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Buzzard's Best Days 

New book looks at WMMS' Golden Age.

The Saints marched into the Beachland Tavern on October 25. - WALTER NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • The Saints marched into the Beachland Tavern on October 25.

John Gorman's new memoir, The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio (Gray & Company), tells the story of 100.7-FM WMMS and how local rock fans turned the radio station into a national tastemaker. It helped cement the city's reputation as one of the great rock and roll towns.

Gorman came to Cleveland from Boston and worked at the station from 1973 to 1986. He summarizes his role as a leader of "a championship team of creative renegades at what was then the world's best rock and roll station. We led. Others followed."

The book was edited by The Plain Dealer's Tom Feran, who also penned Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland TV's Wildest Ride. Drawing on records and notes from programming assistant Rhonda Keifer, Gorman recalls a colorful staff of DJs and behind-the-scenes characters — including faves like Kid Leo and Len "Boom Boom" Goldberg.

In its heyday, WMMS — also known as "the Buzzard" — was a groundbreaking alternative at a time when the city didn't have many musical options. In the late '70s and '80s, the station broke all local ratings and revenue records while helping artists like David Bowie, the Pretenders, Rush, and Bruce Springsteen get national traction. As the '80s went on, the station warmed up to college-radio staples like New Order and Culture Club, and even earned grudging respect from the counterculture.

Recalls Alternative Press founder Mike Shea, "We had to give them some props for at least trying to be with-it and give commercial radio in town a breath of fresh air from the monotony of mid-'80s pop that was being forced down our ear canals every time we hit the dial."

Hear a long interview with Gorman and Shea at iTunes (type in "AP podcast") or www.altpress.com.

Pagans keyboardist Charles "Chas" Smith died Tuesday, October 16, after a struggle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, double pneumonia, and a severe stroke. He was 50. Smith earned an undergraduate degree in punk with the band in the '70s and '80s. More recently, he fronted Einstein's Secret Orchestra (ESO) and toured as Cobra Verde's keyboardist. He wrote three musical textbooks and was a music professor at Cleveland State University, where his History of Rock and Roll class was one of the school's most popular courses. Read more at www.chastribute.com.

• The Canton Christian pop punks of Relient K remind rock fans that Jesus is the reason for the season on their new Christmas album, Let It Snow Baby . . . Let It Reindeer, which features traditional tunes like "Deck the Halls" as well as original songs like "I Hate Christmas Parties."

• Legendary DJ Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow will appear at the Rock Hall (One Key Plaza) at 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 3, to sign copies of his new book, Doo Wop: The Music, the Times, the Era. A weeklong Rock Hall tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis also kicks off Monday, November 5.

• 1959 is now Winslow. The soul combo is working on its full-length debut with producer Randy Biddle (Pete Nischt, Tomorrow's Hero), aiming for January release. Winslow plays Around the Corner (18616-20 Detroit Avenue) on Friday, November 2.

• Visit blogs.clevescene.com for early concert announcements and online exclusives.

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