Few radio stations ever wielded as much influence as Cleveland’s WMMS.
In its 1970s heyday, the station that told listeners to “turn up the volume and tear off the knob” single-handedly made the lake-front city the Rome of rock ’n’ roll.
WMMS (100.7 FM) was always one of the first to play new bands. And its on-air personality was like a nonstop party. Everybody listened to it, and as a result, Northeast Ohio audiences were among the most knowledgeable in the country. In their early days, Roxy Music would draw 10,000 in Cleveland, then head to Pittsburgh the next night and play in a small club.
To tell the story of the rise of WMMS, Dave Jingo, a Canton filmmaker, is making a documentary. He is raising funds and also looking for WMMS memorabilia — T-shirts, mugs, hats. He also wants stories from fans — a concert, interaction with a DJ, a new band they got hip to because of the station — that will help tell the story. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a donation, go to fracturedatlas.org. The film also has a Facebook page.
“I’m trying to get a groundswell of support,” said Jingo. “Back in the ’70s, if you were a rock fan in Northeast Ohio, you listed to MMS. The fan base was so devoted and enthusiastic, and I think that 30 to 40 years later, people will still be enthusiastic [about the film].”
WMMS is still on the air, of course, but those heady days of rock radio are gone. The signal could always be received in Youngstown, although not as strong as local channels. It depended on what side of town you were on.
One local man who tuned into WMMS and tore off the knob in the ’70s is Al Cerritelli of New Middletown. Back then, Cerritelli was the lead singer of the Great Lakes band, a Youngstown-based act that played a lot of shows in Cleveland.
“I get a thrill listening to the Underground Garage on Sirius today because [former WMMS DJ] Kid Leo is on, and in the same time slot,” said Cerritelli, who can still name just about all of the station’s on-air personalities.
“For what we were doing, I would not look to local radio,” he continued. “I looked to WMMS. We pursued the Cleveland music scene and played a lot of shows at the old Agora in downtown.”
Cerritelli recalled one particular night when his band was playing the Agora. In the back of the room, standing alone, was a young Elvis Costello, who had a gig there the next night. Costello was just starting out, but Cerritelli knew of him because of WMMS, and walked up to him and introduced himself.
TOP 10 ALBUM PRODUCED AT STUDIO IN BOARDMAN
Aaron Tveit, a star of Broadway (“Catch Me If You Can,” “Next to Normal”), film (“Les Miserables”) and television (“Graceland”), also has a Top 10 album.
A few weeks ago, the New York-based stage and screen star released “The Radio in My Head: Live at 54 Below,” a live album recorded in the spring at Tveit’s sold-out run of cabaret shows in the Big Apple.
As of this writing, it has peaked at No. 10 on the iTunes pop chart, No. 6 on Billboard’s Heat Seekers, and No. 1 on Amazon’s Musicals and Soundtracks chart.
“The Radio” is Tveit’s first solo album, and it includes songs from Broadway and pop radio that have been part of his life. Included is a slyly serious version of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” which surprised the audience and drew laughs.
What is just as surprising is where the album was created: Boardman.
Michael Moritz mastered and produced “The Radio” for Broadway Records at his Kontinuous Jams recording studio on Market Street.
Moritz is a pianist and band leader who has been working with Broadway entertainers for the past couple of years.
The Youngstown native, in fact, is one of the producers of “Big Fish, the Musical,” a highly anticipated Broadway show that opened in reviews at the Neil Simon Theater this month. It opens Oct. 6.