Pride of Cleveland

We referred to local artists we played on WMMS as the “Pride of Cleveland” – P.O.C., for short.   The name, suggested by Kid Leo in the mid ‘70s, came from the locally-brewed P.O.C. beer, which was headquartered in Cleveland from 1892 to 1962.  The P.O.C. acronym stood for both “Pride of Cleveland,” and “Pilsener of Cleveland,” Outside of Cleveland it was known as “Pilsener on call.”

Both Cleveland and Akron had thriving local music scenes, featuring a diversity of artists performing original music. It was not an easy way to make a living since only a limited number of venues booked local artists performing original music.  

Some local bands were forced to start out as cover bands to get bookings until they could become established with their own material. 

Even Trent Reznor’s  Option 30 performed cover hits by Billy Idol, The Thompson Twins, Falco, and other eighties artists to secure gigs in the region.

With the exception of the Raspberries, no local act made it out of Cleveland on a national echelon.   

The James Gang had regional pockets of popularity throughout the U.S. but couldn’t crack the northeast. They had a strong following in the U.K. and were tapped as the opening act for the Who on a tour there.  Glass Harp‘s strongest following was in the midwest.  National interest in both bands grew in later years.  

Even the Michael Stanley Band, which broke concert attendance records at both the Coliseum and Blossom, didn’t break on through to national prominence.

Popular mass appeal bands in Cleveland during the 70s and early 80s included the American Noise, Love Affair, Wild Horses, the Generators, Rapscallion, Flatbush, the Jerry Busch Group, Wild Giraffes, Lucky Pierre, Breathless, System 56, and Raven Slaughter, among others.   

 Cleveland had a nationally respected and admired alternative music scene, which initially centered around the late Peter Laughner in various incarnations with Cinderella Backstreet and Rocket from the Tombs, whose first recording was played on WMMS (Laughner also delivered Patti Smith’s first self-released single, “Hey Joe” and “Piss Factory,” to WMMS, making us the first commercial radio station to play her music).   Rocket from the Tombs in due course broke up into two bands – the Dead Boys, which we did play frequently and Pere Ubu, which we didn’t.

Singer-songwriters playing the circuit at the time included Alex Bevan and John Bassette and humorist Charlie Weiner.

The Euclid Beach Band, a group fashioned by the late Jim Girard of Scene magazine for a charity benefit single with local musician Rich Reising and vocalists Pete Hewitt and John Hart, was an unexpected hit.  The song,  “There’s No Surf in Cleveland”, became one of the most-requested songs on WMMS, which led to Steve Popovich of Cleveland-International records to sign the band.  Their album, produced by Eric Carmen, was released nationally but was poorly supported and promoted by Cleveland-International’s distributor, Epic Records.

Let me apologize here if I left the name of a band or performer off the list.  It wasn’t intentional.

Akron’s local music scene flourished with the Numbers Band, Rubber City Rebels, Devo, Tin Huey, Rachel Sweet, and Chi Pig.

Several of these artists released regionally-released singles, EPs or albums.  Some, like Michael Stanley, American Noise, Molkie Cole, Breathless, and Love Affair from Cleveland and the Rubber City Rebels, Devo, Tin Huey and Rachel Sweet got signed by major labels or subsidiaries and had their albums released nationally.

Rachel Sweet received some national airplay – but did best in the U.K. Devo relocated to L.A. when their album broke nationally.

There wasn’t a “Cleveland sound,” per se.  It was a far more creative and healthy scene, which infused a wide variety of musical influences from mainstream rock to reggae, punk, country, and blues.

In 1980, we released a compilation album, The Pride of Cleveland, which was produced by Denny Sanders, on our own Buzzard Records label, featuring Love Affair, Jerry Busch Group, I-Tal, Don Kriss, Alex Bevan, Wild Horses, American Noise, the Generators, Rapscallion, Wild Giraffes, and Flatbush.

One of these bands, Love Affair, started as a cover-band, Stairway, which played local bar circuit.

In 1979, the band’s original music demo got noticed by – of all people – singer-songwriter Melanie and her husband Peter Schekeryk They helped get the band signed to the Florida-based Radio Records, a boutique label distributed by Atlantic.   Released in 1980,  it was a regionally top ten selling album, and featured “Mama Sez,” which was heavily-requested on WMMS.  Later that year, Love Affair re-recorded the song as “Brian Sez,” in tribute to Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe during their 11-5 season.

Love Affair failed to catch on nationally (due to lack of promotion and marketing from the label) – though they did pick up a following in Canada.

This photo was taken in the 80s, in a production room at WMMS, where the band was cutting station IDs. 
Top row, left to right: Mike Hudak (Love Affair), John Gorman, Rich Spina (Love Affair), John Zdravecky (Love Affair), Matt the Cat, Wes Coolbaugh (Love Affair)
Bottom row, left to right: Wayne Cukras (Love Affair), Denny Sanders 

Chapter 20 in The Buzzard book covers Cleveland’s and Akron’s local music scenes during the 70s and 80s.

17 Responses to “Pride of Cleveland”

  1. Oddly enough, this post corresponds nicely to one I did myself recently:

  2. Love Affair was the Greatest. I love when Rich did his set Frankie Valle and BeeGee’s. Used to see them at Filthy Mcnasty’s on Saturday nights. They Rocked!

  3. you guys forget about one important musical group from clevelnad in teh 70’s..dude! get something about “SWEETLEAF’ remembered and Cy Sulak (AKA vVICOTY HIGHWAY-2008 BAND (ON MY SPACE)and Mike Solarz!

    They were the bomb! sounded just like THE DOORS and JIM MORRISON! was so “dead- on” it was SPOOKY!

    thanks for letting me add this..

    Have a good one and thanks for all the good memories this page is offering but get SWEETLEAF info up here! thanx!

    What was there one hit owonder again???

  4. victory highway- cy sulak’s new band (former guitarist for 1970’s group SWEETLEAF and later with MSB = (Michael Stanley Band )

    but would like some updated info on Mike Solarz too!

    Thanks again,
    Hearts adn Hugs Ol’ Buzzard friends,

  5. Sue Schwenk Says:

    I just found some old photos I collected of bands I use to hear. I frequently went to Cyrus Erie in Cleveland Ohio in the 70’s. What a look back on goodtimes !!!

  6. […] Her first album Fool Around, became a WMMS staple and her cover version of Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y,” was a top-requested track.  This was her first concert appearance in Cleveland. Though the album, […]

  7. Lampie The Clown Says:

    One of the unique aspects of the Cleveland/Akron/Canton club bands in the 80s was that many were self contained. By that I mean each band had an 18′ – 24′ truck full of P.A., lights, risers, special effects, backdrops, etc. and usually a 4 man “road crew” working full time to maintain and run it all.

    I worked for Spectre, an Akron band, then later worked for R.P.M. a Richfield band that later became “Perfect Stranger”. Fayrewether, Easy Street and Dartagnan (later called Diamondback) were production oriented and self contained as well. These bands had to work at least 4 nights a week, and usually worked 5 and 6, just to generate enough cash flow to keep it all together.

    The competition was fierce, but I’d have to say that Love Affair probably had the most impressive stage production, and the band’s talent for showmanship made sure none of their crew’s effort was wasted. The drum riser was on a motorized turntable, and would rotate 360 degrees during drum solos. They used many variations of pyro, from aerial bursts and flame tubes to concussion mortars. They had dry ice fog machines (which are a pain in the ass), and even water fountains coming out of the stage during a Uriah Heep tune called “The Wizard”.

    They were the first to get wireless systems for the whole band (except the drummer, who would spin on his riser). I saw them perform their wireless Led Zeppelin set at both Filthy Mcnasty’s and the Akron Agora.

    27 years later, I’ve toured 36 countries with bands and performers that are household names, but I’m still impressed by what Love Affair and their crew did 27 years ago. If I had a better memory, I’d post their crew’s names. They deserve recognition.

    • As one of the crew in the later stage of the band, the main crew was:
      Bob Siscovich – Monitors then later main sound
      Rick Lobas – Gutiars and follow spot
      Mike Zulo – Special effects and light assistant
      Doug Marti – Lighting
      Others were Jeff Hair who ran sound and later toured with a number of heavy metal bands.
      One of the most dedicated group of people you will ever meet. 24 hrs a day 7 days a week.
      You have some things mixed up though, the Wizard was done by Nasty Habits (Phantisy) not LA. The two groups were very close personally and on stage. LA did the Led Zeppelin and Queen so well, Nasty Habits did the Who and all sorts of strange stage set ups, The wizard, Alice Cooper, and others. Both had amazing crews, I worked on both.

    • Mike Roberts Says:

      Wow, Blast from the past! I also worked for Spectre and RPM. Good Times

  8. Lampie The Clown Says:

    After I wrote the post above I e-mailed Rich Spina, who supplied me with the Love Affair crew names. They were…

    Jeff Hair – soundman
    Doug Marti – Lights
    Bob Siscovic – pyro, drums & stage tech
    Mike Zullo – guitar & stage tech
    Rick Lobas – Follow spot & stage tech

    You Guys Rocked.

    Lampie The Clown

  9. American Noise released a 45 song Statutory Sue does anyone know how to get a recording of that song or if the 45 is available anywhere. Also wasn,t there a local band called Souvenir that played alot of Journey I think I remember them playing alot at places like the Painsville Agora?

  10. dbhewitt Says:

    Stautory Sue was b/w Another Girl Like You – both great tracks. Both performed on a circulating WMMS Coffeebreak Concert from 1982. Also includes Radio Dreams from their abandoned second album.

  11. alison cashin Says:

    Does anyone remember a local band named Valiant with Artie Cashin on lead guitar? They were played during the coffee break and its a rumor that the dj congratulated Artie on air the day I was born. I’m his daughter so id like to know if this is an old wives tale or if it really happened lol

  12. Does anyone Remember a band called “Vanessa” from the Philly area, a theater rock band.

  13. I’m disappointed to see Easy Street, one of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio’s mainstay bands from the late seventies early eighties overlooked here.
    Sold out the Cleveland Agora every week for years and the self-titled ep including the hit Love Tries did very well on the local charts in 1982. Easy Street memorabilia decorates the sets of the Drew Carey Show, an Easy Street hat on the hat rack in the kitchen and bumper sticker on the refrigerator and album cover on top of the jukebox in the bar.

    (okay I’m done whining now )

    great music!!!!!

  15. Is this John Gorman that went to ST Joes High?

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