Cleveland was dubbed rock 'n' roll capital of the world in 70s and 80s

CLEVELAND - During the 1970s and 80s, Cleveland staked its claim as the "Rock 'n' Roll Capital of the World." One local man, who was as close to the music scene as there was during that time, called the city "the center of the music universe."

From 1973 until 1986, John Gorman worked at WMMS, one of the hottest FM radio stations in that time in America, in one of America's hottest rock and roll cities.

"When I look back at that time I say, 'Wow. That was an amazing period.' You had a lot of acts play here in their earliest days. So you'd get to see Van Halen open for Journey, you'd get to see the raw act, the first time out of the box when they're touring," Gorman said.

Back in the day, attending a show in Cleveland often times meant having a front row seat to music history.

"Watch acts perform live in their infancy, perform live. Watch acts develop, which made Cleveland very important, because we became the perfect barometer for rock music in the country," Gorman said.

He also said the city's musical IQ was through the roof.

"The people in Cleveland had great knowledge of music and, unlike New York and LA, it was prove it to me. They sit on their hands and really applaud if they like you. Cleveland audiences get into it. Our audience was excited, standing up cheering. They knew the words to all the new songs."

Perhaps none more so than Bruce Springsteen. Born and raised in New Jersey, but it can be said that northeast Ohio had a hand in propelling "The Boss" to super stardom, thanks in a large part to the city's rock 'n' roll glory days.

"Springsteen is probably best known for breaking out of Cleveland because he is the all-American act and Springsteen is a unique performer," Gorman said.

Unique definitely defined Gene Simmons of KISS. But there were other players during Cleveland's hey day of rock and roll. Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Linda Ronstadt and Jefferson Starship to name a few.

"Cleveland was really the epicenter as far as breaking a story nationally," said Gorman. "And as far as new musical trends as well. It started happening in Cleveland. If it was developing and catching on and selling and spreading slowly out of Cleveland, you know you had something."

With so many ethnicities in the city, rock and roll was the universal language. Gorman said it had no boundaries.

"East side, west side, south side. They all came downtown to go to rock concerts. That's where everyone converged. And there is a time in downtown Cleveland when the only time you'd see people is when there were rock concerts. I mean, there was nothing else happening in downtown for a long period of time."

And for a long time, it was music that kept Cleveland in the headlines.

"The Browns always choked, the Indians weren't even close, the Cavs were a joke back then," said Gorman. "But the one thing you could count on that always seemed to be a winner in this town was rock 'n' roll."

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