Feb 2010 / CYRUS ERIE

When the site of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was announced in 1983 as being Cleveland, the main response from most people was bewilderment. The city was trying to shake its image as the epitome of Rust Belt crud (that will happen to a place when its river catches fire), and this helped give the city a much needed makeover. The main reason given for the choice was that Cleveland disk jockey Alan Freed heavily promoted the new genre of music in the early 1950's and is one of several who claimed to have come up with the term 'rock and roll'. Few if any have cited Cleveland's highly competitive local music scene during the 1960's and 1970's, with as much ferment as any city in the nation; and that would have given the choice more credibility than a half-forgotten DJ.

Back in 1958, Tom King, at the tender age of 15, started things off with a rhythm and blues band that he formed called the Starfires. Their repertoire was mostly instrumentals, with occasional vocals by Tom King; they were local favorites, playing up to six shows per week, and had a minor local hit based on the popular TV commercial, 'Stronger than Dirt' for Ajax laundry detergent. (Ajax had basically invented advertising jingles years earlier). When Tom King began to lose his voice, he brought in Sonny Geraci and his brother Mike Geraci; and the band quickly began to transition to the more modern sounds being ushered in by Motown and the nascent British Invasion. Their legacy as a hard-working R&B band helped them successfully compete against the Brits.

Tom King and his brother-in-law Chet Kelley came up with a gem called 'Time Won't Let Me', a near-perfect amalgam of Motown and Merseybeat that even 45 years later is one of those songs that I never get tired of hearing. Under pressure from Capitol Records, the band changed its name to the Outsiders and had a string of Top 40 hits over the mid-1960's like 'Girl in Love' and 'Respectable' that, sadly, are almost completely overshadowed by their biggest hit, 'Time Won't Let Me'. The Outsiders released a total of four albums in the 1960's, all quite good; even the fake 'live' album somehow works. Until Chicago came along with their Roman numeral series, the Outsiders had perhaps the most boring series of album names of the time: Besides the first that was named for their hit song, Time Won't Let Me ' and was originally going to be called simply The Outsiders ' the others were Album #2, The Outsiders In and Happening Live!. Their recordings had judicious use of horns and paved the way for other bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears, the Buckinghams and Chicago that were more heavily dominated by their brass sections.

The Outsiders broke up at the end of the decade but almost immediately reformed ' actually, there were two bands called the Outsiders for a time: one in Los Angeles headed by Sonny Geraci, and the other back in Cleveland led by Tom King. Tom King won the lawsuit over the use of the name, so Sonny Geraci changed his band's name to Climax. This new band had an even bigger hit in 1972 than 'Time Won't Let Me': the Number One song 'Precious and Few'. With the addition of this song to his Outsiders output, Sonny Geraci is clearly one of the best blue-eyed soul singers of the 1960's.

James (Jimmy) Fox was brought in as the drummer for the last several sessions for the Outsiders' first album, Time Won't Let Me. Jimmy Fox then dropped out of college and formed the James Gang in 1966, a band that enjoyed considerable success over the coming decade and, with songs like 'Walk Away' and 'Funk #49', were tailor-made for the 'album rock' era that was just starting to emerge in the very early 1970's on FM radio. One of their later bandmembers, Joe Walsh became a bonafide superstar and joined the Eagles for a time. His signature solo hit 'Life's Been Good' is a dead-on picture of rockstar excess: In the opening verse, Joe Walsh deadpans: 'I have a mansion, forget the price / I've never been there, they tell me it's nice.'

Meanwhile, back in the mid-1960's, the Cleveland music scene was spurred on by the success of these local heroes. Bandleader Dann Klawon of the Choir knew a girl who had been to England in 1963 and picked up some of the early Beatles singles and one of their albums. Like most of the American garage bands, they were influenced by the British Invasion; but for them, it hadn't even arrived here yet. Dann Klawon wrote an unabashedly Beatlesque power-pop classic for the band called 'It's Cold Outside' that made the local charts and is among the most beloved garage-rock songs from the era. Stiv Bators, frontman for the seminal 1970's Cleveland punk band the Dead Boys was among its admirers; but his band couldn't figure out how to play the song! (Later, as a solo artist, Stiv Bators came up with a nice version).

In most places, bands formed and kept a stable line-up for years, sometimes decades; but in Cleveland, musicians were constantly being lured from one band to another in order to get the freshest sound and keep the locals' respect. As an example, no fewer than eight members of the precedessor band the Starfires were members of the quartet the Outsiders at one time or another. But nowhere was this truer than with the Choir: Allmusic referred to the large number of fine musicians who went through 'the Choir turnstile'. A retrospective album of their music called Choir Practice shows a host of styles that the band recorded over the years.

When Eric Carmen, a fan of the band in its early years, auditioned to join the Choir, he was rejected and instead became a member of CYRUS ERIE (which was named for a brand of tractor). He turned his hurt feelings into revenge by stealing away their best musicians; and before long, Cyrus Erie was widely regarded as the best band in the Cleveland area. The tug of war between the two bands went on for awhile; but ultimately and ironically, the Raspberries were formed by Eric Carmen with three core members of the Choir: Wally Bryson, Dave Smalley and Jim Bonfanti. The Raspberries released several albums in the early 1970's and had a number of hits, particularly 'Go All the Way'. The band is remembered for their intelligent pop craftsmanship; and they are cited as influences by artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Paul Stanley of KISS, Tom Petty, and Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses. The Raspberries reformed in 2004 and were the first performers when the House of Blues opened a venue in Cleveland. They began to receive so many requests for 'It's Cold Outside' that the Choir also came together for a two-night stand in 2006.

Eric Carmen also had success as a singer-songwriter with 'All by Myself' and, more than 10 years later, with 'Hungry Eyes" from the soundtrack of the film Dirty Dancing. He penned several songs that were hits for others as well, including two hits for teen heartthrob Shaun Cassidy, and 'Almost Paradise' from the Footloose soundtrack, which was a duet by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, the lead singers of Loverboy and Heart, respectively.

Several years ago, I looked up the Wikipedia article on the Dutch band the Outsiders ' one of the truly great rock bands of all time and maybe the very best from a non'English-speaking country ' and happened to click over to their American contemporaries, also called the Outsiders, only to discover that there was just a 'stub' (in other words, a few sentences with basic information like bandmembers' names, major hit song, etc.). With over 1¼ million articles in Wikipedia at that time (it is significantly above three million now ' and that is just in the English Wikipedia), it hadn't occurred to me that I would have an opportunity to work up an article on a well-known group, so I started in. Though the James Gang and the Raspberries each had a generous write-up, there was nothing at all on the Starfires or the Choir, so I also contributed those articles. I had planned to get to Cyrus Erie but haven't as yet, so that Cleveland band ' which had only minimal recordings though ' still is without notice in Wikipedia.

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The Honor Roll of the Under Appreciated Rock Bands and Artists follows, in date order, including a link to the original Facebook posts and the theme of the article.
Dec 2009 ' BEAST; Lot to Learn
Jan 2010 ' WENDY WALDMAN; Los Angeles Singer-Songwriters
Feb 2010 ' CYRUS ERIE; Cleveland
Mar 2010 ' BANG; Record Collecting I
Apr 2010 ' THE BREAKAWAYS; Power Pop
May 2010 ' THE NOT QUITE; Katrina Clean-Up
Jun 2010 ' WATERLILLIES; Electronica
Jul 2010 ' THE EYES; Los Angeles Punk Rock
Aug 2010 ' QUEEN ANNE'S LACE; Psychedelic Pop
Sep 2010 ' THE STILLROVEN; Minnesota
Oct 2010 ' THE PILTDOWN MEN; Record Collecting II
Nov 2010 ' SLOVENLY; Slovenly Peter
Dec 2010 ' THE POPPEES; New York Punk/New Wave
Jan 2011 ' HACIENDA; Latinos in Rock
Feb 2011 ' THE WANDERERS; Punk Rock (1970's/1980's)
Mar 2011 ' INDEX; Psychedelic Rock (1960's)
Apr 2011 ' BOHEMIAN VENDETTA; Punk Rock (1960's)
May 2011 ' THE LONESOME DRIFTER; Rockabilly
Jun 2011 ' THE UNKNOWNS; Disabled Musicians
Jul 2011 ' THE RIP CHORDS; Surf Rock I
Aug 2011 ' ANDY COLQUHOUN; Side Men
Sep 2011 ' ULTRA; Texas
Oct 2011 ' JIM SULLIVAN; Mystery
Nov 2011 ' THE UGLY; Punk Rock (1970's)
Dec 2011 ' THE MAGICIANS; Garage Rock (1960's)
Jan 2012 ' RON FRANKLIN; Why Celebrate Under Appreciated?
Feb 2012 ' JA JA JA; German New Wave
Mar 2012 ' STRATAVARIOUS; Disco Music
Apr 2012 ' LINDA PIERRE KING; Record Collecting III
May 2012 ' TINA AND THE TOTAL BABES; One Hit Wonders
Jun 2012 ' WILD BLUE; Band Names I
Jul 2012 ' DEAD HIPPIE; Band Names II
Aug 2012 ' PHIL AND THE FRANTICS; Wikipedia I
Sep 2012 ' CODE BLUE; Hidden History
Oct 2012 ' TRILLION; Wikipedia II
Nov 2012 ' THOMAS ANDERSON; Martin Winfree's Record Buying Guide
Dec 2012 ' THE INVISIBLE EYES; Record Collecting IV
Jan 2013 ' THE SKYWALKERS; Garage Rock Revival
Mar 2013 ' THE GILES BROTHERS; Novelty Songs
Apr 2013 ' LES SINNERS; Universal Language
May 2013 ' HOLLIS BROWN; Greg Shaw / Bob Dylan
Jun 2013 (I) ' FUR (Part One); What Might Have Been I
Jun 2013 (II) ' FUR (Part Two); What Might Have Been II
Jul 2013 ' THE KLUBS; Record Collecting V
Aug 2013 ' SILVERBIRD; Native Americans in Rock
Sep 2013 ' BLAIR 1523; Wikipedia III
Oct 2013 ' MUSIC EMPORIUM; Women in Rock I
Nov 2013 ' CHIMERA; Women in Rock II
Dec 2013 ' LES HELL ON HEELS; Women in Rock III
Jan 2014 ' BOYSKOUT; (Lesbian) Women in Rock IV
Feb 2014 ' LIQUID FAERIES; Women in Rock V
Mar 2014 (I) ' THE SONS OF FRED (Part 1); Tribute to Mick Farren
Mar 2014 (II) ' THE SONS OF FRED (Part 2); Tribute to Mick Farren
Apr 2014 ' HOMER; Creating New Bands out of Old Ones
May 2014 ' THE SOUL AGENTS; The Cream Family Tree
Jun 2014 ' THE RICHMOND SLUTS and BIG MIDNIGHT; Band Names (Changes) III
Jul 2014 ' MIKKI; Rock and Religion I (Early CCM Music)
Aug 2014 ' THE HOLY GHOST RECEPTION COMMITTEE #9; Rock and Religion II (Bob Dylan)
Sep 2014 ' NICK FREUND; Rock and Religion III (The Beatles)
Oct 2014 ' MOTOCHRIST; Rock and Religion IV
Nov 2014 ' WENDY BAGWELL AND THE SUNLITERS; Rock and Religion V
Dec 2014 ' THE SILENCERS; Surf Rock II
Jan 2015 (I) ' THE CRAWDADDYS (Part 1); Tribute to Kim Fowley
Jan 2015 (II) ' THE CRAWDADDYS (Part 2); Tribute to Kim Fowley
Feb 2015 ' BRIAN OLIVE; Songwriting I (Country Music)
Mar 2015 ' PHIL GAMMAGE; Songwriting II (Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan)
Apr 2015 (I) ' BLACK RUSSIAN (Part 1); Songwriting III (Partnerships)
Apr 2015 (II) ' BLACK RUSSIAN (Part 2); Songwriting III (Partnerships)
May 2015 ' MAL RYDER and THE PRIMITIVES; Songwriting IV (Rolling Stones)
Jun 2015 ' HAYMARKET SQUARE; Songwriting V (Beatles)
Jul 2015 ' THE HUMAN ZOO; Songwriting VI (Psychedelic Rock)
Aug 2015 ' CRYSTAL MANSION; Martin Winfree's Record Cleaning Guide
Dec 2015 ' AMANDA JONES; So Many Rock Bands
Mar 2016 ' THE LOVEMASTERS; Fun Rock Music
Jun 2016 ' THE GYNECOLOGISTS; Offensive Rock Music Lyrics
Sep 2016 ' LIGHTNING STRIKE; Rap and Hip Hop
Dec 2016 ' THE IGUANAS; Iggy and the Stooges; Proto-Punk Rock
Mar 2017 ' THE LAZY COWGIRLS; Iggy and the Stooges; First Wave Punk Rock
Jun 2017 ' THE LOONS; Punk Revival and Other New Bands
Sep 2017 ' THE TELL-TALE HEARTS; Bootleg Albums
Dec 2017 ' SS-20; The Iguana Chronicles
(Year 10 Review)
Last edited: April 7, 2021