It was a hot summer night in Toledo in 1971. The kind of summer where boredom had set in while working a summer job and participating in football practice while I waited for the next college school year to start. The kind of summer that Bob Seger wrote about— where you were looking to relax and have some fun and maybe, just maybe, have a trifecta, a beverage or two, listen to some great music and have a date with a beautiful girl who liked to dance.
A memorable date
All the planets must have been aligned. I had to beg a lot, but I was able to garner the date with the beautiful girl; her name was Karen. We have been married for 43 years, but that is another story for another day. So where do I take Karen on this hot summer night in Toledo? The Agora – Toledo on the corner of Dorr Street and Byrne Road, was opened because of the the popularity of the Agora club in Cleveland (the Greek word for place to assemble) was an incredible place to hear great music and to dance. There were thirteen clubs in the US but only one exists today – the original in Cleveland.
In the summer of ’71 it was that and much more. My mom let me use her car for my date– a Ford Ltd, that was so luxurious inside you could live in it. I put $2 of gas in the car and admission into the Agora was a total of $2. Karen and I got a high-top table right next to the dance floor, closest to the band.
Meet the Raspberries
Many of my college football teammates from the Cleveland area would rave about a local Cleveland band called The Raspberries that would play the Cleveland Agora on Saturdays and Sundays. Well, it just so happened that the Cleveland Raspberries were playing the Toledo Agora that night. They took the stage, looking like college kids themselves. From the first chord we knew we were in for an extraordinary night.
They did mostly Beatles’ covers. They were impeccable and their harmonies were so good it was like they came from another planet. For two straight hours the dance floor was jammed. I knew I was hearing and seeing genius in front of me. Their lead singer had one of the best voices I had ever heard– that was Eric Carmen. Their lead guitar was remarkable and they had a great drummer and super bass. To call this a good time would be a true understatement.
The Raspberries went on to sell millions of records starting in 1972. They released their first album with a scratch-and-sniff raspberry sticker. They had 10 hits. To this day, Bruce Springsteen says the Raspberries’ Greatest Hits is one of his all-time favorite records. John Lennon was recording in a studio down the hallway from the Raspberries one day, and he liked what he heard so much that he walked into their studio and asked if he could help produce the song, which he did. It is called “Overnight Sensation.”
Lennon was photographed many times wearing a Raspberries T-shirt. Rolling Stone magazine called the Raspberries the best power pop band of the ’70s.