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Avon Lake native Paul Pope puts together farewell show

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Like most baby boomers, Avon Lake native Paul Pope remembers vividly watching The Beatles’ 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Already a music fan, the elementary-school-aged Pope had gone through cheap plastic guitars every Christmas. However, it was right around the time of seeing The Fab Four on television that his uncle gave him his first real guitar.

If you go
WHAT: The Paul Pope Band
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Music Box Supper Club, 1148 Main Ave., Cleveland
TICKETS: $20 advance, $25 day of show
INFO: musicboxcle.com

“It was my dream my whole life to play music,” said Pope, 64, who spent his early teen years honing his craft while seeing as many concerts as possible, including a memorable WIXY-1260 Appreciation Day show featuring Smokey Robinson, The James Gang and Three Dog Night at Geauga Lake.

Speaking of The James Gang, Pope said he followed them around Northeast Ohio before they got big. Soon after, the aspiring musician was playing in his own bands, the biggest of which was Molkie Cole. The act’s 1977 self-titled album included singles “Sugar Boogie” and “Winter,” which received airplay in Cleveland and Buffalo.

“Those songs still get played on WNCX on Saturday nights,” said Pope, a 1973 Avon High School graduate. “That was real neat time when labels were doing mass signings. We opened up for Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Kansas. It was a very theatrical rock band.

“We were somewhere between Alice Cooper, Kiss and The Alan Parsons Band. We were constantly on the road for seven years.”

After the group disbanded in 1979, Pope started his own act. The Paul Pope Band — original lineup included Pope (guitar and vocals), Joe Todaro (drummer), former James Gang member Tom Kriss (bass) and Billy Sullivan (guitar) — released an album and toured with Triumph, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Steppenwolf and The Guess Who.

“We had a song called ‘I Can’t Stand It’ that was on MTV,’” Pope said. “The song really didn’t do anything. We were lucky to get airplay, but back then the major record labels got all of the airtime.”

In the mid-’80s, Pope moved to Los Angeles where he ended up working as an engineer for punk-rock label Mystic Records. He returned to Ohio a decade later, working as a ceramic tile setter, while still playing out here and there. He even released 2001 album “Lone Shoe.”

Today, Pope is semi-retired and hasn’t played a live gig in more than four years. However, the one thing missing from his career is a farewell show. So that’s exactly what he has in mind with an April 25 concert booked at the Music Box Supper Club.

“It just came to the point in my life where I made the decision to slow life down a little bit,” Pope said. “After 50 years of beating the pavement for original music, it’s time to call it quits.

“I want to do a final show where there are still people around that were with us back in the day.”

Joining Pope on stage for The Paul Pope Band show will be Billy Sullivan, Bill March and Donny Krueger.

Even though Pope never reached rock star status, the baby boomer said he had no regrets.

“Not at all,” Pope said. “I just want to end on a positive note. I don’t want to leave an impression or memory to people as a sad and old gray-haired guy up on stage.”

Contact John Benson at ndiffrence@att.net.
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