Hot Summer Nights at the Agora
Hot Summer Nights at the Agora

The Cleveland Agora first opened its doors on February 27, 1966, in Little Italy, near the campus of Case Western Reserve University. The brainchild of Henry LoConti, a successful jukebox repair business owner, the Agora provided a mixture of local and well-known bands and rapidly outgrew it's small facility. Within a year the Agora had relocated downtown near the Cleveland State University campus. It would soon became one of the premiere clubs in the country, hosting many of the top artists of the day, as well as the popular local and regional bands. At one time, both Billboard Magazine and Rolling Stone ranked it as the number one Rock Club in the country.

Capitalizing on the success of the Cleveland Agora, a second Agora opened up in Columbus,Ohio across from Ohio State University in 1970, and achieved similar success. This proved to be only the start for LoConti's Agora, and by the end of the 70's the Agora had branched out into a chain of 1,000-seat clubs that stretched across 10 states, including Florida, Texas, Georgia and Connecticut.
I'd adjust my schedule according to who was playing at The Agora. If you wanted to see the band that would be popular tomorrow, you needed to go to The Agora that night.--James Henke, chief curator for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

At the forefront of the club scene, the Agora paved the way for other nationally recognized clubs, and could lay claim to a number of firsts in the industry:

They Were the First to Have their own "on premise" Recording Studio
In 1968, the Agora built the very first in-house recording studio, producing records, live broadcasts many of which became official album releases for the groups.
They Were the First to Have their Own Radio Network
In 1971, the Agora started airing their concerts on 9 stations in the state of Ohio, later adding stations in Erie, Pennsylvania and Atlanta, Georgia. Originally broadcasting the concerts live, they eventually began taping the concerts and editing them down to 1-hour shows. ABC's "King Biscuit Flower Hour" would air the shows nationally.
The Were the First to have their own TV Show
In 1978, the Agora produced their very own television show, "Onstage at the Agora." The shows would air at 11:30PM on Saturday nights and simulcast on WMMS-FM. Many of these shows eventually aired worldwide through syndication.

In the fall of 1984, a fire at the Cleveland Agora prompted a move to their present location at the WHK building on East 55th Street. The Agora continues to showcase the established and the up and coming artists of the day and has become the largest running club in the country. Rory Gallagher played the Agora many times. One memorable concert in 1974, the rock group "Kiss" was the opening act for Rory. A night "Kiss" would not soon forget:

Kiss was on stage opening for guitarist rory Gallagher. Drummer Peter Criss' rising drum stand was engulfed in smoke, and Criss was asphyxiated. Criss fell fof the drum riser and was taken offstage by a roadie. He was sent to Charity Hospital by ambulance. Kiss finished the song without him. They never forgot their Agora gig and vowed never to play a club again with low ceilings.

For the next several months, Rory's concerts at the Agora will be the focus of the "Boot of the Month," starting with his rousing performance there in September of '73 and finishing up with concerts held at both the Cleveland and Columbus Agoras in '82. It's a hot summer night at the Agora, and the smoke rising to the rafters won't be from the lame pyrotechnics of a second-rate support band, but from Rory's blistering guitar solos that threaten to set the stage on fire.
Click HERE to read an article abut Rory's visits to the Agora from the December, 1975 issue of the 'Cleveland Scene'.

Comments to date: 1. Page 1 of 1.

Richard Kiley   New Hampshire Postd at 7:03am on Friday, April 11th, 2008
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. We heard Fall 82 from a buds girlfriend in Cleveland that Rory was playing at the Agora. Communications were so poor back then (and Rory was never promoted well) that we had no idea he was playing in our home town and various other venues within easy driving distance. Most of us were Deadheads and road trips were part... read more »