35th Anniversary: The Hit King: Kid Leo

Once upon a time,our claim to pop fame could be summed up on a T-shirt: “Home Of The Buzzard.” WMMS, Cleveland’s FM giant, ruled the music world, and Kid Leo owned the airwaves with the best playlist since Alan Freed and the coolest voice ever, a rap born somewhere between Murray Hill and Asbury Park.

We named Lawrence J. “Kid Leo” Travagliante one of the city’s most interesting people in January 1978, noting that the then-27-year-old “has a strong — if not the strongest — following of young radio listeners locally.” (He even made our 2002 list of 30 people who defined Cleveland.)

After leaving WMMS in 1989 to be a vice president at Columbia Records in New York, Leo is back in radio as a DJ and program director for Sirius Satellite Radio’s Underground Garage channel (that’s 25 for all you listeners out there). We caught up with Leo as he was organizing a charity event for the T.J. Martell Foundation — he’s on the board of directors for the nonprofit, which raises money for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research.

These days, he’s not too keen on rehashing the oldies. “I really don’t think there’s anything left to say about the past,” he says. “It has been covered, and covered and covered ad nauseam.” But he does cherish his glory days, like the time The Who roared through “Tommy” at Music Hall, while an unknown folkie got booed off the stage. “I was on college radio [at Cleveland State] and dreaming of ‘going pro,’ ” he remembers. “You have to admit the guy who thought of putting James Taylor between the James Gang and The Who was a boob.”

Away from the mic, he describes himself as an empty-nester-in-training: “The Kid’s ‘kids’ are all grown up.” His daughter, Valeri, develops talent at Sony Entertainment, and son, Dion, recently graduated from college and is “focused on becoming one of the ‘masters of the universe’ you read about in the business section,” he says. “Jackie, my wife, is still shining bright.”
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