Donna Halper was a young D.J. and Music Director at WMMS-FM in Cleveland when she was smitten by the debut album from a hard rock trio from Toronto named Rush. With lead vocals eerily echoing Robert Plant and a Led Zeppelin crunch, this could have been new music from that already-iconic British outfit. But it wasn't, and although the first Rush album was fairly basic, compared to where that group would eventually travel creatively, there was still plenty to admire from a fledgling unit of fine players.
The first song she played that day: May 24, 1974 was the epic "Working Man," but contrary to local Cleveland legend, Halper has said that she did not play the seven-minute cut because she needed to visit the bathroom!
Long songs were popular back in the early days of FM radio so the jocks could leave the studio and go use the facilities. So, even though she didn't need to take that long walk, as Music Director Halper needed to think of her fellow D.J.s in that certain situation, so the epic song became her choice. It didn't hurt that the song was great!
The Boston native moved out to Ohio to join the staff at legendary FM rocker WMMS in 1973. A year later, a friend sent her an import record by a Canadian group that she'd never heard of. Once "Working Man" got on the air in Cleveland, a definite working class town, the requests came pouring in.
Halper's groundbreaking American support was noticed by the members of Rush, who thanked her personally and continue to be good friends with the visionary all these years later. In fact, when Rush got its star in 2010 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, the musicians invited Halper to be on the very short guest lists.
Today, Donna Halper is an Associate Professor of Communication at Lesley University in Cambridge and a noted music and social historian. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak, do it! Halper has a wealth of knowledge and a fine intellect to discuss media and culture. Noted author, her fifth book, "Boston Radio 1920-2010," will clue you in on this city's media origins.