Peace, Love & Music
at the Fifth Quarter
by Roger Thurman
n 1965 Kent State was on the quarter system as Joe Shannon hustled to open the Fifth Quarter that fall. To fill the new bar, a blitz of advertising promoted national acts such as Paul Revere and the Raiders, Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, and Lou Cristy. Shannon already knew the ropes, having first used this technique five years earlier when he rented the tiny Deck bar (185 capacity) in the nearby basement of the Kent Hotel. Back then he booked a couple of all-girl groups: Goldie and the Gingerbreads (Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat?) and a trio of high school girls, The Pixies Three, riding the crest of a national hit, 442 Glenwood Avenue. Goldie and the Gingerbreads played their own instruments and were the first girl group signed to a major label (Decca).
The Pixies Three arrived with parents and bodyguards.
Hailing from from Cuyahoga Falls, Joe was always ahead of the times. A 1957 graduate of the first class of Hoban High he entered John Carroll at the age of 16. By his sophomore year he dropped out, lured by the desire to become an entrepreneur. He first sampled the entertainment business by installing juke boxes to provide background music for bars and restaurants. Next came The Deck which showed promise but was too small. When Ruttan Ford around the corner on South Depeyster moved to the edge of town he knew the huge empty modern building would solve the capacity problem. The front presented a large glass showroom which provided a friend, Rick Case, with a space to display and sell Honda motorcycles while Joe built his mega bar (20,000 sq. ft.) behind the partition. Rick Case Honda later moved across the river to the old Gifford Buick – livery stable building, and that front room became a huge lobby and shelter from bad weather as throngs of kids waited their turn for admission.
The Fifth Quarter, which employed 22, had an official capacity of 600 but with added seating could expand easily to 900. Soon there were lines four abreast stretching for a couple of blocks. An average weekend evening as many as 1000 would cycle through. Demand for the national acts required as many as three separate shows per night for a total attendance approaching 2000 or more. Soon the Fifth Quarter became the largest Budweiser vendor in Ohio. In the mid-1960s this was a young and innocent crowd which after the one dollar admission would spend an average of 82 cents on beer. Joe Shannon knew this because he studied it. Sure, some kids drank too many pitchers of beer but most were well-behaved and didn’t have enough money to drink more than one beer or soft drink. They came for live music and the social scene.
Countless local bands performed there over the years but two groups: The Measles and The Counterpoints by far had the longest runs. Joe Walsh developed into a professional guitarist by playing nightly with The Measles; the band became friendly with a couple of local cops hired to manage security: Wayne Peebles and Bob Diss. If there was a fracus the crowd backed the cops and then cheered the moment when Diss came on stage to whistle a tune with The Measles. It was a great time and Joe Shannon recalls several mirthful pranks of band guys and cops tear gassing each other in his office. As many as five uniformed Kent officers worked after hours to oversee security for the young crowd. “Clubs were very well-controlled. Kids were not intimidated by those who wanted to cause trouble,” he observes. Uniformed police were also always present and he “…would not open the doors without them.” Joe Shannon was a family man and he couldn’t have it any other way. In those days one bad incident or riot could irreparably degrade a thriving business.
1967 photo of "STYX" – Gary Salama (drums), Denny Scott (organ), Chas Madonio (bass), Ritch Underwood (guitar).
Across the decade of the 1960’s Joe Shannon built a chain of important bars: The Deck, The Fifth Quarter, The Townhouse Lounge Kent (upstairs in the hotel from The Deck) and the Townhouse in Akron, near the university. In 1967 he formulated a cross promotional Teen Festival concept involving booths set-up by local businesses and bands promoted by local radio DJs such as Bob Ansel of WHLO. The DJs were paid a flat fee to appear and emcee the festival and they would use the air time of their programs to promote the event. In total there were five Teen Fairs. His old friend Rick Case, selling Honda motorcycles, was also involved and the first was held at Chippewa Lake Park and drew fifty thousand. Similar events were likewise promoted in Pittsburgh at the Civic Arena and the Hunt Armory which featured The Association.
He also started the Kent Tavern Owners Assoc.which served as an advocacy group to discourage the city of Kent from levying an entertainment tax. Through mutual self-interest the bar owners banned trouble makers from all the establishments and also shared head counts. By combining and averaging these data it was determined that a good weekend night in the late 1960s found four to six thousand in Kent to hear live music across eight or more venues.
1967 photo of the "Measles" at Kent State airport after going on a plane ride with a friend from the 5th Quarter.
Left-to-right: Buddy Bennett, Ritch Underwood, Joe Walsh, Bobby Sepulvada, and Larry Lewis.
Hard to believe but it’s true. Those who witnessed the scene recall the packed sidewalks and cars bearing license plates from everywhere. By the mid to late 1960s Joe knew it was a unique time because “Kent truly was the music center of the Eastern part of the country. Nobody else was doing it. We checked around the country. A myriad of calls came from everywhere asking what and how we were doing it. Kent was ahead of everybody at the time.”
One problem for any bar owner was the loss of beverages, especially the expensive distilled spirits, across the bar. To solve this Joe began to study the use of computer technology and sophisticated fluid pumping to accurately deliver the correct amount of spirits to the glass. The computer bar, first installed in the Townhouse Lounge in Akron, was a groundbreaking achievement in the industry. However, in the back of his mind was the desire to create something really important: an artificial heart which he researched. His patents—covering the precise delivery of liquids through pumps with no moving parts—eventually attracted the interest of the Sherwin-Williams Paint company which needed the technology to mix and distribute paint. American Beverage Control eventually went public and achieved a capitalization of 200 million dollars.
Recognizing the future lay with his new company by the early 1970s he was ready to move on. He sold the venues to his managers who were eager for an opportunity: Jim “Chief” Mazzochi got the Deck and Townhouse bars in Kent and Akron. Paul Jennings from Ravenna bought the Fifth Quarter. These clubs continued successfully for three or more decades. The Fifth Quarter eventually became “Filthy McNasty’s” and then many other names as successive owners tried to keep up with ever-changing tastes in music and entertainment.
oe realized that scouting other venues to hire bands was a part of his job not dependent upon his personal taste in music. He always faced away from the bandstand to observe the vital audience reaction: lots of dancing and happy faces.
Turning around for a look at a band he had just decided to hire was sometimes a letdown. No matter: the goal was finding music to create a fun atmosphere so that patrons attending his clubs would have a good time, spend some money and tell their friends to check it out.
Joe Shannon has carried this lesson onwards from his early days owning clubs in Kent. He has now come full circle with his franchise chain of Rockne’s restaurants (now serving 50,000 people per week) where the appearance of the facility, the friendliness of the staff and the presentation of the menu items must all coordinate to please the customer.
Joe was a leader when Kent pioneered live popular music and he proudly recalls that “Everyone I meet from that time always says what a special time it was.”
©2011 – Roger Thurman
Please contact Roger Thurman at 330.673.4054 if you have corrections, recollections or additional information about the Fifth Quarter.
The ’60s are gone, dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free
and the rock and roll never as great. ~ Abbie Hoffman