Cleveland Rock History
By Ritchie Unterberger with Denny Carleton, 1986
As much as any other city, Cleveland can claim the title of 'the birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll'. It was here that disc jockey Alan Freed first popularized the term during his groundbreaking shows on WJW in the early fifties, as well as putting on what has been dubbed "the world's first rock concert" with his 'Moon Dog Coronation Ball' in 1959 -- which in turn produced the first rock riot. Today Cleveland is known within the industry as the "Rock and Roll Marketing Capitol of the World", and has recently been named as the locale for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's a key area for breaking new acts and testing products, both on the radio and in the concert halls -- for out-of-town acts, that is.
But since the early '60's, Cleveland has produced a great number of homegrown Rock 'n' Roll groups as well. You wouldn't know by reading most rock histories, but Cleveland had a prolific and active scene in the sixties. It never approached the mass exposure of the California sound, or even the impact of similar regional explosions in Texas, the Northwest, and Michigan. There's lots of possible reasons -- poor national exposure, limited record distribution, and the failure of some of the most talented groups to preserve much (if any) of their work on vinyl. That's a shame, as some Cleveland groups could have held their own with the finest American groups of the decade. But there's no doubt that the best of them made a huge local impact which is felt in Cleveland to this day.
This article makes no claims to being a comprehensive history of the '60's Cleveland scene -- you'd need at least an entire magazine for that -- but we'll try to document most of the notable acts, with most attention paid to the most influential groups of the era. For more details on Cleveland bands of the era (as well as other Northeastern Ohio groups), I'd recommend the fine fanzine Rebel Teen (available from George Gell, 614 Boston Post Rd. #13, Marlsborough, MA 01752).
The first actual Cleveland rock bands probably date back to the early sixties. As in most other locales, these were primarily guitar and sax-dominated instrumental dance combos whose repertoires were R&B-dominated. Some of the earliest were Dave C and the Sharptones, Frank Samson and the Wailers, Joey and the Continentals, and Tom King and the Starfires. Jim Fox, who much later founded The James Gang, once recalled that Dave C was the best of this bunch as he was black (though his band was white). While Tom King's band didn't rank as the best, on record they were perhaps the most successful on the local charts; their best remembered single was the 1964 instrumental "Stronger Than Dirt". After changing their name to the Outsiders, they would have the most national success of any '60's Cleveland group -- but that's jumping ahead.
Some other of the more notable dance bands were Tony and the Twilighters (whose "Be Faithful" made the local top 10 in 1965) The Futuras (who had their own car and truck, and put out their own record), The Sensations and Joey and the Continentals, both of whom had solid local followings, and Ritchie and the Fortunes, the only band to perform both Soul standards and Beatle tunes. Most of these groups had local releases, though people from the scene recall that they weren't representative of their rough live R&B sound, as producers gave them sweeter harmony-based material. Though these bands continued to draw solidly throughout the sixties, by the middle of the decade the record industry was changing radically in response to the British Invasion, and dance combo records became more and more of an anachronism.
The only group to successfully adapt to the new era were the Outsiders, who grew their hair, combed it forward and, as everyone knows, hit the national top 10 with "Time Won't Let Me". A Couple other hits followed, "Respectable&" and "Help Me Girl", which like their first were Soul-flavored, punchy rock tunes with horns, much like the material of the even more successful Chicago horn-rock group The Buckinghams. They recorded several singles and albums for Capitol, becoming the only Cleveland group to attain any kind of national recognition, and even managed the odd raw rocker now and then (as with "I'm Not Trying To Hurt You", later anthologized on Pebbles Vol. 9). Yet locally they were far from the most influential of troupes. Those honors fell to the younger bands which had formed in direct response to the rise of the Beatles.
Every American city was radically affected by the British Invasion, but few if any took it to heart more than Clevland. Aspiring moptops often trooped downtown to pick up the latest issue of Rave and Melody Maker from England to find out the latest in British Beat and fashions. The radio stations gave a great deal of airplay to The Beatles and Stones, of course, but also gave lots of exposure to lesser-known bands like The Who and Small Faces (before either ad any nationwide U.S. hits). A record like The Pretty Things' "Come See Me" is a fondly remembered oldie in Cleveland , although most Americans in other cities never heart the The Pretty Things at all in the 1960s.
"It wasn't just The Beatles and Rolling Stones -- everybody knew about The Small Faces, Pretty Things, and The Herd," recalls Denny Carleton, a member of The Lost Souls, the Euclid group which would become one of the area's top British-inspired groups. "All of us were influenced by Steve Marriott. A lot of my friends knew about Frampton (from The Herd) before he was in Humble Pie." The bands were acutely conscious of mod fashion as well, picking up pink tennis shoes when they saw the Small Faces wearing them, elf shoes when they appeared on Noel Redding's feet, and so on.
Perhaps the first obviously Beatle-influenced group to gain any sort of vinyl exposure were The Motions. Although their oldest member was 14, that didn't stop them from opening for several name acts (including the Rolling Stones), as well as cutting four singles on Mercury and ABC, one of them titled"Beatle Drums/Long Hair". Another 45, "Land Beyond the Moon" (recently reissued on the Hipsville 29 BC garage compilation), is a torrid reverb-laden rocker that sonically links surf and the British Invasion. According to an article in the Kicks fanzine, conflicts over musical direction with their management led to an early breakup in 1965.
The first Cleveland group to be British-influenced from the word go were The Mods. It was in late 1963 that Mentor native Dann Klawon first heard about The Beatles from a girl on his street who'd brought back "She Loves You" and a Fab Four LP from England. Shortly thereafter, Klawon bought a drum set and formed the nucleus of The Mods with guitarist classmate Dave Smalley. Bassist Dave Burke and guitarist Wally Bryson fleshed out the first local band to dominate their set with British Invasion guitars, grow long hair and wear Beatle boots. The Mods even devised two sets in performance to reflect different sides of the British sound. On the harmony-oriented set, Jim Bonfanti would play tambourine and sing harmony vocals on standards like "Nowhere Man", "Rain", The Who's "The Good's Gone", "La-La-Lies" and "It's not True", and The Moody Blues' "Go Now". For the R&B portion, Bonfanti would replace Dann Klawon behind the drums as Klawon would sing and play harmonica on British R&B standards like the Stones' "Not Fade Away", "Mona", and "Have Mercy" (which were of course in turn covers of songs by American performers), Them's "I Can Only Give You Everything", and the Pretty Things' "Come See Me".
While The Mods ruled the Mentor-Lake County scene, in Euclid The Lost Souls were the #1 mods. Formed in 1965, they featured Denny Carleton on rhythm guitar, Rick Schoenaur on flute and sax, Chuck McKinley on bass, Denny Marek on lead guitar, and Larry Tomczack on drums, everyone taking turns on lead vocals. In time they would develop into an astonishingly original group, but at the outset their repertoire was heavily British Invasion -influenced, featuring Beatles covers and Kinks songs like "Wait Till Summer Comes Along", "I'm Not Like Everybody Else", and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion".
Among the other mod groups of note during the mid-sixties was South Euclid 's Rebel Kind, which featured future Choir member Kenny Margolis on keyboards and vocals. Carleton recalls that Margolis was a fine R&B singer - well-suited for material by the Stones, Animals, Otis Redding and Stevie Winwood. The Mother's Oat's were Euclid 's #2 group, though all Carleton can recall about them is that they "had a little guy who jumped around and played organ". West side mod group Kicks Inc. was notorious for indulging in Who-style equipment smashing long before it was in vogue, as well ascovering Who songs like "Substitute" long before they were widely known in the U.S.
Other west side groups were The Tree Stumps (whose long singles, "Listen to Love"/"Jennie Lee", were both originals described by Rebel Teen as"super teen punk"), and The Sceptres, who included future local star Michael Stanley in their ranks.
A big factor in allowing such groups to thrive was the emergence of a chain of teen clubs - or "Hullaballoos" as they were called - in outlying areas such as Chesterland, Mentor , Brunswick , Erie , and North Ridgeville . In fact, the no-alcoholic -beverages-permitted Mentor Hullaballoo (now a Carpet Barn) was a vital part of the scene into the early seventies, giving exposure to then-underground acts such as Rod Stewart, Iggy Pop , and Alice Cooper, along with local heroes The Choir, Cyrus Erie, and Moses. Clubowners also often rented out armories and large halls in Chagrin, Akron and Painesville to give the scene the space it needed. There aren't any Hullaballoos or armory dances in Cleveland these days -- a big reason why there aren't many active young bands there anymore as well.
The Mods reigned as the supreme British-inspired group, appearing on several local TV shows and acquiring a residency at the Painesville Armory, where they opened for visiting acts such as the Yardbirds and Tommy Roe. In 1966, Wally Bryson made local headlines for getting suspended (and nearly expelled) from high school for refusing to cut his hair. In the summer of 1966 The Mods went to Chicago to record two group originals,"It's Cold Outside" and "I'm Going Home". Around the same time, The Mods changed their name to The Choir, which was how they were billed when the single came out in December 1966. "It's Cold Outside", of course, has become a classic. A great teen pop-rock song that owed equal debts to The Who and Merseybeat, it topped the local charts for an astounding five weeks, rose to the lower reaches of the national surveys, and remains an oft-played oldie in Cleveland to this day. Though less well-known, the flip was an excellent Stones-influenced midtempo garage rocker, recently covered by the Chesterfield Kings and at long last reissued "On Highs" in the Mid-Sixties: Vol. 5 (which consists entirely of Ohio bands). Sadly, the two followup Choir singles failed to follow through on the enormous promise of their debut.
Eventually, original bassist Burke was replaced by Jim Skeen, and Jim Bonfanti settled into the drum set permanently while Dan Klawon left the group for awhile and became a bass guitarist. Their second single, "No One Here To Play With" (an obvious copy of The Who's "I'm A Boy") "B/W" and "Don't You Feel A Little Sorry For Me", were nice enough songs that nevertheless lacked the urgency of their first effort. "When You Were With Me"/"Changin' My Mind", their third 45, was overproduced with horns and strings, though the A-side (a Bryson original) was supposedly intended to be an acoustic song. As both songs feature The Choir only on vocals, this can hardly be termed as representative Choir material; it's rumored that their record company wanted to bring in a different singer to front the band. The band began to suffer from several personnel changes during this time, which, combined with the lack of a strong followup to "It's Cold Outside", led to a premature breakup in the spring of '68 -- though a new Choir would arise from the ashes in only a few months. A few unreleased 1967 tracks surfaced on a Bomp EP in 1976, including some strong power-pop originals and the beautiful cryptic ballad "Treeberry", giving us more cause to morn sparse recorded output of the first Choir incarnation.
The only local group to equal The Choir's musical excellence, and in fact top them in originality and innovation, were Euclid 's Lost Souls. Though their act was heavy on British covers and mod fashion, Denny Carleton concedes that they never indulged in these extremes as much as the Mods/Choir. Some of The Lost Souls were hardly sodden with the mod image at heart -- though they certainly felt more akin to it than the "Greaser" alternative, which is perhaps why some members of the 'Souls came to the defense of their arch-rivals when The Mods were threatened by Greasers at one performance at St. Anthony's Hall. Though they occasionally performed original material from the beginning, in 1967 The Lost Souls began to incorporate quite a few of their own tunes into their repertoire, and by doing so lost quite a bit of their following. The sixties scene was no more exempt from petty factionalism than today's underground, and The Lost Souls didn't quite fit in with the scene. They were no longer an exclusively mod band, and never a dance-oriented Soul group, and neither camp was ready to embrace a group that incorporated flute, sax, and mandolin into their basic guitars-bass-drums lineup. Nor were their songs -- melodic pop with depth that nevertheless incorporated odd tempo changes and acappella passages while adroitly switching from hard rock psychedelia to baroque pop to brassy blue-eyed soul -- the kind that got automatic appreciation at live gigs. "They didn't say, oh, these guys are real experimental, " reflects Carleton. "It was like, where's your 12-string and Beatle boots, though we had that kind of stuff too. We didn't quite fit the mold."It's hard to believe that a group this talented never had a vinyl release, but the furthest the Lost Souls got to one were a couple of unreleased demos. Fortunately, in 1984 Carleton dusted off these and several other unreleased tapes (all group originals) and compiled a 10-song casette of Lost Souls material (available through Green Light Records, P.O. Box 19154 , Cleveland , OH 44119 ). The result is a must for any '60's collector. There's "My Love I Won't Admit," which recalls the best of the Left Banke; "Walking Out On Me," a Beatlesque rocker with an off-the-wall guitar solo; "Dare to Surmise" - Who-influenced psychedelia at its best; "Things That ARe Important To Me", a wonderful ballad featuring flute and mandolin; "Josephine" and "If These Are Men", both brassy blue-eyed Soul; several jazzy minor-key numbers with a flute, bashing drums, and torturous tempo changes; and more, with great melodies and harmonies throughout. One of the most eclectic pop-rock groups of the '60's, The Lost Souls were perhaps too diverse for their era, for Carleton observes that they "weren't as appreciated then as they are now." The group broke up during 1968 due to impending college careers, not long after The Choir split. A few other rough quality tapes exist of the band in its early days, doing some covers and a couple Carleton originals not included on the Green Light tape, "I'm Falling" and "I Want You".
The passing of The Choir and Lost Souls was emblematic of the passing of the first wave of the British Invasion, with heavier and more psychedelic sounds replacing the Merseybeat and R&B influences. Perhaps the first local group to record in the emergent style was The Tiffany Shade, who released an LP in 1967 on the Mainstream label (home of several other obscure psychedelic bands like New Mexico 's Lincoln St. Exit). I've not heard the record, but the title of the opening cut, "Would You Take My Mind Out For A Walk", is pretty solid indication of a psychedelic influence.
Cleveland 's most famed "heavy" sixties group, The James Gang, was formed way back in September 1966 by Jim Fox. Originally their lead guitarist was Glenn Schwartz, who, though he was older (in his mid-twenties) than most of the musicians on the scene, played a flamboyant blues guitar and a mean version of The Yardbirds' "Jeff's Boogie". Schwartz left for California at the end of 1967, where he played in Pacific Gas and Electric for a while. Today he's back in Cleveland and still plays in blues bands, and still has a following that attends his shows in small bars. Schwartz's eventual replacement was Joe Walsh, formerly the guitarist in one of Kent's top bands, The Measles. Hard as it may be to envision today, Walsh was at that time a melodic, Beatle-ish player who fit well with The Measles' harmony-oriented set, even doing some Mamas and Papas' tunes, and was well respected by fellow musicians for his ability to emulate the full-bodied guitar sound of the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing" without using a 12-string. After Walsh had been in The James Gang for a while, they became a three-piece that earned a reputation as a jam band that would play anywhere. Eventually, of course, they released several albums and received praise from Pete Townshend, and Walsh went on to later fame as a solo artist and a member of The Eagles.
While The James Gang succeeded The Outsiders as Cleveland 's most well-known act on a national level, locally it wasn't that clear cut. By late 1968, a new version of The Choir had formed and was again becoming hugely popular on the local circuit. After the original Choir had disbanded, Jim Bonfanti had drummed for a while in a trio called Pie that broke up when their lead guitarist, who was none other than Joe Walsh, left to join The James Gang. With Pie keyboardist Phil Giallambardo, he decided to form a new version of The Choir. The new lineup was a supergroup of sorts, including ex-Lost Soul Denny Carleton (who'd let Dann Klawon use the Carleton original "What Are You Gonna Do" in live Choir gigs while Denny was still in The Lost Souls, and met Bonfanti when the latter drove The 'Souls' equipment truck during the Pie days) on bass, ex-Rebel Kind vocalist Kenny Margolis on piano, and Randy Klawon (Dan's younger brother) on guitar and organ, with the vocal chores divided among everyone except Bonfanti. The new Choir had an unusual keyboard-dominated sound, sometimes even using three keyboards on songs like "Macarthur Park" and Traffic's Coloured Rain". Margolis' 66-keyed Marco Polo piano was fitted with pickups to yield a different sound than the standard rock electric piano, while Klawon's Farfisa and Giallambardo's Hammond played against each other very well.
The group's repertoire encompassed jazz, R&B, ballads and classical rock, with about 20 original songs to their credit. In 1969, The Choir entered the studio to record an album's worth of songs. As with The Lost Souls' material, it's a great loss that these sessions were never released on vinyl, as the tapes could have formed the nucleus of one of the finest American pop-rock albums of the late '60's. "Anyway I Can"(which later appeared on the Bomp EP) was reminiscent of the Left Bank's best material, but had a more straightforward rock sound, with the added keyboards giving the sound a fullness lacking in The Choir's 1967 sessions. "If These Are Men", a Denny Carleton song originally done by The Lost Souls, was similarly fleshed out with guitar/keyboard interplay and a powerful soulful vocal by Margolis. "Why Do I Always Cry At Night" was an unexpectedly successful merger of the best of the early Bee Gees and Procol Harum. "Eric" was a long jazzy instrumental that gave all the band members a chance to stretch out. "Mummer Band" recalled the vaudevillian side of The Kinks, whose more rocking side was represented by a cover of "David Watts". Other originals both recalled early Traffic and anticipated the best of Todd Rundgren. The tapes were shopped around to several labels, but none expressed interest and they remain largely unreleased to this day ("If These Are Men" and "Mummer Band" did show up on a couple cassette anthologies on Carleton's Green Light label). Carleton recalls that the band did a couple more of his compositions, "I Don't Listen&" and "Fooling Myself",; which (along with several other group originals) never made it onto tape at all. Carleton and Margolis are to w ork out a release of these tapes on cassette which validates the mystique that has built up around this unrecorded lineup over the last 15 years. [Green Light] (Carleton also has a couple demos of the early Choir and a live tape of the later aggregation doing "Good Vibrations".)
The Choir's chief competition was Cyrus Erie. A new band formed by native Canadians Bob and Michael McBride, the group featured Eric Carmen on keyboards and vocals and ex-Choir member Wally Bryson. Carmen had auditioned for the pianist's job in The Choir in 1967, for which he was unsuccessful (partly because he'd been uncool enough to wear a wig). His current band had an extremely Who-influenced sound whose repertoire was dominated by covers like "Magic Bus", The Small Faces' "Tin Soldier", and material by groups like The Moody Blues, Left Banke, Stones and Beatles . They even performed lots of shows at their own venue, the Cyrus Erie Club, purchased for the group by Carmen's uncle. They did relatively few originals, and reportedly even these were blatantly influenced by the bands they covered. Still, they did manage an original 45 in early 1969 ("Get The Message"/"Sparrow", on Epic.) Carmen also appeared on another original single later that year (also on Epic) by The Quick (which Cyrus Erie had changed its name to briefly), and "Ain't Nothin' Gonna Stop Me"/"Southern Comfort", which was Small Faces and Spooky Tooth-inspired. Cyrus Erie were a huge live draw, even bigger than The Choir . "We could never quite match Cyrus Erie's popularity," admits Carleton. "They would do 'Twist and Shout' and pack the place, and we would do some 7-minute concerto with four time changes and we couldn't just quite get it going." With the Choir-Cyrus Erie rivalry the scene reached a peak, but was soon weakened by bizarre personnel changes too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say that several members quit The Choir to join Cyrus Erie, which initiated a series of exchanges between the two groups that saw several members playing in both groups at various times (during this era Dann Klawon even rejoined The Choir twice).
During one of these personnel shuffles when Carleton was out of The Choir ("no explanation given"), after which he joined Moses, a new group formed by Brian Sands, which would also include ex-Choir and Cyrus Erie guitarist Randy Klawon. Perhaps the last Cleveland group of lasting significance to emerge from the sixties, Moses was a flamboyant band that anticipated the theatrical rock of Alice Cooper (in fact, they later played with Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop). Some opposing groups disliked Moses so much that they'd snip off the group's amp cords. About 80% of Moses' set was original, but their repertoire also featured some flamboyant covers. While performing "Instant Karma", Sands would put mirrors into the audience's faces, throw out candy, and hold up a Sunkist sign to illustrate the lyric "we all shine on". On "Cold Turkey", he'd simulate drug withdrawals onstage while Carleton and Klawon (wearing masks to represent the drugs) would close in on him from the side. They also performed with a high school choir, passed out percussion instruments to the audience, and even played a tape from a nuclear fallout drill as a prelude to "Great Balls of Fire". Moses recorded an unreleased single of a Denny Carleton song "Middle Of An Island", although it and Moses' version of a Carleton-Klawon composition, "You Cut Me Into Ribbons" appear on Denny Carleton's "Retro".
Meanwhile The Choir eked out a final single, "Gonna Have A Good Time Tonight"(the Easybeats song)/"Anyway I Can" (a different take than the one for their unreleased LP) on the Intrepid label. In the summer of 1970, they finally disbanded due to the wear and tear of the frequent personnel hassles, which were exacerbated by the desire of most of the band to move to California . They played their last gig at the D-Poo's Tool and Dye Works in the Cleveland flats. During the break, Eric Carmen (whose Cyrus Erie had also come to the end of the line recently) asked Bonfanti if he wanted to form a new band, but Bonfanti replied that he was "hanging up (his) rock and roll shoes." After a few months, he reconsidered and phoned Carmen in the middle of the night to ask if he was still trying to form a group. Eric was, and so The Raspberries were born. The duo added two members of the original Choir, Wally Bryson and Dave Smalley, and within two years became the biggest Cleveland rock group chart act ever. The Raspberries' story has been well-documented elsewhere; suffice it to say that they are now revered as one of the finest power-pop outfits. Their work really wasn't as superlative as some have claimed -- their albums had a fair amount of clinkers and syrupy soft rock that foreshadowed Carmen's later success as a ballad singer after The Raspberries disbanded. But Carmen was also responsible for the band's hard-rocking hits, "I Wanna Be With You" and "Go All The Way", pop that rocked harder than almost anything else on AM radio in the early '70's. The Raspberries' success so encouraged pop-oriented critics that some, like Bomp's Greg Shaw, declared Cleveland to be a "new Liverpool" whose bands eschewed then-prevalent prog-rock ethos to return to (what the critics saw as) real rock 'n' roll that emphasized innocence, good times, and hooks galore without being schmaltzy. In retrospect, all this hype about the "mod revival" in the early '70s Cleveland scene seems grounded as much (if not more) in wishful critical thinking than reality. True, The Raspberries in their best moments continued the mod-Mersey amalgam initiated by The Choir and their ilk, but they would be the only Cleveland group of this sort in the seventies to make any sort of national impact. Aside from The Choir, perhaps the best-known Cleveland power pop group of the early '70s were Circus , who despite great local popularity (which even saw them filling up sizable concert arenas) remained unknown elsewhere. At the same time of the supposed underground power-pop revival, bands like The Electric Eels, Mirrors and Rocket From the Tombs were laying the foundations for a new wave/punk explosion that would have a much longer-lasting impact. (For what it's worth, members of Pere Ubu would acknowledge local bands like the Tulu Babies as influences, though it wasn't readily apparent in their music. ) In any case, The Raspberries would disband by 1975 in considerable acrimony. Carmen was never the easiest band leader to work with, as evidenced by the frequent lineup changes in Cyrus Erie and a recent Blitz interview where he often refers to Bryson, Smalley and Bonfanti without identifying them by name, while at the same time explaining that he never wanted to dominate the group.
With the demise of The Raspberries, the dominance of Cleveland rock by mod-inspired groups also ended, though prime movers of the era have continued to maintain a visible profile in the local scene.
Denny Carleton may have collaborated with me on this article, but it's no backslapping to identify him as one of the most visible veteran from the sixties scene. In the seventies he played with Milk, a Moses spinoff that (like Moses) in some ways anticipated punk, what with Tiny Tim medleys and originals like "Eat the Hot Dog Go Get Sick Later". He later played with the new wave/punk trailblazers the Pagans, and after a brief leave from the music scene returned to more pop-oriented outfits in the '80s. His latest group, The Window,(*since broken up) has been together for a few years and plays locally quite frequently. On his own, he's recorded an excellent cassette, Color With Crayons, a collage of song fragments that melds the best of pop and the avant-garde. Most importantly, he continues to be one of the biggest champions of the local scene with projects like samplers of local talent on his Green Light label.
Aside from a one-off reunion at a New Year's Eve party at Kenny Margolis' house in 1976, The Choir get together occasionaly, but local bands that feature ex-Choir members continue to draw well to this day. Kenny Margolis, Wally Bryson and Dann Klawon perform in a band called The Sitting Ducks, so several vets of the sixties scene continue to be active in a modest fashion.
Given the exhaustive documentation of '60s scenes in regions such as Texas , the lack of currently available recordings by vintage '60's Cleveland groups is a frustrating disgrace, though some bits have surfaced on anthologies like the Ohio volumes of highs in the Mid-sixties. In Rebel Teen, George Gell and Tom Fallon have listed dozens of singles from the Cleveland area which haven't been anthologized, and refer to many local groups whose histories remain sketchy. For instance, a recent issue mentions a monster 1966 punk release by the Missing Links, a group which I haven't heard and know nothing about; ditto for a group called Dragownwyck, who released a 1970 LP that the magazine describes as "excellent ... sounding much like The Doors with Cream style guitar." They've also raved about a mid-sixties Cleveland band of obscure origins called The Alarm Clocks; both sides of their single, "Yeah"/"No Reason To Complain", were reissued recently on the Back From the Grave Vol. 1 compilation. I myself don't find it particularly exceptional, but it most definitely is raw teenage garage. Also in the way of reissues is Pride of Cleveland Past, a sampler of local hits ranging from the late fifties to the early seventies that includes the best-known cuts by the Choir, Outsiders, Joey and the Continentals, Tom King and the Starfires, The Tulu Babies, The Raspberries, The Baskerville Hounds, The Tree Stumps, and Circus. But even that's a fragmentary and superficial overview of the scene, and is frustratingly difficult to obtain outside the Cleveland area. There's The Lost Souls and Choir tape, of course, Choir Practice on Sundazed but more reissues are needed. If a group as notable as The Lost Souls never released anything on vinyl, who knows how many other unreleased gems could be out there?
As in many other regions in the U.S., Cleveland is no longer a hotbed of young rock groups. True, most of these bands didn't get to tour nationally or cut a lot of records, but at lease they were ble to play often to fairly sizable and appreciative local audiences. With notable exceptions such as Death of Samantha (recently signed to an album deal with Homestead Records), much fewer young groups have these opportunities today. With 20 years of experience in the scene behind him, Denny Carleton reflects on the reasons for the decline of the local scene, which, although they're directed at Cleveland, could apply to almost any region in the U.S. &"In the sixties, everything was accented on the band -- now it's the club. Bands back then were commercial and accessible to the people, but were not sold out. they kept their integrity and style. Maybe there'd be a band known for doing Who songs that did ten originals, or maybe known for doing country songs. Bands kept their individual identity."
Much of the information in this article was obtained from Anastasia Pantsios' History of the Cleveland Rock Scene-- The sixties piece in the 12/19/74 Exit. Thanks also to Christopher Stigliano, Tom Fallon, and George Gell for their assistance in preparing this feature.
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