Friday, September 07, 2007

When the Beatles Came To Cleveland

Racial riots weren't the only kind of civic unrest Cleveland endured in the 1960s. There was also a good bit of unruliness over two Beatles concerts staged here, at Public Hall in 1964 and at the old Cleveland Stadium in 1966 (you can see images of the admissions tickets here and here). Given its historic appeal, I was surprised to learn that the generally comprehensive Encyclopedia of Cleveland History doesn't mention either visit. But a new self-published book by a comedian who's relocated to the region recounts the visits in some detail. The bad news: the author writes and organizes information about as well as I perform stand-up comedy. Still, the book (which I've only skimmed) is worthwhile for anyone who's really into either the Beatles or Cleveland history. If that describes you, do check it out when you next find yourself at a bookstore in the region.

For me, at least, the story has an extra layer of sadness, since it describes a time when local radio stations were so firmly entrenched in their community as to be able to almost single-handedly sponsor these concerts (WHK in '64 and WIXY 1260 in '66). Those times are long gone, with the sickening consolidation of local radio into mega-chains that exist solely to scoop up every last advertising dollar (shame on you, Bill Clinton, for allowing it on your watch). And it's just as true for local TV, as I'll describe in coming days, when I write a little about a Ghoulardifest I attended last weekend with some high school pals.


At 1:43 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

Did you get "Janet's" autograph?

At 7:00 PM, Blogger dave said...

Hi John,
Correction: I'm not a stand-up comedian relocated to Cleveland. I worked behind the scenes as Talent Coordinator for "A&E's An Evening At The Improv" and The Improv Comedy Clubs in NYC and LA. I consulted for "The Tonight Show," "Letterman," Comedy Central, HBO and others. My first two books are business books about the comedy industry - "How To Be A Working Comic" and "Comedy FAQs And Answers," (details at I'm an award-winning humor columnist, instructor of Continuing Business Education at CSU, radio host and comedy/humor coach. Unfortunately - though I love'em - I'm not a stand-up comedian.
Keep Laughing!
Dave Schwensen

At 8:42 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Dave, I stand corrected. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with the book and your other projects. I'm glad you wrote about this topic, given the lack of material elsewhere.

At 3:10 AM, Blogger dave said...

Thanks John. I had a great time researching the book and reliving a fun part of my teenage years around Cleveland. Just hearing the voices of the deejays, (Jerry G., Big Jack Armstrong, Harry Martin & Johnny Canton), during our interviews really brought back a lot of memories. And I agree with your comments about what's happened to radio since.
Can I assume you're GREAT at performing stand-up comedy?? LOL!!
Take care and as always...
Keep Laughing!

At 9:24 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Dave, I wouldn't have the courage to get up in front of an audience and do that, I'm afraid. I'm in awe of anyone who could. I'm just happy to have you back in your hometown. What are you going to tackle next? Another book? It sounds like you have some unique war stories to tell from your career. And by the way, have you read 'Radio Daze: Stories from the Front in Cleveland's Fm Air Wars'? It was written about three years ago by a WMMS veteran, Mike Olszewski. If not, you should track it down and check it out. I know you'd enjoy it.

At 2:22 AM, Blogger dave said...

Hi John,
I've heard of Mike's book, but haven't read it. Guess I should put that on my list. He did a story on my comedy workshops - years ago - for Channel 43. We also did an interview for "The Beatles In Cleveland" for 98.5 FM.
What's next? I was thinking about a book called "The Monkees in Akron"... NOT! LOL! But I do have some good backstage stories about the comedy biz in NYC and LA.
I'm doing a "How To Be A Working Comic" seminar in Huntington Beach, CA later this month - and a "Beatles In Cleveland" book signing in Costa Mesa that evening. Then an October comedy workshop at The Cleveland Improv. Everyone in the workshop will perform during a show at The Improv on October 30th. If you'd like to check it out - just let me know, (I have connections).

At 11:03 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That comedy workshop sounds interesting, Dave. I might just like to see that. And of course I'll be happy to promote it here for my readers as we get closer to that date.

At 2:11 AM, Blogger dave said...

We have a lot of fun in the workshop. Oh yeah, and get a lot of "work" done also...
The next one starts at The Cleveland Improv on Oct. 13th. All the info is on the website at If any of your readers have ever thought about standing on stage and making an audience laugh - this is a good way to get started.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for that. I will indeed remind folks as we get closer to that date. Who knows, I might even surprise you myself this time or next by coming to watch. And thanks for tackling that Beatles book. It's an important, under-addressed subject.


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