The Summer of Love
It seems that 50 years ago should feel like a long time, but it doesn’t. Not to me. I guess if you’re 30, it would. But I’m not. I mean, I feel like I’m 30, but I’m twice that. At least. Actually, I still feel like I’m 18. Which I was 50 years ago.
If you are a longtime Cleveland Heights resident and are older than I am, and you remember when the hippies descended upon Cleveland Heights—specifically Coventry Road, between Mayfield Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard—and you recall being annoyed by them . . . well, I was one of those kids. And I knew you were annoyed. And I didn’t care. None of us did.
We moved into all the apartments and rental houses on Coventry, Euclid Heights, Hampshire and Lancashire. This coincided with the older, mostly Jewish tenants and homeowners moving to Beachwood, Lyndhurst, Mayfield Heights and other eastern suburbs. Then, with those customers gone, Coventry Road’s old Eastern European delis, butcher shops, fish markets and bakeries left, too. They were followed by most of the city’s Reform and Conservative Jewish synagogues, which relocated to Beachwood and Gates Mills.
The vacated storefronts on Coventry were replaced by so-called “head shops” and other businesses of interest to hip youth. A record store moved into the former fur shop. Record Revolution is still there. Henry’s, apparently a front for something—and a self-proclaimed “toy” store that contained no toys of any kind—quietly disappeared.
An antiques store called 1864—the place that single-handedly launched Coventry’s shift into hippiedom in 1964, by installing an antique marble soda fountain and stools, and serving egg creams on Sunday afternoons to accompany its traditional-music jam sessions—allowed a sandal maker to operate out of its basement and he somehow took control of the place and kicked out the original owners. Which was not very hippie-like.
Though, on the other hand, maybe it was, because the hippie movement pretty quickly splintered into widely divergent sub-groups—like the original peace-and-love, live-and-let-live mellow types; the heavy drug users and dealers; the ironically militant anti-war activists; the shiftless stoners. So maybe the sandal guy did fit in—somewhere. Summer 1967 became known, nationally, as the Summer of Love, but I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe it meant the “Summer of Free Love” . . . which isn’t really the same thing.
Irv’s restaurant—a holdover from the ‘50s (originally as Benky’s)—stayed. Its former clientele—families and older Jewish couples—fled when hippies and all other manner of misfits moved in, and other forms of “business” began to flourish on the premises, but the restaurant remained (until the city finally was able to shut it down in the mid-‘70s).
In the summer of 1967, Coventry’s sidewalks became lined with young people, many sitting on the ground playing guitars. I hung out on the street, but I was not among the guitar strummers. I played music professionally then, often at Farragher’s, a bar and folk-music club on Taylor Road, north of Cain Park; and at La Cave, a national folk (and, soon after, rock) venue in University Circle.
That year, at La Cave, I opened for Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys, on the cusp of their first hit record, “Different Drum;” and a then-popular blues band, Linn County; and, also, at both clubs, I often accompanied several local folk singers and groups. And nights when I wasn’t playing, I hung out at La Cave to hear the music of artists like Richie Havens, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Ian and Sylvia.
The members of a traditional folk trio that played Farragher’s earlier in the ‘60s, the Journeymen, were John Phillips, Scott McKenzie and Dick Weissman. Phillips founded the folk-rock group the Mamas and the Papas. And he wrote and produced the song “If You’re Going to San Francisco,” sung by Scott McKenzie. The record became a major national hit in the spring of ’67 and contributed to what became the terrible problem of thousands of young people, including many runaways, flooding into San Francisco that summer.
The adults of Cleveland Heights may have thought they had problems with us, but they really got off easily, compared to that California crisis.
Phillips also co-produced the Monterey International Pop Music Festival in June 1967, which launched the careers of artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Who and Otis Redding, all of whose records you could hear blasting out of Coventry-area apartments that summer. Within a couple of years, I would be dealing, in various ways, with some of those artists, in the music business in New York City, but in July ’67, I was solidly and happily planted in Cleveland Heights.
A month later, a bad drug experience would change everything. But that’s another story. (Spoiler alert: I lived.)
David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history. One of his 2016 Heights Observer columns took second place in the Press Club of Cleveland's 2017 All Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards, in the category of Best in Ohio: Staff Reporter; Lifestyle.