Not all local music heroes make music. Some of the greatest broadcast it.
Here in Cleveland, since 1987, we’ve had one such hero on our radio. Every Saturday night for over 30 years, you could tune your dial to 98.5 WNCX and hear the raspy voice of Mr. Classic, who would take your requests and play as many as he could fit into his block.
On Saturday, August 4th, 2018, Mr. Classic broadcasted his final House Party, saying “Good night ya maggots!” for the last time. Saturday nights haven’t felt quite the same since.
Thankfully, WNCX’s website has preserved the playlist of songs he queued that night.
Immediately, it was obvious what I was supposed to do. I quickly jumped on Spotify, and set myself to building a playlist. You can hear that playlist now, and bring back a little taste of the Saturday Night House Party of old. As always, it starts with “(Ain’t Nothin’ But A) House Party” performed live by J. Geils Band, followed by the immortal “Illegal Smile” by John Prine. And as always, it ends with “Maggot Brain”.
I wish I could add Mr. Classic’s shouting voice into the playlist: “House Party- Saturday Night!” How many times he said those words to me personally, I couldn’t count. I kept him on speed-dial.
My favorite memory is a time I got my request played in five minutes flat. A couple weeks earlier, I had called him and won a contest. The prize was two tickets to the boat show at the IX Center. I didn’t have any interest in boats, so I gave the tickets to my parents. While they were out, I invited over a lady I was seeing at the time. Great things happened.
So, the next Saturday night, I called up ‘Mr. C’ and told him the story. He screeched one of the loudest, most excited woops I have ever heard. “Glad I could help you get laid!” He was ecstatic, and honestly, so was I. Five minutes later, he played me “Little Guitars” by Van Halen, a song he introduced me to, complete with the flamenco intro. I’ll never forget that. Unbeknownst to him, my mother walked into my room just as he was playing our conversation on the airwaves. I think she scolded me, but I was too busy Spanish air-guitaring to notice.
Thanks, Mr. Classic, for being such a personality, for helping to bring the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland, for introducing me to Frank Zappa and Dr. Hook and “Funky Poodle,” and for being so consistent for so long when little else seemed to be so.