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  • Writer's pictureJumpin' Joe

La Cave - From Folk to Progressive

One of the most memorable rock & roll clubs in Cleveland started off as a coffee house.

Located in a basement at 10615 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, the 200-seat club became a haven for folk music. In the early days, La Cave hosted folk musicians like Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Ochs, Buffy Sainte Marie, Arlo Guthrie, Janis Ian, and Gordon Lightfoot.

In the mid-1960s, La Cave would play an important role in providing Clevelanders a place to hear "underground" or progressive rock music.

The Velvet Underground played seven shows at La Cave from 1967-1969. Cleveland was one of the few cities outside of New York to embrace the Velvet Underground.

There's even a live recording from La Cave from October 04, 1968 that you can listen to on Youtube. If you feel like spending some cash, you can even have it on vinyl.

Opening for The Velvet Underground was SRC (Scot Richard Case) out of Detroit, Michigan. Their song "Black Sheep" is considered a psychedelic classic. "Up All Night," a killer record that must be heard cranked all the way up to 11, is a long-time staple on Retro Radio and on Jumpin' Joe's Basement Show.

One month after The Monterey Pop Festival, Jimi Hendrix played a whole week at La Cave. Was his "Jimi" and "Experience" misspelled on purpose? Did I misspell misspell?

The fine print on this letter states that La Cave plans to present The Youngbloods, Blues Project, and Paul Butterfield. Throughout the mid to late 60s, La Cave hosted Iron Butterfly, Blood Sweat and Tears, Pacific Gas and Electric, The Hello People, Terry Knight & The Pack (later evolved into Grand Funk Railroad), The Blues Magoos, Ten Years After, The Fugs, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, The Jeff Beck Group...just to name a few.

The sounds coming from La Cave weren't coming out of the radio speakers. WIXY 1260, WHK-AM, and WKYC were playing the top 40 hits and all your favorite bubble gum classics. They certainly weren't playing Paul Butterfield, The Fugs, or Pacific Gas and Electric (not right away at least).

WHK-FM changed all of that, becoming a home to progressive rock in Cleveland in 1968. La Cave played an important role in promoting this new radio station. They would print on promotional postcards "The sound of La Cave on WHK-FM, 7am to 2am." Metromedia would soon change the call letters to WMMS. The format didn't catch on initially, and after several format changes from 1969-1970, WMMS would try progressive rock again - this time with much greater success. With Lou Kirby and Dick Kemp (both formerly of WIXY 1260), WMMS started playing rock & roll on September 11, 1970, but sounding very much like a top 40 station. By early 1971, the top 40 sound would evolve into what made WMMS famous...and the rest is rock & roll history.

Due to several problems from financial issues to declining ticket sales, La Cave closed in 1969. Sources and additional reading: Radio Daze - Stories from the front in Cleveland's FM air wars by Mike Olszewski.

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