ramble on: local filmmaker plans documentary on glory days of wmms

For Dave Jingo, WMMS-FM 100.7 was the background noise of his formative years. During its heyday in the '70s and '80s, Cleveland's venerable rock station often would be the first sound Jingo heard upon waking, and he attended more than a few Saturday night parties that wound down to the psychedelic strains of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain," played ritualistically at 1 a.m. by deejay B.L.F. Bash.
Transmitting from the self-proclaimed rock 'n' roll capital of Cleveland, "The Buzzard" (then known as WMMS-FM 101) reached the largest radio audience in the history of Cleveland media. The throaty vocals and blaring guitars of supergroups like The Who and Led Zeppelin also reached Jingo's impressionable teenage ears, all the way down in Canton where he grew up.
"WMMS was king back then," says Jingo, 49. "It's a part of rock history."
Jingo aims to keep that golden era of radio alive and kicking through a documentary. With a working title of Loud and Proud: Tales of the Buzzard, the film would cover the magical congregation of music and on-air personalities that made WMMS a symbol of Northeast Ohio pride during an era when the local economy was down and the sports teams were tanking.
The filmmaker and his brother Bill are trying to raise an estimated $200,000 for the project through the public charity website Fractured Atlas. The siblings also are blitzing Facebook and other social media outlets looking for WMMS memorabilia, photos, film footage and general support. The documentary's Facebook group has 170 members, and Jingo believes there's a buzz around the film getting made. If all goes well, footage, photographs and interviews with deejays (and hopefully a few rock stars) will be combined with a period-friendly soundtrack of '70s rock songs.
"The community's excited about the project -- we've already gotten people offering old [WMMS] recordings," says Jingo. "Getting people interested is step one."
There's no timetable for the venture, though Jingo hopes to start production sometime next year. The idea for the WMMS documentary germinated after former station program director John Gorman released his 2007 book, "The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock." The memoir, a behind-the-scenes account of the rocking FM station's halcyon years, motivated Jingo to reach out to the author and float the idea of a film.
Most documentaries about radio stations and the music business are told from an industry perspective, notes Jingo. Loud and Proud would give a megaphone to the listeners who remember WMMS as a trendsetting station that introduced national rock acts to the rest of the country. The film would cover the ear-pleasing enterprise from its inception in the late ’60s, when station management built a roster of voice talent that would, for the most part, remain intact for over a decade, spinning a newfangled album-orientated format comprised of such artists as Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie and Joe Walsh.
Jingo's movie-making résumé includes several credits, among them the documentary Thirteen and O: The Story of the 1981 Canton McKinley Bulldogs that he co-directed with his brother. For Loud and Proud, the duo already has put together a buzz reel featuring brief interviews with Gorman, “Buzzard Morning Zoo” newsman Ed “Flash” Ferenc, and account executive Murray Saul. The filmmaker expects to record numerous tales centered around the holy triumvirate of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, but Jingo also wants to drum up WMMS as a Cleveland success story that in many ways changed the face of music history.
"It was a perfect storm of young guys breaking the mold in radio when rock was exploding," he says.
Jingo carries nothing but fond memories of his favorite radio station. He and his brother ditched school to attend a WMMS-sponsored John Mellencamp concert, whiling away that late-August day with a 20-song acoustic set that included Mellencamp's original work as well as covers of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. 
Although Jingo is no musician ("I'd mess up playing the triangle," he jokes), WMMS taught his teenage self the ways of rock 'n roll. He once wrote a letter to popular deejay Kid Leo asking where he could find the Led Zeppelin song "Hey Hey What Can I Do." Leo wrote back, informing young Jingo that the tune was on the B-side of the English rock sensation's "Immigrant Song" single.
The moment was an eye-opener for the music-loving teen. "It was awesome that this deejay wrote back to me," says Jingo. "It was things like that that made me feel WMMS was more than some radio station. It was a family."
The station also was the social media outlet of its time, Jingo notes. It was through the FM powerhouse that he first heard about the death of John Belushi, as well as the demise of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.
Rock has its share of sad stories, but Jingo doesn't want his film to be a scorecard of music-centric tragedy. Instead, Loud and Proud will be a nostalgic look back at a kickass age of gloriously head-splitting music bolstered by a dedicated fanbase that tuned in daily to hear what was new.
"The goal is to tell of something positive that came out of Cleveland," says Jingo. "If you love rock 'n roll, then you're the audience for this film."   

Dave Jingo photos Bob Perkoski 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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