WLAV, WERX (Jan.-June 1968) (RIP)
Boy, I don’t know. I guess the down side of living this long is having to say goodbye to too many dear friends.
The loss of “Uncle Buck” Ed Buchanan earlier today is a tough one.
Ed went into the office of John Shepard (then owner of WLAV AM & FM) in early 1973 and somehow convinced John (who only cared about Frank Sinatra music) that playing ‘Album Rock’ on his failing FM station might be a good idea. John agreed to 8 hours worth on Saturday and Sunday nights. Realizing he didn’t want to work an 8 hour shift, Ed called my mom and asked her if she could find me (I was living on Heritage Hill) and ask if I wanted to do some radio.
Ed knew I had a good collection of LP’s already ‘and’ that, since I had been hanging around WLAV AM for a few years because of my Soul Benders records, he also was aware that I knew how to ‘run a board’. (That’s what we call the thing with all the knobs on it).
My mom got a hold of me, it sure sounded like fun, so I said “yes”. For the next 3 or 4 months, it was Ed from 8-midnight and then I came in and played tunes from midnight to 4am.
After those few months, John had heard some good things about it from some of his friends, so he agreed to let us do our little radio party ‘every night’ from 8p-4am. At 4am, I’d sign off and hit a button that would re-start the ‘automated Oldies’ that was on the station during the day, and that ran until the next night when Ed would come in…and turn it off at 8 and we’d do it all over again. We played whatever we wanted. No format. No rules.
After about 8 months or so, in late 1974, John agreed (because we actually showed up in the ratings – a paltry less than “1 share” but it was more than the Oldies were getting) to let us take this “party” and do it all day – every day. And thus: WLAV Rock radio was born.
It’s simple. If he hadn’t gone into John’s office that day, ‘or’ if he hadn’t made that call to my mom, I would never have had a career in radio. And it’s quite possible there would never have been an LAV at all.
We always had a great relationship. When he was ‘boss’ he only yelled at me one time – and I deserved it. And that rift lasted only for a day.
Thankfully, we kept in touch all these years. About 6 or so years ago, he decided he wanted to cash in his record collection, so for about 3 weeks, I was at his house for a few hours a day sorting thru stuff that I was going to sell for him and then we’d often wrap the night off with sitting in his back yard, pounding down some adult beverages, listening to the Tigers lose on his tiny tabletop radio while reminiscing and laughing about some of the stupid fun things we had gotten away with all of those years.
We never once lost ‘that bond’ that we had created some 45 years ago.
Rest well, ‘Bucko’.
And thanks for giving me that ‘one chance.’
Grand Rapids and West Michigan lost the golden voice of Ed Matuszak Buchanan this morning. Ed died of a heart attack at age 69.
Facebook was lighting up with an avalanche of friends and colleagues, all of whom referred to him as a really fun guy with a terrific sense of humor. All true. I ought to know. Ed was my college roommate in 1969, 1970 and afterward in 1971 and 1972.
He was best known for his skilled craft on the radio with WXTO, WLAV-FM and WCUZ. Indeed he was a pioneer and one of the legends in the business.
Longtime friend Gordon Wolotira, now living in New York, was a partner in crime with Ed more than 50 years ago in their efforts to do radio.
“I first met Ed in the fall of 1963 when he transferred to Grand Rapids Catholic Central. He had been a friend of Rich Keil. Along with Jim Schaefer and Mike Zalewski, we created the Ogres in the winter of 1964/65 as a GR rec league hoops team, and continued it in the summer as a baseball team. Wins were scarce (I don’t remember any), but our efforts were always sincere. You know the rest of the story.”
Indeed I do. I became involved with the Orges in the summer of 1968 and noticed a bunch of guys who got together every Sunday to play baseball just like it was depicted in the popular film “The Sandlot.”
The trivia and fun that surrounded the group grew to almost historic and illogical proportions. For example, Bennett Cerf was Commissioner of Ogre Baseball and was succeeded after he died by Tom Poston, who sent a mysterious autographed photo in 1971 saying, “Best wishes to the Ogres.” After a raucous and contentious convention in 1972, he was replaced by Marlin Perkins.
Ed was undisputed general manager and ringleader of the Ogres. Jim Wasserman and I formed the dissident Players’ Association and led a strike in 1969 that got us 300% across the board salary raises, but we lost on the issues of free cold ones and “women of free and easy virtue hanging out around the dugouts.”
Ed also organized the Ogres bowling team, for which I joined at the state tournament in 1976, and he set up the golf team that played in leagues.
Ed also organized a Strat-O-Matic table baseball league, a tag team wrestling league that included him as a member of “The Great White Whales.” He was a key member of a table hockey league with his team, the Frankfort Flounders that just couldn’t beat Wasserman’s Maple City Seedpods.
Ed was bassist for the 4Qs pimple rock band loosely formed in 1968-69 at Grand Valley State University and often promoted on air the band’s revival tune “Wayland,” which he claimed was performed live at the Dorr Pop Festival. He also started the Ed Buchanan Comedy Hour Sunday nights, featuring Back Slide Slim with musical reviews that included the first scathing report of Eric Carman ripping off the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Ed introduced me to the Firesign Theatre and the Bonzo Dog Band. I introduced him to classical music and he thanked me often.
Through it all, Ed started and remained as a legend in the radio business. I remember sitting in the studio with him in 1968 for Father Hugh Michael Behan’s WXTO on the Aquinas College campus. Ed later had his own show on “WLAV-FM, with solid rock and gold.” His eclectic music tastes permitted him to do country at WCUZ, particularly as a sidekick to Dick Richards for the popular comedic “Dick and Buck” show.
After I moved to Albion in 1976, we grew apart and rarely saw one another. One time, I noted that he was upset that his stepson wanted to wear an earring, failing to remember that he had rattled his parents two decades before with long hair.
The last time I remember speaking with Ed was in 2007 when I failed to get him to sit in for a Rock ‘N Roll Trivia Show at Bay Pointe Restaurant. He was too busy doing a Fat Tuesday show on WLAV the next morning.
Ed and I in 1975 put together an Ogre Yearbook, of which there still are a few copies floating around. It was first distributed at the third annual Ogre Banquet, the last I ever attended.
So I knew Ed for half a century, though not all that well over the last 30 years. One quirk I do remember is that he had a terrible weakness about funerals, sometimes strangely not showing at what he cynically called ”festivities.” So I wasn’t surprised when Sue Zalewski told me the service for Ed won’t be in a church, but instead is likely to be a wake in Grand Rapids bar. How fitting!
Rest in Peace, Ed. Your voice will be missed. And so will you.