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Issue Date: January 2007 Issue


City Life


Jim Vickers
vickers@clevelandmagazine.com
There was a time when Neil Diamond and his band would pile into the back of Larry Morrow’s station wagon and ride from the airport to Chippewa Lake to play a fan-appreciation show for WIXY 1260, all for the chance to promote his new album.

That’s the story Morrow, a WIXY radio personality, recalls near the beginning of Carlo Wolff’s “Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories” ($19.95, Gray & Co.), a 136-page tribute to the Cleveland rock scene of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s filled with more than 200 photographs and reproductions of stickers, ticket stubs and newspaper clippings that advertise wish-you-were-there shows such as David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars at Music Hall or Bruce Springsteen at the Kent State University Ballroom.

But 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. Here were our 20 favorite finds:— Jim Vickers
Leo Mintz, the owner of Prospect Avenue’s Record Rendezvous and a friend of Alan Freed, may be the person who coined the term “rock ’n’ roll.”

Station music director John Gorman conceived the famous WMMS buzzard mascot while driving home one dreary winter night, asking himself, “What would you expect to see flying over the city?” 

Terry Knight and the Pack, which would become Grand Funk Railroad, was the first rock band to play La Cave, a music club near University Circle.

After the Beatles vacated their room at the Cleveland Hotel, the manager had the carpets pulled up and cut into four-square-inch pieces to give out as souvenirs. 

Jimi Hendrix’s only two Cleveland performances both occurred March 26, 1968. 

James Taylor opened for The Who at Public Hall during the “Tommy” tour. When the crowd got restless, he exclaimed, “I feel like I’m performing in the middle of a football game.”

Michael Stanley’s former band was named Silk.

Cleveland Municipal Stadium’s record attendance for a rock concert was set Sept. 1, 1974, when Santana, The Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young drew 88,000 people.

A part-time WMMS engineer named Steve, who lived in Plain Dealer reporter Michael Heaton’s apartment building, was the one who let slip that the Buzzard stuffed the Rolling Stone ballot box each year to take the title of the nation’s top rock station.

If he could be one of the Beatles, Raspberry Eric Carmen would be Paul.

“Walking in Memphis” singer Marc Cohn performed at one of the WMMS Coffee Break Concerts while still a student at Beachwood High School.

Before “Dark Side of the Moon” lifted Pink Floyd to arena status, the psychedelic rockers played Emerson Gym at Case Western Reserve University in 1971. Tickets were $3.50.

David Bowie’s first American concert was in Cleveland, Sept. 22, 1972, at Music Hall.

Otis Redding performed his last show at Leo’s Casino (7500 Euclid Ave.) Dec. 9, 1967. He died in a plane crash the next day. 

Kiss set the Allen Theatre stage on fire in 1974.

Before an after-dinner show at Captain Frank’s, Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, fell off the pier into the Cuyahoga River. James Gang bassist Dale Peters, who happened to be walking by, threw him a life preserver and pulled him out.

Bruce Springsteen performed in Northern Ohio 10 times between 1974 and 1975, the time period during which he cemented his status as “The Boss.”

Jeff and Flash’s Morning Zoo was marketed on WMMS Corn Flakes during the ’80s.

Following one rainy Michael Stanley Band sellout performance at Blossom Music Center, a few members of the band used their trucks to help fans pull out cars that got stuck in the mud.

During an NBC strike, Ed McMahon co-hosted WEWS’ “American Bandstand” knockoff “Upbeat” with Don Webster. “I don’t think I ever looked better,” Webster recalls. “He was the best second banana I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

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For more information about “Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories,” visit www.grayco.com.


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