– City’s rock past gets loving look

Posted By on December 7, 2006

By Jarrod Zickefoose

The Sun Press


Carlo Wolff began with a simple goal.

“It was my idea to write a book memorializing Cleveland’s rock scene,” the South Euclid resident said.

The result is the 129-page “Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories,” released last month by Gray & Company.

“It’s nostalgia told through the voices of local people,” Wolff said.

Wolff, a music critic and journalist for 20-plus years, interviewed more than 100 Cleveland-area musicians, fans, radio personalities, journalists, and club owners. His book lets them tell the story of Cleveland’s golden age of rock.

People like Michael Stanley, Wally Bryson of the Choir, Eric Carmen figures that made the Cleveland rock scene in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are quoted at length with Wolff’s own historical account, gleaned from interviews and first-hand experience interspersed throughout.

“You would go into a record store and find wonders every week,” Wolff said of the period the book covers.

“The Cleveland music scene in the late ’60s was fantastic,” Raspberries frontman Carmen says in the book. “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.”

“Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories” covers the emergence of FM radio and the hey day of WMMS.

It also takes a look at how some national acts made a name for themselves in Cleveland, David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen in particular, as well as some notable concerts including The Beatles Aug. 14, 1966, stop at Cleveland Public Hall and Bruce Springsteen’s legendary Aug. 9, 1978, four-hour concert at the old Agora at 1730 E. 24th St., marking the 10th anniversary of WMMS.

Buddy Maver, the club’s manager at the time, called it “the best concert ever held at the Agora.”

Wolff had no shortage of resources for the book. He began by interviewing people he knew, and as word of the project spread, people from cities like Chicago and Philadelphia were contacting him.

“It was viral,” he said. “This (book) is a slice of the collective memory of the area.”

His favorite interviews included Carmen, Stanley, James Gang member Jimmy Fox, Sun News music columnist Peanuts, and former Dragonwyck drummer Dale Flanigan, who now runs a drum shop in Willoughby.

“They were all understandably media-genic,” Wolff said.

Wolff said gathering the material for the book was a lot of fun, keeping it organized, not so much.

“Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories” is part of a Gray & Company series of “Cleveland memories” books. The other installments are Gail Ghetia Bellamy’s “Cleveland Food Memories” and David and Diane Francis’ “Cleveland Amusement Park Memories.”

Wolff writes for Sun News, Goldmine,, The Boston Globe, Chicago Sun Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He remembered talking with Bellamy when he began the project. She told him to approach it like a long magazine article.

Wolff now laughs at that idea.

“It was a huge learning curve,” he said. He might have gotten mired down in organizational details forever were it not for the fact that, “You have a deadline, thank God.”

Contact Zickefoose at

Wolff will sign “Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories” from 4-5 p.m. Saturday at Record Revolution, 1828 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, (216) 321-7661; and 7-8 p.m. Dec. 14 at Borders Books & Music, Severance Towne Center, 3466 Mayfield Road, Cleveland Heights, (216) 291-8605.


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About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: