These two books feature some of the historic times of Cleveland radio, and are rich with tales from a time when radio was not so predictable, in playlist format and personalities.
One of my favorite television shows growing up was “WKRP In Cincinnati”. I loved watching the crazy deejays on the show, especially Dr. Johnny Fever, and the high jinxes that occurred on the program. Many times as a child, I would play my records and tapes, pretending to have my own radio show by channeling my inner Casey Kasem and Wolfman Jack. Even though some of the stories on WKRP was thought to have been made up for the show, there were many crazy deejays and radio station personalities across the country whose stories influenced the show. In their book “Cleveland Radio Tales” ( Gray & Company Publishers, 2017), Mike and Janice Olszewski tell some of the stories that were experienced from radio stations in Cleveland Ohio.
The book details many different unique, and just plain odd, people that worked at the area radio stations, including on-air talent like “Count” John Manolesco, who performed a live exorcism on the air (who also claimed he was a vampire and an astrologer), to the legendary story of how Jack Paar, before he went on to become the host of “The Tonight Show,” stopped the city from panicking during the broadcast of Orson Wells’ reading of “War of the Worlds.” The book tells a story about Murray Saul, who worked for WMMS, and held a big party at his apartment with complete strangers only to wake up the next day to the place being looted, to the times the WMMS staff ran up huge bar tabs on the company’s accounts.
There are some great brief stories about musicians and acts that came into the radio stations, such as Gene Simmons of Kiss, Michael Anthony of Van Halen, an incident at Blossom Music Center involving Greg Allman and a flying bat, to why The Moody Blues were in their dressing room at Cleveland Public Hall holding on to their gear. The book tells a quick story about how great wrestling managers Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Jimmy Hart were to the staff at WMMS.
The book covers pirated radio stations, some country stations on the AM dial, and other tales from Cleveland radio’s past. Some of the stories involve the time Leonard Nimoy wanted Jim Morrison to be on the television show “Star Trek”, when a deejay lost the company car after being at the local bar too long, and a story of an on-air talent who hid drugs in the wall when he was leaving the station to go elsewhere, only to find the drugs in the same spot two years later when he returned to the station.
The book is a short read (188 pages), with short chapters. Some of the stories are quick and not elaborate in detail, due to the many tales in the book, there is only so much that the authors could possibly put in the book. The short read makes the book enjoyable and one that Cleveland historians would enjoy, along with those that grew up listening to their favorite Cleveland radio personalities.
“Cleveland Radio Tales” by Mike & Janice Olszewski (Gray and Company Publishers, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-938441-90-5) is available at http://www.grayco.com or at 800-915-3609.
In his book “Lanigan In The Morning: My Life In Radio” (Grey & Company Publishers, 2017), John Lanigan takes the readers through an interesting journey through his radio and television career.
Lanigan is a well known radio and television personality in the Cleveland, Ohio markets, but the early chapters of the book tells the reader that he is really from Nebraska. Lanigan was born in San Diego, and moved to Nebraska when his father decided to help with the family hardware business. Lanigan’s football dreams ended early, which started his love for radio, spinning records at a local radio station in Nebraska. Lanigan then went on to do radio in Colorado (where he befriended a young John Denver), New Mexico, and Dallas before ending up in Cleveland (at one time his weather man in Cleveland was Al Roker, whom Langian tells a funny story with Roker and him at a TV Awards show).
Lanigan talks about his television career, which he was famous for “The Prize Movie” show on WUAB in Cleveland, where he had several famous guests come in and help him host the show (which included Don Rickles, Drew Carey , and Arnold Schwarzenegger to name a few). Lanigan tells a story where one reporter was so tired of seeing the contest movie clip (where fans could guess the clip to win money) that the answer was revealed in one of the papers, unbeknown to the viewing audience.
An interesting topic in the book describes how some of the other radio stations used devious tactics to prevent the other stations from succeeding in the markets. This was during a period before the big corporations owned several stations at a time. Lanigan examines his problems with rival Cleveland station WMMS radio crew, along with a feud with shock jock Howard Stern.
There are many great stories in the book , from his failed promotional events, which is something that could been seen on TV’s “WKRP In Cincinnati” with its hilarities, including the time Lanigan was asked to be the Grand Marshal for a Cleveland parade that did not go as planned. There are stories about some of the famous people he met throughout the years, including entertaining stories about Bob Saget, Tony Bennett, and an unknown Barack Obama. He also talks about his favorite interview of all time, which is a touching story, and his return to radio with his show with Mike Trivisonno (another Cleveland legend in radio) and his first thoughts on working with Trivisonno.
Even though the book is pretty short (155 pages) and not in a normal chronological order (which has it’s appeal, but parts jump around at times), the book is entertaining, humorous, and at times, touching. There are some great photographs used in the book (Lanigan interviewing Carrie Fisher during Star Wars, in a car with Clint Eastwood, and a shot of George Hamilton on “The Prize Movie” to name a few). One doesn’t have to just be knowledgeable in Cleveland history to enjoy this book (like this reviewer who grew up outside Youngstown, Ohio and was a fan of “The Prize Movie”). Lanigan and his writers, Peter Jedick and Mike Olszewski, have a nice book on the travels of a radio personality in the pre-internet world.
A Special Thanks to Gray & Company for the book copies for review.
“Lanigan In The Morning: My Life in Radio” by John Lanigan with Peter Jedick and Mike Olszewski ( 2017 Grey & Company, ISBN: 978-1-938441-93-6 or ebook ISBN:978-1-938441-94-3) can be found, along with their other titles, at http://www.grayco.com, or at 1-800-915-3609