Mentor Has a Rich History in Rock & Roll

The Raspberries, Joe Walsh and Todd Rundgren are just a few of the famous names who played at the Hullabaloo on Mentor Avenue.

There is a lot of fascinating history in Lake County’s largest city, and that includes a rich and diverse musical past. The tradition continues these days all summer long at the new state-of-the-art Mentor Civic Amphitheater with its Mentor Rocks Summer Concert Series.

But back in the 1960s and early ’70s, there was only one building that became the major house to rock for the younger crowd who craved live music. The address was 7681 Mentor Avenue, located across from the Great Lakes Mall, which had opened in 1961.

Originally, the building was a bowling alley, then became The Torchlight Lounge, which was touted as a nightclub boasting a 1,000 SF
floor for dancers and hosted local groups, most notably The Twilighters, which played there on a regular basis. An “attendant” guarded the door, checked IDs, and anyone who wasn’t 21, could drink nothing stronger than root beer. Their audience consisted of “watusi,” and “frug,” dancers, as well as up to 400 “rocking twisters,” according to a 1966 Plain Dealer article.

Things changed a lot later that year when club promoter, Otto Neuber, acquired it and turned it into a teen club for those under the age of 18. Since these young, music-loving kids weren’t allowed in bars, the only places they could see musicians perform live, prior to this, were at their high school dances, or if they had the opportunity to go to a concert. Although there were other Hullabaloo clubs (named
after the popular TV dance show at the time) in Chesterland and North Ridgeville, the Mentor Hullabaloo was a favorite among east side musicians and fans alike.

This was a place where middle-grade kids could go to socialize with friends and enjoy live performances, but also for aspiring musicians to watch and learn from their talented peers.

In fact, thousands of teens from all over the Cleveland/Akron/Canton/ Youngstown areas came regularly to Mentor to see their favorite local, national, and international bands each and every weekend. Those musicians were just teens themselves, trying to make a name for themselves.

Many of the acts that played there went on to become a big part of rock and roll history, including induction into the coveted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Northeast Ohio boomers fondly recall seeing young up-and-comers, such as Todd Rundgren and his band, The Nazz, Rod Stewart, with one of his first bands, The Faces, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck Group, and many, many others.

Although those early rock groups certainly drew a crowd, it was the local bands that firmly packed the house every time they played. Kids came to see their hometown heroes, like the Choir (Mentor’s own), The Lost Souls, Cyrus Erie, Damnation of Adam Blessing, The James Gang (with Joe Walsh) and The Raspberries (with Eric Carmen and Mentor native, Jim Bonfanti), along with several others that went on to great success.

And even when the name changed to Mentor Rock Shop in 1969, the music played on, but only for a short time. By the end of 1970, the club was closed, and the building became a Carpet Barn and Tile House.

The building was ultimately razed, and today, the address is home to a Starbucks. But for the baby boomer generation who grew up frequenting this beloved club, the memories, experiences, and opportunities it gave so many will truly never be forgotten.

Originally published in Mentor City Magazine 2019.

– Article by Deanna Adams | Photo: Joe Walsh – Date Unknown & Uncredited

2019-08-19T16:27:47+00:00August 20th, 2019|City Publications|