Tuesday, May 24, 2011


William "Jap" Gleason (Cleveland's most successful impresario! The man that finds and makes the stars!) opened his jazz joint at 5219 Woodland near East 52nd St. in 1942. Blues were also a heavy favorite of the owner's, and attracted artists like Bo Diddley and B.B. King. Legend has it a young James Brown, in addition to singing, would sweep up to make a few extra bucks.

By the early 50s it was the home of interracial mixing to enjoy rhythm and blues. By 1952 WJW disc jockey Alan Freed was calling the stuff "rock and roll" and he and his entourage could regularly be found at Gleason's having late night supper and listening to the likes of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Muddy Waters and Big Maybelle Smith.

The advertisement above features The Metronomes, an r&b group (made up of several John Adams High graduates) that won Gleason's Fame And Fortune Contest on March 4, 1954. Their prize was a week-long engagement.

My father told me that when he was in high school he would frequent jazz clubs where the segregation apparent virtually everywhere else in the city was ignored. I need to ask if Gleason's was one of them. One local jazz trumpeter named Earl Douthitt described Gleason's as "a jamming joint, a good spot with no problems, an orderly crowd that came to listen to the music."

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Jazzed In Cleveland (Joe Mosbrook)
Marv Golderg's R&B Notebooks

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