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Cleveland radio pioneer Lynn Tolliver has passed away

Lynn Tolliver (left) defined Cleveland R&B radio in the 1980s and '90s -- not just with music but also unusual promotions and marketing, such as this commercial alongside Detroit Pistons' legend Bill Laimbeer, who claimed Tolliver and Cleveland Cavaliers fans were 'made for each other.' [Youtube]
Lynn Tolliver stands beside Detroit Pistons Bill Laimbeer

Cleveland radio pioneer Lynn Tolliver has passed away following an undisclosed illness. The death was reported online by former colleagues and business associates.

Tolliver spent his early career in Detroit before returning to his hometown of Cleveland to run a new rhythm-and-blues station, WZAK, in 1982. The station topped the ratings and was nationally recognized into the 1990s with Billboard Magazine Awards for unusual marketing and promotional stunts, such as a contest for the world’s largest cockroach — a prank which was referenced in one of the final episodes of "Hill Street Blues" in 1987.

Tolliver himself, as morning DJ, was recognized for his cutting-edge music sensibility. He was also nearly killed in a shooting during a robbery at the station in 1985. The crime has never been solved.

In 2000, Tolliver was the first black recipient of the Cleveland Association of Broadcasters’ Excellence in Broadcasting award.

He was also a musician, putting out songs on Akron-based Heat Records with his group, Sexual Harrassment, which were later sampled by Kanye West and Black Eyed Peas – the latter leading to a lengthy lawsuit.

After leaving WZAK in the late 1990s, he split his time between Ohio and Florida, and recently hosted the online radio show “Just the 2 of Us.” Lynn Tolliver was 71.

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