Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories

Overview

Music fans who grew up with Rock and Roll in Cleveland remember a golden age. We were young, so was the music, and the sense of freedom and excitement the Rock and Roll scene delivered was electric. This book collects the favorite memories of Clevelanders who made that scene: fans, musicians, DJs, reporters, club owners, and more.

There were so many great clubs, like the Agora, where every big band seemed to break in the 1970s. The trendsetting radio stations, from A.M.’s WIXY ...

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Overview

Music fans who grew up with Rock and Roll in Cleveland remember a golden age. We were young, so was the music, and the sense of freedom and excitement the Rock and Roll scene delivered was electric. This book collects the favorite memories of Clevelanders who made that scene: fans, musicians, DJs, reporters, club owners, and more.

There were so many great clubs, like the Agora, where every big band seemed to break in the 1970s. The trendsetting radio stations, from A.M.’s WIXY 1260 to F.M.’s groundbreaking “Home of the Buzzard”, WMMS. And all those memorable shows. The free Coffee Break Concerts—remember Springsteen just when he hit it big? The gigantic World Series of Rock. Nights on the lawn at Blossom (including local favorites the Michael Stanley Band and their record-setting sellout streak).

Includes rare photographs and other memorabilia such as concert posters, bumper stickers, pins, and ticket stubs.

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Editorial Reviews

Akron Beacon Journal
For rock geeks, the most interesting chapter will be the recollections of the many groundbreaking performances by then-up-and-coming rockers such as David Bowie and, of course, Bruce Springsteen . . . If you were an avid concert-going rock fan in those heady days, chances are there will be at least a few pages that speak directly to you and many more that will bring back memories.
— Malcom Abram
Cleveland Jewish News
Wolff has established himself as a pithy chronicler of Cleveland’s formidable influence on rock music.
— Alan Smason
Cleveland Magazine
The book’s charm comes from the recollections supplied by promoters, musicians, disc jockeys and, maybe most powerfully, the fans, which unearth seldom-told stories and bits of Cleveland rock trivia that provide a fresh perspective on a time about which many of us thought we’d heard everything.
— Jim Vickers
CoolCleveland.com
Wolff, who writes about music, pop culture and literature for an impressive list of outlets including Village Voice, Goldmine, Billboard.com and Boston Globe, covers a great deal of territory in one small volume . . . Wolff’s best move is letting the participants speak for themselves. It is great fun to absorb so many voices and unique perspectives and it absolves the author of others’ occasionally fuzzy memories.
— Peter Chakerian
Cuyahoga Falls News Press
For readers who want to rehash their own memories of the early Cleveland rock scene, from Elvis, the Who, the Monkees and the people who made them famous—the fans—this book deserves a look.
— Tim Troglen
Goldmine Magazine
A high-spirited, very conversational compilation of ‘true and tall tales of the glory days’ of the Cleveland music scene, as told through the eyes of musicians, DJs, promoters and fans.
Great Lakes Life
The era that earned Cleveland the moniker “the city that rocks” is put on display with this book. From Alan Freed ruling the radio waves to concerts by The Beatles and Rolling Stones among others, to the World Series of Rock to countless big-name acts that cut their teeth playing at the Agora, stories from the ’50s through ’80s are told by the Clevelanders who made the scene . . . beautifully illustrated with rare photographs and other memorabiia.
Harp Magazine
Largely presented as an oral history, making the book essentially a collection of anecdotes. As a result, you get a real ‘you are there’ feeling . . . A bittersweet look back at a time before the mainstream music industry became totally prepackaged, a time when radio DJs could actually choose the songs they were going to play.
— Gillian G. Gaar
Mojo
Wolff’s copiously illustrated, spirited love letter is heavily reliant on anecdotes from fans, musicians and scenesters . . . Ian Hunter had it right: Cleveland rocks.
— Andrew Male
Morning Journal
Chock full of pictures (stars, tickets, concert posters, stickers and pins). Reading it is like overhearing folks swap tales.
— Laura Kennelly
Star Beacon
Like stopping by the record store and browsing the bins, listening to the first few seconds of a cut here and there, and getting lost in a memory.
— Carl E. Feather
Sundayoldiesjukebox.com
An easy read, full of great photos, memorabilia, and firsthand accounts from Cleveland DJs, musicians, and local people—maybe even your next-door neighbor—who retell their personal experiences at historic music events in the area.
The Chronicle-Telegram
Wolff’s book looks at a far happier and far more energized era in Cleveland’s rock music scene—one recalled in colorful detail in loads of very readable anecdotes told to Wolff by fans, radio and rock club personalities.
— Steve Fogarty
West Life
A fun, incisive look at three decades of Cleveland’s music history. The result is a well-researched work that is an absolute blast to read . . . Feels less like following a detailed history text than flipping through a scrapbook, or watching a documentary . . . A sharply written piece of folk history. It’s a quick read, and certainly an enjoyable one for Cleveland rock fans who were there the first time around.
— Benjamin Pogany
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781886228993
  • Publisher: Gray & Company, Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 131
  • Sales rank: 1,384,649
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Carlo Wolff writes for numerous publications including Goldmine, Billboard.com, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Sun Newspapers and Scene. He specializes in music criticism, book reviews, and feature articles about popular culture, travel, and business. He is also Features Editor of LH-Lodging Hospitality magazine. He lives in South Euclid, Ohio.

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Read an Excerpt

Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories Carlo Wolff Chapter 4 So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star: Local Legends All bands start locally: Kids get together to make some noise. As word of the band spreads, the reach and the range expand. In the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, Cleveland-area bands were primarily local, though some went nationwide, like the Michael Stanley Band, and even worldwide, like the James Gang and the Raspberries. Back in the day, you’d hear the Gang, the Mods, the Lost Souls, the Choir, and Damnation of Adam Blessing at teen fairs, in armories, at schools from grade to high, at clubs like the Mentor Hullabaloo and Cyrus Erie West, at colleges, at Musicarnival. AM radio, for sure, played them. FM did some. A few even got on TV. In 1958, the Poni-Tails scored on the national charts, reaching number seven with “Born Too Late”; two years earlier, a similar girl group, the Tracey Twins, made national TV. Here’s a look back at a night in 1956 on the Arthur Godfrey and His Friends show. “Tonight You Belong to Me,” by Eudi and Euni Tracey, was a minor hit that year. Eudi Tracey remembers: We woke up to get ready to go to the airport to a huge, huge snowstorm that became the big snow of 1956. We couldn’t get to the airport, so our father drove us to the train station. We had to be in New York by about 5:30 or 6 o’clock because the show went on at 8. So there we are with our bags full, because if you won the Godfrey show, you got a week’s engagement on it, so we had to pack clothes—hopefully we’d be performing on this TV show every day for a week. They arrived, exhausted, and the show threw them on first. How we sang was a mystery, but we won. The audience was cheering us, and when we won they applauded us and the strings did that thing with their bows. Arthur Godfrey himself wasn’t there, he was away on vacation, so his second in command came up to us, said be on time tomorrow. That was charming. They sang “Give Me Love,” a McGuire Sisters tune. We were the very beginnings of rock and roll. We didn’t know it, though. I loved everything. We used to do standards and movie music. We were at the Imperial Theater at 142nd and Kinsman all our growing up years; from the time we were six years old our parents would let us walk over. We were very annoyed that the USO wouldn’t take us on when we were ten years old. —Eudi Tracey, musician (the Tracey Twins) The Roots of Cleveland Rock The early ’60s was a great time for bar bands like Steve Popovich’s first group, Ronnie and the Savoys. Popovich had followed his mom to Cleveland from Nemacolin, Pennsylvania. Back home, Ronnie and the Savoys scored a radio hit with their Duane Eddy–style instrumental, “Slappin’ Rods and Leaky Oil.” We were just thrilled to hear it on the radio, we’d play like two gigs on a Saturday night. Even the year I moved here, I’d come back on weekends. It was great money to make $12, $15 a night in high school in the ’50s. We’d play three hours on a Friday night in Carmichael, a little town next to our town, tear down our equipment, then play from 12:30 to 3 in Masontown; the crowd would follow us over. And at the time there weren’t a whole lot of bands playing: Dave C and the Sharptones; Joey and the Continentals came a little later; Tom King and the Starfires before they became the Outsiders; then there were the Grasshoppers, with Benny Orr—poor kid, he died too young; then there was Richie and the Fortunes. It was a great time in the local band thing because everybody got along great. Our first gig was at Luccioni’s in Richmond Heights, and on St. Clair we played at Leo’s Café, on 75th and St. Clair, a blue-collar bar owned by a guy named Harry Veneri, the head of the union at Bowman Products on 72nd right off the freeway, an automotive parts warehouse. I worked there for a year after John Carroll. —Steve Popovich, musician (Ronnie and the Savoys, the Twilighters) In addition to such bands as Dave C and the Sharptones on the West Side, Joey and the Continentals, and Bocky and the Visions on the East Side, there were girl singers like the Secrets (“The Boy Next Door”) and Andrea Carroll (“Please Don’t Talk to the Lifeguard”). Glenn Schwartz, who would later play in the Pilgrims, the James Gang, and Pacific Gas & Electric, was working with Frank Samson and the Wailers. La Cave opened in 1952; Leo’s Casino moved uptown in 1963 (it was originally located at East 49th Street and Central Avenue; after a fire there, it moved to the Quad Hall hotel at 75th and Euclid and finally closed in 1972). Kenny Margolis was practicing keyboards in Orange, preparing to form the Rebel Kind. Lost Soul Denny Carleton was cutting his teeth on Beatles riffs. Choir mainspring and future Raspberry Wally Bryson was attending Griswold Institute with Dan Gray, who wasn’t quite Daffy yet; both were sent there for refusing to cut their hair. Cleveland’s rock culture was bubbling under big. The Cleveland music scene in the late ’60s was fantastic. It was really unbelievable, the level of talent. You had the James Gang, with Joe Walsh and Jimmy Fox; you had the Choir, too; Wally had left and was already in Cyrus Erie with me; there were guys like Phil Giallombardo, a keyboardist [late Choir, early James Gang]; there was Joe Vitale’s band down in Kent, the Measles. I used to drive down to J.B.’s, the club where the Raspberries ended up playing, just to watch him play; this was crazed, like jazz—he’d have this crazy rhythm going and then he’d just start to sing a lead, and it was like, wow. He played keyboards as well. Then you had Glass Harp with Phil Keaggy and Danny Pecchio. Phil Keaggy was an amazing guitar player. Between Cyrus Erie, the Choir, and the James Gang here in our town, and this other little periphery of things going on in Kent, there were some really great musicians playing around local clubs. Joe Walsh was as good then as he is now. You would walk into a place and there’s a guy playing who’s kind of the level of Jeff Beck—in a local Hullabaloo. And Wally as well; Wally’s a phenomenal Pete Townshend–style guitar player. —Eric Carmen, musician (Cyrus Erie, Quick, the Raspberries, solo) The Poor Girls were an all-girl rock band in the mid-’60s who played around Akron and Kent and won coveted media attention when Jane Scott profiled them in the Plain Dealer. They opened for Cream at Akron Civic Theatre; they opened for Steppenwolf, too. Susan Schmidt-Horning, the lead vocalist, and Debbie Smith, the guitarist, who would later form the Akron underground group Chi-Pig, finish each other’s sentences. “The first gig we played out as the Poor Girls was Balauns’ Family Restaurant, and we wore granny dresses because we’re talking 1965, 1966, and the granny dress was very big. We went in there with our little Fender Vibro Champ amps and Esta (Esta Kerr and Pam Johnson were the other Poor Girls) had a good drum set, a Slingerland,” Deb says. Sue adds, “The first gig we played in a club was with the Measles in the Outer Limits in Brimfield Plaza.” “Ravenna-Kentish, you don’t want to go there,” says Deb. “The best thing about this gig is we go in there with our little Vibro Champ amps,” Sue recalls, and Deb says, “We would plug our guitars in and Joe Walsh said uh-uh, you’re using our equipment. He was lovely.” The Saxons played a teen fair at Chippewa Lake Park in 1966 with the Measles, Joe Walsh’s band before he joined the Gang. We’re all sitting out on the porch one Saturday morning at Chippewa. It was way out on the southwest side of town, past Valley City. And we hear somebody doing a four-part version of “If I Needed Someone” by the Beatles. Me, the drummer, and the two guitar players are going, “Who the hell’s that?” We left the cabin, went up the hill, went into the ballroom, it was Walsh with the Measles. —Peanuts, fan (Fairview Park) Top 40 radio was the norm and WHK, WIXY, and Windsor, Ontario’s CKLW set the pace, playing all kinds of music, even local stuff like Dick Whittington’s Cats, the group led by Richie (of Richie and the Fortunes) Green. Credit a great promotion man: Roger Karshner was responsible for the Outsiders. By then, he was through with the Outsiders and looking for a new project. Our attorney had told him about us, so he came out and heard us at a place called the Sands in Portage Lakes, south of Akron. He liked it, said, “I’ve got an independent label with national promotion through Amy-Bell”—his label was called Round Records. He said, “I like the way you do ‘Midnight Hour’; I’m going to rearrange it, we’re going to call the band Dick Whittington’s Cats.” We said, “Why?” He said, “Because I have some promo ideas.” So it was take it or leave it. We had nothing going, said we’d take it. We get in the studio, Cleveland Recording, at 14th and Euclid, and Chuck Mangione rearranged it and made it commercial. It was top ten in thirty-five markets. We didn’t make a penny off the record but we got to do Upbeat, things like that, which is pretty cool at that age, to have that success. Dick Whittington was a mayor of London in the sixteenth century. What did that have to do with us? Nothing, as far as I can tell. The only thing Roger controlled was in the studio; we wanted to be an authentic R&B act even though we were white because that’s what we loved, and he wanted to make it more of a pop situation. As far as success, he knew what he was doing. Probably wouldn’t have worked the way we wanted it. He showed me this one letter he had sent to a radio station, along with a copy of the record and what looked like a cat’s whisker. The note said, “Here’s one of Dick Whittington’s Cats’ whiskers. Give it some play and next time we’ll send you some pussy.” —Richard Green, musician (Richie and the Fortunes) Sonny Geraci, the voice of Tom King and the Starfires, the Outsiders, and Climax, has a story about the Outsiders: The big radio stations were KYC, WHK. I know for us to get played, Roger told them this is a new group, this is the biggest group on Capitol, they’re from the West Coast. That’s how we got played in Cleveland; if they had known it was Tom King & the Starfires, we would never have gotten played. Cleveland doesn’t push their own people; never did. Roger Karshner was a genius at promoting. Capitol Records was owned by EMI; EMI’s all over the world, when we were signed, we thought they’d put it out right away. They put it out in January; we started preparing to be stars. Wherever EMI had offices, Roger would have letters sent from there to all the program directors in America, the top stations. The first thing they’re going to open up is something from France or Germany, all it would have was a sheet saying the Outsiders are coming. This went on for a couple of months, so by the time our record came out, they were pretty interested. When it finally came out, it started to take off in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and when it broke in Baltimore, Capitol knew they had a hit. They put all their guns behind it and it took off. —Sonny Geraci, musician (Tom King and the Starfires, the Outsiders, and Climax) Cleveland Flexes Its Musical Muscles While Dick Whittington’s Cats had their moment in the sun and the Outsiders reached number five in 1966 with “Time Won’t Let Me,” the big local acts were the James Gang, the Raspberries, and Michael Stanley, both as head of the Michael Stanley Band and on his own. The key Gang was Jim Fox, drummer and founder; Dale Peters, bassist; and Joe Walsh, guitarist and vocalist. Fox was in Richie and the Fortunes and the Outsiders before he founded the Gang in 1967: As the James Gang, we played the Hullabaloos more than any other band, I would venture to say. We played with the Yardbirds at the Mentor Hullabaloo; Joe was in the band, so it would have to be ’68, ’69, and the opening act was John Paul Jones and the American Navy. [Jones would soon join Led Zeppelin, the successor to the Yardbirds.] What I remember about John Paul Jones and the American Navy is that they had a male and female road crew, husband and wife roadies. We were more interested in talking to Page, Jimmy was always wonderful, the Yardbirds were the headliner, it was a packed house. —Jimmy Fox, musician (the James Gang) There were different strata of players in town, like December’s Children and the James Gang. December’s Children was the Balzer Brothers with Tommy Rich, and a band called the Dark Side used to play the Giant Tiger, a discount store like Uncle Bill’s at West 140th and Lorain. Every Saturday afternoon they had a live band, the Dark Side or December’s Children. The biggest thing in Cleveland that happened to me was the Teen Fair. I think that was at Public Hall, ’67 or ’68—or ’69. Some music store locally had provided a bunch of drums, and right before the James Gang was going to play, one of the road crew went to another stage and grabbed a second bass drum; so everybody else played on a small drum set, but Jim Fox played on a double drum set—so they won the battle of the bands at Teen Fair. It was Glenn Schwartz. —Dale Flanigan, musician (Dragonwyck) Michael Stanley, who was in a group called Silk at that time, might have been there. There used to be this thing called the Teen Fair in the basement of Public Hall, tied in with the Plain Dealer or the Press, and there would be teen fashion shows, and all day long, WIXY, the big Top 40 station, would bring people in like Andy Kim or Bobby Vee. I remember the last year before they got their deal the James Gang won the battle of the bands at the Teen Fair. Courtney Johns, our leader, wouldn’t let us be in battles of the bands because he didn’t want to risk losing, so we ended up backing a national artist or playing at the fashion show. —Michael Stanley, musician (Silk, the Michael Stanley Band) The Rebel Kind and the Mods kept intersecting, there were also the Lost Souls [with Denny Carleton, later in the Choir]; the Damnation of Adam Blessing played a few times at the armories; and there was the James Gang. The first time I saw them it was Glenn Schwartz and Jimmy Fox and Phil Giallombardo was playing organ with them. Glenn was the one who really blew everybody away, even more so than the Mods, who came in and really did a number on everybody with vocal harmonies. Then we saw Glenn Schwartz; he was older, but he played guitar like Jimi Hendrix. Nobody knew anything about how to play like that, to do vibrato on the guitar, stretch the strings, it was like, what is that? And the semi-distortion he was getting; the Mods didn’t do that either, it was always very straight, clean guitar. That would have been early ’67. —Ken Margolis (musician, the Rebel Kind, the Choir) While the James Gang was settling into its classic lineup of Fox, bassist Dale Peters, and guitarist Joe Walsh, the Choir was ruling the Hullabaloo scene, along with Cyrus Erie and the Quick. Eventually, they would come together in the Raspberries, perhaps the most successful Cleveland group. The lure of a storied bass player beckoned Eric Carmen, the voice of the Sounds of Silence, Cyrus Erie, and the Quick. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. When Carmen first heard of Dave Burke, he was attending high school and had just formed his first real group, the Sounds of Silence. Rumor had filtered from the far east of Mentor and Painesville all the way to Brush High School in Lyndhurst about the Squire, so one day Marty Murphy and I decided to venture forth out of Lyndhurst to Painesville Armory, which to us was like going to Africa. We had to see what the fuss was about. We got out there—we were just old enough to drive—and we walked into this armory and there was the Choir. Dave Smalley, Jim Bonfanti, Dan Klawon (he and Jim would switch off as drummers), and Dave Burke, the Squire. And here was Wally Bryson on a Rickenbacker twelve-string playing “Substitute” by the Who, “Look Through Any Window” by the Hollies, and they all had cool long hair. Dave Burke was unbelievable. He was just the fastest—he was like an idiot savant. Where everybody else was playing dum dum dum, Dave Burke was running up and down his bass like Duck Dunn in Memphis. He was amazing. If you listen to “It’s Cold Outside,” the bass is flying all over the record. Needless to say, we were blown away. We were blown away with the whole band, and the minute I saw Wally on that stage, I knew I had to get in a band with this guy. —Eric Carmen, musician Wally Bryson had animal magnetism for sure. In the fall of 1967, Maple Heights High consisted of two cultural groups, the collegiates and the greasers. They were in some ways similar to England’s mods and rockers but there was a difference. Mods and rockers were both working-class kids. Greasers, at least at Maple, were, more often than not, ethnic (Italians, Hungarians, et cetera) while collegiates were more WASPish. Also, greasers came from the working class and were more likely to study “trade-type” classes such as wood and metal shop. They were also the more violent of the two. Collegiates were more upper class. The two groups didn’t really dislike each other, they simply didn’t associate. There was also a small group of emerging hippies. They were disliked by the school administration, greasers, and collegiates alike. This brings us to the Maple Heights Fall Homecoming of 1967. Two bands were playing at the time: the Strangers, which featured a stunning twelve-year-old drummer named Billy Greer, and, headlining, the Choir, which had a huge Cleveland hit at the time, “It’s Cold Outside.” The greasers were really unhappy that the Choir, which they considered a bunch of long-haired sissies, were playing their dance. I suspect they would have been much happier with one of their own groups like [Buddy Maver’s] Charade or the Sensations. The rude comments and shout-outs began as the Choir played. The catcalls continued and the greasers began tossing pennies at the band. After one particular song concluded, Wally, with that cocky smile, motioned one of the offenders to the front of the stage. The kid and his friends fearlessly sauntered up. What harm could these sissies possibly bring to them? As soon as the greasers reached the front of the stage, Wally unstrapped his guitar and swung it upside the head of the nearest greaser. The Choir grabbed Wally and ran out the fire exit at the rear of the stage. Everyone emptied into the streets. Wally’s action was the single most inspirational act of bravado/craziness I had witnessed up until that time. I’ve never forgotten it. —Mitch Renko, fan (Euclid) I had just gotten this brand-new Gibson twelve-string, it’s the first gig I’m playing it on. Maple Heights wasn’t into the longhair scene, some kid was tossing nickels at the band, it was really pissing me off. This kid was bouncing pennies and nickels off of my guitar, so I finally spotted him. In between songs, I went to the microphone and said, “Hey you, you’re a punk.” He came walking to the stage like he was going to kick my ass. I let him get halfway into his climb and conked him on the side of the head with my new guitar I was so worried about. Then I jumped off the stage, we wrassled around. His mother called me the next day and asked me to pay for his sweater that got ripped. I said, “Hey lady, he was putting nicks into my $350 guitar, you want to pay for that?” —Wally Bryson, musician (the Choir, the Raspberries) The early ’70s also was an amazing time, even for exclusively local bands. Recalls one former East Side drummer, who named his first group the Buddy Cosmo Band: We used to play schools like St. Ann’s, St. Jerome’s, high school dances, St. Paschal Baylon on Wilson Mills, Beaumont. We were hired for their dances; we used to have mixers in the high school or grade school gym. These were bands like us, Eastwind, and the Raspberries. It was $1. I’ll tell you who else used to play at St. Ann’s all the time: Glass Harp, with Phil Keaggy and Danny Pecchio. I used to see the North River Street Rock Collection; Jamey Haddad was the drummer in that band . . . We were freshmen at Cathedral Latin when the James Gang played there for a dance. It was like a mixer. Joe Walsh, Dale Peters, and Jimmy Fox. It was phenomenal. —Vince Malatesta, fan (South Euclid) As the ’60s slipped into the ’70s, the single began to lose ground to the LP, FM took over from AM, and rock went corporate. The James Gang and the Raspberries mounted major tours and scored modest radio hits. It would be up to Michael Stanley to define what Cleveland rock is about, frustrations and all—and to set attendance records at Blossom and the Coliseum. Stanley grew up on the West Side and worked in the Sceptres and the Tree Stumps (aka Silk) before he recorded his first solo album. He recalls that Silk once played “at a place called the Note, in Ruggles Beach, between Lorain and Cedar Point.” I can remember we were playing with the Kingsmen, which I thought was the coolest thing in the world. [The Kingsmen made history with “Louie, Louie.”] I remember being out back of the club and the drummer for the Kingsmen came out, and we were talking and he offers me a joint. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard, seen, or come across something like this. I think it’s like heroin—I can’t do this, if I take a hit of this I would become an ax murderer. I abstained. The first show we did was at the Syrian Mosque in Pittsburgh, this would have been about ’69—we opened for Blood, Sweat & Tears, the David Clayton Thomas version. We’re standing in the wings at this proscenium theater and I remember the guy coming to us saying, “I’m going to give you the high sign and all you guys walk out in the dark, get your instruments on, I’ll introduce you, the lights will go on, and bam, go!” As we start to walk onstage for our first major concert appearance in our history, the first guy trips, falls down, and everybody falls on top of him in a huge pile. And they turned the lights on. It looked like we were at a rush party at a gay frat house. I remember thinking it can only get better from here on. We played. I remember nothing about it whatsoever. The next day, at Kent State, we opened for Sly and the Family Stone and Country Joe and the Fish. We did about six shows with Sly, and I think the best he did was an hour and a half late. I remember one show in Dayton or Columbus where we were supposed to go on first, he says, “I’ll open for you.” It was like, well, dude, no one’s going to be here. You’re who they came to see. —Michael Stanley, musician (Silk, the Michael Stanley Band) Things got better: We weren’t that unapproachable type of rock band. We didn’t wear Spandex. The guys in the band were just a bunch of talented, regular people. No one looked down on the audience; we just happened to work harder, longer, and maybe got luckier. I remember one night at Blossom—one of those sellouts, it really rained, the parking lots were swamped—half the guys in the band went out after we played a three-and-a-half-hour show and put ropes on their trucks and pulled people out of the mud. There were some of the first four-wheel-drive things I’ve ever seen, and they’re pulling people out of the mud at two o’clock in the morning so these sixteen-year-old girls don’t get murdered by their parents when they get home. It was that thing of, hey, show’s over, it’s back to the real world, and this was the real world. I don’t want to play with people who don’t have that feeling. —Michael Stanley I’ve been managing Michael Stanley for—it has to be thirty years. What was most memorable in my mind was when we sold out four days of Blossom. To this day, that record stands. It was an incredible feat by Michael and the band to do that. This was like history being made, and it was exciting knowing that I was helping get it to that point. It was a wonderful part of my career, without question. Michael is a first-class, honorable, loyal individual. At Blossom, people were standing for the whole show, people were rushing the stage. It was something that no one could ever forget. —Mike Belkin, promoter The band set several attendance records, including 21,500 at the Richfield Coliseum on New Year’s Day 1982, and 66,377 over four nights at Blossom Music Center in 1982. That Blossom sellout string, August 25, 26, 30, and 31, was their grand slam, topping the previous Blossom record—also set by MSB, the year before. On September 29, 1984, the group drew 76,000 to the Municipal Stadium parking lot. “Michael Stanley was the Beatles in the late ’70s, early ’80s. Michael Stanley is still our biggest-selling artist ever, by far. He was probably the most talented artist not to make it out of Cleveland. It was a Midwest sound, just straight rock and roll. ” —Greg Beaumont, owner of the Record Den My fave local performer is Michael Stanley because I like him personally and because he’s a survivor. That’s a true Clevelander for ya. A hardworking survivor against all odds kind of guy. —Janet Macoska, photographer Local has its limitations: The worst thing to happen to any band is to actually be popular locally. Look at X in L.A. Certainly the rule applies here; Michael Stanley held the record at Blossom Music Center and couldn’t draw 300 people in Detroit. But a situation like that also indicates that there’s something wrong in this music scene. If we have a guy who’s a superstar here but nobody else in the world knows him, it means that either we’re stifling him or our standards are sub par. —Mark Addison, -musician (the Generators, A Nation of One, the Borrowers) We weren’t stars, you know what I mean? We were that Midwestern thing, Seger and all those people, and Mellencamp, which is fine musically. But they lumped all those together, and they’re not . . . we don’t all do the same thing. We couldn’t get arrested in LA. Did great in San Francisco. When we were selling 90,000 seats up here, we were lucky to sell 3,000 in Columbus. What’s the difference? Here, you couldn’t turn on the radio without being subjected to us one way or another. When MMS was behind you, it worked. We played a lot of free shows for them when they got going. But we got a little bigger, we were almost so big that they couldn’t have complete control over the situation. They could pretty much tell anybody what to do. Leo would interview me, play one side of the album, interview me some more, play the other side of the album. When’s the last time you heard a whole-album play? That’s what radio was. Back then, Leo might be playing two different tracks, Denny might be playing another track. You might have seven, eight tracks on the frigging radio. —Michael Stanley, musician

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword by Daffy Dan Gray

Why Cleveland Rocks—And How!

1. Making Waves: Radio

2. Shakin’ All Over: The British Invade Cleveland

3. Passing Through, Plugging In: National Acts

4. So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star: Local Legends

5. In the Trenches: Other Local Acts

6. Hangouts & Hotspots: Clubs

7. Fanning the Flames: Music and the Media

8. Selling Sounds and Styles: Retail

Photo Credits

Acknowledgments

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