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.
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.
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.
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.
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.