob Garguilo, and former intern Jeffrey LaRocque. The show formerly syndicated to WMFS/Memphis and WRXS/Columbus while at WMMS. Currently the show syndicates to WZNE/Rochester, WKGB-FM/Binghamton, and WAMX/Huntington; simulcasts over Extreme Talk; and replays continuously on a dedicated iHeartRadio channel. Rover is under contract with WMMS through 2017.[114][115][116][117][118]

Described by The Plain Dealer as "testosterone-fueled", the show dominates younger demographics, particularly male listeners ages 18–34. Cleveland Magazine has called the show a "juggernaut", and readers of Cleveland Scene named Rover the best Cleveland radio personality in 2009 (Scene had previously recognized either Rover or his show four straight years, from 2004 to 2007, all prior to the move to WMMS). The broadcast consists entirely of talk, an edgy blend of current events, pop culture, and stories from the staff. Regular segments include "The Shizzy", a daily news update; "Tech Tuesday", where listeners pose consumer electronics questions to an industry expert; and "The Thursday Hook-Up", a call-in dating game. Rover regularly takes calls throughout the show, and often interviews guests in studio and over the phone. Cleveland Police briefly detained Ky-Mani Marley after the singer threatened Rover for comments made during an April 20, 2010 in-studio interview. On October 26, 2010, Rover hired a witch doctor to curse LeBron James after the NBA star left the Cleveland Cavaliers.[106][108][114][119][120]

The Alan Cox Show[edit]

Alan Cox

Radio personality Alan Cox, formerly host of The Morning Fix at WKQX/Chicago and The Alan Cox Radio Show at WXDX-FM/Pittsburgh, took over weekday afternoons as host of The Alan Cox Show on December 16, 2009. Joining the Chicago native are: Erika Lauren Wasilewski, a cast member on The Real World: D.C.; and Bill Squire, a Cleveland area comedian who replaced former co-host Chad Zumock following the latter's exit in 2012. Described by Talkers magazine as "a bold anomaly worthy of industry attention", the show itself has successfully continued the format established by its predecessor The Maxwell Show – all talk during afternoon drive on an FM rock station. The Alan Cox Show is rated #1 in several key demographics, and readers of Cleveland Scene have named Alan Cox the best Cleveland radio personality four straight years (2010–13). In addition to the live broadcast, the show streams a tape delay version on Extreme Talk; is available for online playback through iHeartRadio Talk; and can be downloaded as a podcast through iTunes. Alan Cox is under contract with WMMS through 2014.[106][121][122][123][124]

Cox considers himself more of a comedian than a disc jockey. The show itself rapidly covers a range of topics in a comedic format, from major current events to obscure pop culture; regular segments like "Audio Dump", "Sperm News", and "Why Florida Sucks" typify the show's irreverent style. Cox also frequently takes calls from listeners, and often interviews guests in studio and over the phone. During a June 19, 2012 interview with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, the show broke news of the delayed release for Music from Another Dimension!, the band's first studio album in eight years. On February 9, 2010, the show aired "Parma State of Mind", both a parody of the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys hit "Empire State of Mind" and a way of continuing the Northeast Ohio tradition of poking fun at the Cleveland suburb. Dean DePiero, then mayor of Parma, criticized the song and its accompanying YouTube video: "It's pretty sick. ... The people who put it together aren't even smart enough to know where our city boundaries are." The show also drew national attention after holding a book burning party for Fifty Shades of Grey on July 8, 2012.[122][125][126][127]

Rock music and HD2[edit]

Active rock accounts for nearly all other weekday programming. WMMS personality Maria Calo hosts the midday music shift, including "Under the Covers", a daily segment devoted to cover songs, and "Big Hair Wednesday", a weekly segment devoted to hair metal. WMMS personality "Corey Rotic" Hawkins hosts both the weeknight music shift and The Rock Report, a daily rock news update. Content for the weekday overnight shift, including music and on-air talent, comes from the active rock national format available through Premium Choice. Online, the overnight shift is split between Premium Choice content and a replay of Rover's Morning Glory, a move to reduce music royalties during non-peak streaming hours.[128][129]

Active rock also accounts for nearly all weekend programming. Maria, Corey Rotic, and WMMS assistant program director Miles Hlivko each host weekend music shifts. The Saturday Sanitarium, a local block of Metallica airing Saturday nights, precedes Skratch 'N Sniff, a mashup of rock and hip-hop via Compass Media Networks. On Sunday nights, radio personality Kennedy (Lisa Montgomery) hosts NEW! Discover & Uncover, a showcase of new and unsigned rock artists via iHeartRadio. Also on Sunday nights, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider hosts The House of Hair with Dee Snider, a mix of heavy metal, glam metal, and hard rock via United Stations Radio Networks. All other weekend content either is voice-tracked out-of-market specifically for WMMS, or comes from the active rock national format through Premium Choice. Online, the overnight shift is again split between Premium Choice content and a replay of Rover's Morning Glory.[128][129][130]

99X logo

Alternative rock accounts for nearly all programming on the HD2 digital subchannel. Branded 99X, WMMS-HD2 also simulcasts over Cleveland translator W256BT (99.1 FM). HD2 imaging is produced on-site by Miles Hlivko and Alan Cox Show co-host Erika Lauren. The majority of 99X content, including music and on-air talent, comes from the alternative rock national format available through Premium Choice. On weeknights, Mötley Crüe co-founder Nikki Sixx and radio personality Kerri Kasem host Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx, a mix of talk via Premiere Networks and alternative rock via Premium Choice. On Saturday nights, musician/DJ/producer Diplo (Wesley Pentz) hosts Diplo & Friends, a dance mixset via Premiere. On Sunday nights, Nikki Sixx and Kerri Kasem host The Side Show Countdown with Nikki Sixx, a late night companion to Sixx Sense that counts down twenty top alternative rock songs. Although FM translators in the U.S. are generally not permitted to originate their own programming, the FCC has recently allowed FM translators to simulcast the programming of both AM stations and HD2 subchannels. In effect, this allows radio companies to create additional analog stations, like W256BT, outside the traditional path established by the FCC.[131][132][133][134]

Indians coverage[edit]

WMMS airs approximately 144 Cleveland Indians games each season, serving as the team's FM home in the Cleveland radio market. Nearly all coverage is simulcast with sister station WTAM, flagship for the Cleveland Indians Radio Network. Games are covered on-site by primary play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton and secondary play-by-play announcer Jim Rosenhaus; together, both Hamilton and Rosenhaus provide color commentary. WMMS also airs Indians Warm-Up and Indians Wrap-Up, the network pregame and postgame shows, respectively. Play-by-play itself is limited to on-air; due to league restrictions, the station online stream does not air in-game coverage.[107]

References[edit]

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Books
Documentaries

Further reading[edit]

  • Adams, Deanna R. (2002). Rock and Roll and the Cleveland Connection. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. ISBN 9780873386913. 
  • Adams, Deanna R. (2010). Images in America: Cleveland's Rock and Roll Roots. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738577869. 
  • Gorman, John; Feran, Tom (2007). The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio. Cleveland: Gray & Co. ISBN 9781886228474. 
  • Neer, Richard (2001). FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio. New York: Villard Books. ISBN 9780679462958. 
  • Olszewski, Mike (2003). Radio Daze: Stories from the Front in Cleveland's FM Air Wars. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. ISBN 9780873387736. 
  • Wolff, Carlo (2006). Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories. Cleveland: Gray & Co. ISBN 9781886228993. 

External links[edit]

Current programming