Pop music legend to play Cleveland Heights

Steve Katz

When I was in 10th grade at Heights High in 1964, I took a trip to New York City. While I was there, I went to the famous Café au Go Go to hear this band I’d heard about, the Blues Project. I thought it was going to be an acoustic group because the one member I’d heard before—Danny Kalb—had appeared a year or so earlier on a compilation album, also called "The Blues Project," which featured several young, white acoustic blues artists.

When the band appeared on stage, I was shocked—and disappointed—to see that it was a rock band. But when they started playing, right from the very first note, I was completely mesmerized and enthralled.

That didn’t go away—not through the band’s show that night, nor through the many other Blues Project shows I attended, at Cleveland’s legendary folk and blues club La Cave and in New York.

I joined a band in high school that tried to play Blues Project songs. We got a chance to play at La Cave, but opening for another band, not the Blues Project.

We were not bad for high school kids. I know that because after our third or fourth song, I heard a guy sitting near the stage say, “They’re not bad for high school kids.” As good—or, maybe, as not bad—as we were, we never did get to open for the Blues Project.

I tried to learn as much as I could about each member of the band, which was not easy back then, before the Internet, and I studied each guy in the band every time I saw them play. One of them, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Steve Katz, seemed like a really nice guy—and funny—but there was no way for me to really know that—until now.

I just got off the phone with him, and guess what! He’s a really nice guy—and funny!

Katz is coming to Cleveland Heights to give a concert on Saturday, June 21, starting at 7:00 p.m., at the Unity Center of the Heights (2653 S. Taylor Road, at Fairmount Boulevard). His show is a combination of spoken word and music. He tells fascinating, and funny, stories of his amazing career: taking guitar lessons as a teenager from the legendary Rev. Gary Davis; forming the Elektra Records group the Even Dozen Jug Band, which also included future stars John Sebastian and Maria Muldaur; joining the Blues Project, whose last gig was at the most significant rock festival in history, Monterey Pop; launching the multimillion-selling pop group Blood, Sweat and Tears; starting the band American Flyer, which was produced by the Beatles’ producer George Martin; producing two of Lou Reed’s most successful albums; becoming an executive at two record companies; and more. And he sings corresponding songs.

There’s an opening act for this concert, too. It’s a 1960s-style folk group called Long Road. I’m in that group. So I’m finally opening for Steve Katz. It only took 50 years!

David Budin

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.

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 3:25 PM, 06.02.2014