CLEVELAND - They are as zany as ever. That's a good thing because it was their senses of humor that held the attention of tens of thousands of listeners when they rocked on WMMS radio during the 1970s and 80s.
Though they sport gray hair and a few more lines in their faces, Jeff Kinzbach and Ed "Flash" Ferenc still know how to hold an audience the way they did when they were among the centerpieces of the Buzzard Zoo show on WMMS.
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Without the campaign they pushed on WMMS during the 1980s, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum might not have located in Cleveland. This year, the Rock Hall, which has held its induction ceremonies in New York, will move the ceremony to Cleveland.
So Cleveland is taking a long nostalgic look at the events that led to the opening of the Rock Hall in 1995 at Northcoast Harbor in downtown Cleveland. It was Kinzbach, Ferenc, and several other voices that comprised the "Buzzard Zoo" bunch that pushed northeast Ohioans to telephone USA Today newspaper and vote for Cleveland when the publication launched a campaign asking where a Rock Hall should be located.
"If we didn't take the initiative to do that, I don't think that the Rock and Roll Hall would have been here," said Flash Ferenc in between his introductions of music at WNCX, where he an Kinzbach were guest hosting a show. "We used the power of the radio station."
WMMS, with high ratings, was a powerhouse radio station. With its morning jokes, laughter, music and crazy humor, station management knew it had the ears of much of northeast Ohio. Kinzbach and Ferenc unashamedly campaigned for Cleveland, pleading for listeners to telephone USA Today to vote for Cleveland--it worked. Clevelanders inundated the phone lines for many days.
During a recent interview at WNCX, the guys recalled those days. Kinzbach said Cleveland had a long history in rock and roll music.
"Cleveland actually sold more albums per capita than any other place in the world and that's really got us on to the rock and roll capital," said Kinzbach, now working fulltime in the trading of stocks and commodities.
Ferenc echoed that sentiment. He is a public information specialist for Cleveland Municipal Court, but he also hosts a weekly interview show on WERE. Still, when he is speaking into a microphone on a rock and roll show, you get the feeling that kind of work still is in his heart.
"We were 19 years old when we got into radio," said Ferenc. "This was a hobby; imagine getting paid for this kind of thing," he laughed.
He and Kinzbach laughed a lot on their old "Buzzard Zoo" radio show. It was better than an alarm clock to get northeast Ohioans out of bed. Whatever was in the news that was zany or crazy found its way onto the show. The disc jockeys commented on politics, sports, entertainment and anything else that was on the minds of their listeners. In between, they played the rock music of the day.
Kinzbach recalled the day Bruce Springsteen, not yet a household name, came to Cleveland for a concert. To promote the show, Springsteen showed up at the radio station and the guys did not know much about him.
"Can you imagine?" Kinzbach smiled, "Springsteen was here in our studio."
The memories brought loud guffaws of laughter from the two. They worked together for nearly 20 years and admitted they were like an old couple.
"We actually finish each other's sentences," said Kinzbach, sporting a full head of gray hair, but looking much as he did when he was one of the big mouths on the "Buzzard Zoo" show.
As for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2012 Induction Ceremony being held in Cleveland, the two believe it ought to be in this city every year. As it stands now, once every three years, the powers behind the Rock Hall move the induction ceremonies out of New York and into Cleveland.
"It ought to be here every year," shouted Kinzbach. "You got that right," echoed Ferenc.
Watching Jeff and Flash in the radio studio of WNCX is like walking down memory lane with the two. Their patter is as precise as ever. Their timing, like that of good comedy duos, is impeccable. They obviously possess a general like for each other.
Radio has changed over the years in many ways. But there is still need for voices like those of Jeff and Flash. When asked if they ever consider returning to radio on a full-time basis, they both smile sheepishly and say in so many words, "Well, you don't know what's gonna happen." After that always come a big belly of laughter.
Each man has found a pathway to new careers where they have had steady paychecks. Still, you get the feeling that radio plays a big part of their hearts. With all the celebration surrounding the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame's Induction Ceremony in Cleveland, the guys are at the center of much attention again. Just as they were when they pushed listeners to telephone USA Today and "vote for Cleveland" for the Rock Hall location.
It took a lot more to land the facility on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland. Money played a big part, of course--so did politics. But it was a couple of guys with big voices on the radio who talked up Cleveland.
"They ought to give us a wing over there at the Rock Hall," said Flash. "Yeah," echoed Jeff. "We wouldn't want much." That brought a howl of laughter.
Then Jeff turned back to the WNCX microphone just as he had done many thousands of times when radio was his fulltime gig.
"Here's another hit comin' up from the past," he said. "It's Lowrider." As he announced the title of the song, Flash said the words also in his microphone.
The two guys were in sync. Just as they were years ago.