Tribune Chronicle Review – Cleveland rock city subject of new book

Posted By on December 15, 2006

By ANDY GRAY Tribune Chronicle


New in book stores is ‘‘Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories’’ ($19.95, Gray & Company), a brief, breezy oral history of the city’s music scene, primarily in the 1960s and ’70s.

At 131 pages, it’s far from encyclopedic, but it has some fun anecdotes compiled by Carlo Wolff, a longtime music writer who’s been based in Cleveland since the mid-’80s.

Of course, Cleveland’s popular music history is also the Mahoning Valley’s music history, and the region doesn’t go unmentioned in the book.

Glass Harp and The Dead Boys (including a couple of great photos of frontman and Girard native Stiv Bators) both turn up, and promoter/record label exec Steve Popovich talks about watching the Michael Stanley Band in Youngstown and encouraging Stanley to write more about life in northeast Ohio. According to Popovich, the song ‘‘Midwest Midnight’’ was a direct result of that conversation.

Several paragraphs are devoted to the Mosquito Dam Jam headlined by Blue Oyster Cult on Aug. 28, 1976, at Mosquito Lake. However, the section is based on the recollections of a free clinic worker, who remembers an antagonistic crowd on downers and tensions caused by an interracial couple, so it’s not a particularly flattering portrayal.

Wolff interviews a mix of musicians, journalists, radio personalities and fans to tell the story, and the fan stories about seeing The Beatles at Public Hall and Cleveland Municipal Stadium are as much fun as the ‘‘insider’’ tales.

Even more than the text, the photos throughout the book will jog the memories of those who followed the music scene then. The illustration that made me most envious was ad for a 1970 Cleveland Music Hall show featuring The Who, James Gang and a then-unknown singer-songwriter named James Taylor. The ticket price? — $5 in advance and $6 at the door.

But the photos also are the main aesthetic problem with the book. Computer software these days makes trimming the background from a photo a relatively easy process. The cut-out pictures in ‘‘Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories’’ look like they were trimmed by a kindergartener with a pair of rounded-point safety scissors. It gives the book an inexplicably cheap look.

Despite that, ‘‘Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories’’ is a book for anyone who has a WMMS Buzzard T-shirt purchased at Daffy Dan’s buried in a drawer somewhere and still can recite one of Murray Saul’s Friday afternoon ‘‘get downs’’ by heart.


Leave a Reply

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: