Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Local Bands

Vintage Glass Harp LPs

Vintage Glass Harp LPs

Rock ‘n Roll and Youngstown just seem to go together.  Your gritty, basic guitar, drums, and bass bands seemed to just fit the gritty character of the city. Probably at one time in most neighborhoods of the city, some young adolescent guys would form a garage band with a guitarist who knew three chords (but what more did you need to play Gloria, the classic garage band song?).

In the 60s and early 70s there were some classic bands many of you might remember — Blue Ash, Left End, Pied Pipers, the James Gang, and Glass Harp among them. Probably the band that made the biggest splash, albeit a one hit wonder was the Human Beinz with “Nobody But Me.”

Bands like Left End and Glass Harp played all over the area and have had reunion concerts in recent years. Left End had a reunion in June of 2014. A month later, Dennis T Menass (Dennis Sesonsky) passed away. Blue Ash was a favorite at The Freak Out, where they made their debut. I remember seeing Glass Harp in concert at a union hall on Belle Vista, and like everyone who has ever seen them was astounded with Phil Keaggy’s guitar work.

There were lots of music venues around the city (and still are from what I can tell). I already mentioned The Freak Out on the South Side. Over in Austintown, a favorite was the Gazebo Room or the Orange Room at Wedgewood Plaza. Eventually the State Theatre in downtown became a music hall, later the Tomorrow Club and the Youngstown Agora. Lots of people drove up to Kent to hear area bands at J.B.’s. I also remember a place near the university called “Gates of Eden” that was kind of a coffeehouse, and a good place to hear acoustic music while we were all weirdly illuminated by “black” light.

Idora Park ballroom for many years was the scene for many of the great Big Bands. By the sixties they started hosting teen dances at which many of the local bands played. Major groups played the park as well including Blue Oyster Cult. WHOT days also featured a number of singers and groups. I remember my sister going to see Bobby Sherman when she was crazy about him!

When we were at Youngstown State, Beeghly Center was the venue of choice for a number of big name acts: Don McLean (“American Pie”), Cheech and Chong, The Guess Who, Aerosmith, and James Taylor among others. Of course, Blossom Music Center was nearby. I still remember an America concert I went to with some friends. It had rained that day and the lawn was wet. We were seated near an embankment and we spent the whole evening watching couples arm in arm and guys trying to act cool go slip-sliding down the hill and ending flat on their backs. Far more entertaining than the show!

My hunch is that if you had to pick the iconic Youngstown band, it would probably be Left End, with its bad boy, punk rock character, epitomized in Dennis T. Menass. Somehow that fits the “you gotta be tough” attitude of the city.

I suspect this all sparks lots of memories of the places and groups I’ve mentioned and many more that I haven’t. I’d love to hear your stories of rock ‘n roll in Youngstown!

37 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Local Bands

  1. To me the heyday of the Youngstown bands were during the 70s. I was in a band called Young Gifted and Brown. We played throughout Youngstown and the nearby clubs. I also remember The Lawrence Bros. Band playing at the Tomorrow Club. I remember seeing The Bob Seeger System at the Freak Out on Midlothian Blvd. and so many others during this time.

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  2. A neighborhood friend of mine, Bob Dugan, was lead singer for a band called, I believe, Whale. Also believe a 1968 Cardinal Mooney classmate, Bill Rockne, played an instrument in the same band. Bob was a gifted singer. Both of his parents, George and Rosalie Dugan, were performers.

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  3. Can’t forget Maureen McGovern who played at a Union Hall for George McGovern. Wearing jeans and strumming an acoustic guitar playing what was to become her major hit. Also, there was a band called Sound Barrier from Salem. The lead singer, Patti Pshysniak (definitely not the right spelling) had an amazing voice. I still have a 45 by them. Or Shirley Stahara who ended up in Poobah. Huge talent. We had some amazing female singers who could easily stand up to Grace Slick or Janis. Sometimes, I wonder why some of these bands never broke through.

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      • I want to mention an honorable band called “The Spiral Staircase” We used to open for Keggey and the Bienz in the basement of Holy Family Church. We were just a Garage band from Poland, but had talent. Mostly, John Sherck on lead…presumed deceased, that could play his Telecaster better than Jimmy to ANY song…He was a genius player. To Billy AKA Dr. Stephen Pipoly who became the best drummer and Cardiologist in Ohio, who has saved many lives. But we were all Youngstown, punks of about 14 years and dreaming the dream. Those were the days, should have gone to LA!

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  4. Saw reference to Gates of Eden, had a lot of interesting visitors there including Maureen McGovern and Paul Stookey of Peter Paul and Mary (folk was hot back then). We had a resident acid band 215 City Blue with Sandor Ives

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      • My wife and I spent many a day and evening at the Gates of Eden in the late 60’s. Met some life long friends there. 215 City Blue played there and at a basement place on Glenwood in Fosterville. Can’t remember the name of the place, but it was small and the volume probably cost me some hearing : )

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    • Larry Kam, I never went inside (too young back then) the Gates but at one point had a recording (Reel-to-reel) that was made of the 215 I’m guessing around 67/68. I’m afraid that the recording was lost but a copy on cassette was given to Sandor Ives back when he was tending bar at the 2nd Dutch Mill on Logan Ave. I remember one song was “I Can’t Keep From Crying” in the style of Kooper’s Blues Project. The Cream Song:Spoonfull was covered as was as Song by Airplane called: Rock Me Baby. My brother, Ron always spoke of the 215 as a legendary band. I think that the Gates of Eden was a “coffee house” working under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church.

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      • Another song that was on that reel from 215 was an Iron Butterfly song called “You Can’t Win.” So, this must have been recorded at the Gates back in 1968 or late 67. I will have to look for names. I believe that Sandor has passed away.

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      • Still trying to find more info about the 215 City Blues. and “The Gates”
        This came to me from Retired Rev. David Joachim:
        my dad (Art Joachim) helped run the place . “216 City Blue” was the house band (Paint It Black, etc). Sponsor was Protestant Campus Ministry at YSU. Gov. Wallace running for Pres., stopped by. Peter/Paul/Mary played Stambaugh Aud. and Paul played at the coffeehouse afterwards. Open-mic poetry readings nights. I was at Rayen so did not hang out there; my dad brought me by sometimes.”

        Now, I’m wondering something that I won’t ever get answered. I went down there with my brother around 1968-69 and didn’t go inside. think that they may have had an age requirement and I wasn’t old enough. But, Outside was a man with a few people around him singing the song, “Day is Done” by Peter, Paul and Mary. It actually could have been Paul Stookey.

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  5. Love this read! My Dad was a local musician in the 60s and 70s. Had bands named “Robins Hoods”, “The Pill” and “Bull Run”. Played so many of the local venues. He recently passed and I have unearthed a treasure trove of his musical journeys around the area, and connected with some of his former band members. So great to see many commenting here. Hope it keeps up!

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  6. Can’t leave Joe Pizzulo out of this discussion. Brier Hill native, member of The Roadshow, Brainchild and, later, vocal lead on the classic “Never Gonna let You Go” by Sergio Mendes among other distinctive later projects. Last saw Joe perform live circa 1973 at Trotogott’s in McDonald, Ohio. What an amazing talent! Saluto Joe Pizzulo!

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  7. Back in the 70’s we used to go to the Apartment over on Midlothian in that small plaza near Schewbel’s to listen to Left End and get a belly full of 3.2 Beer. We’d also go to the Agora to hear R.M.A. and other bands. I liked R.M.A. because Albritton McClain, Myron Grombacher, Roger Lewis were doing some great work on stage including playing some Led Zeppelin covers. Myron Grombacher later played with Pat Benatar. One band that had some seroius talent was Brainchild where Bill Bodine got his start. And of course, L.A.W. was quite popular at one point. Another musician that came from Youngstown was Bob DiPiero who used to play lead guitar in a band called ” Joy “. Bob moved down to Nashville shortly after and has had some success in that variety of music. Slightly older is a jazz musician named, Jimmy Mulidore who grew up in Brier Hill…studied woodwinds with Al Calderone and ended up in Las Vegas managing the music in a few hotels after he played for years behind Elvis Presley. Elvis says “Jimmy” in tribute after he plays this flute solo in this vid. https://youtu.be/_7rcxLOqgLk?t=159

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  8. I Remember a great 60s band who appeared at
    the Holiday Bowl Rip Van Winkle Room,. In Youngstown, OH. They were
    “The Citations”, with lead singer James Aaron.
    They did a lot of Blood Sweat & Tears, Bread, and
    soul music. Does anyone recall this band

    Liked by 1 person

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