Leo’s Listening Party

Last week, MidTown Cleveland ended its Leo’s Listening Party Concert series with a bang.

Hundreds of residents, stakeholders and civic leaders from across Cleveland came out to The MidTown Tech Hive for a community concert!

Zae Music Group provided the sound while the audience danced with Soul Jam Live as their musicians performed some of our favorite classic hits dating from the ’60s to today. The concerts are intended to revive the lost history, culture, and legacy of Leo’s Casino, formerly located in the area now known as MidTown.

Leo’s Casino was Cleveland’s epicenter for Motown, jazz, and blues performances. It was with great pride and fondness that nearly the older residents in Hough, MidTown, and the surrounding neighborhoods remembered their youth during the glory days of Cleveland’s black musical culture. Leo’s was known as the country’s most racially integrated and inclusive music venue, and was often, the first stop for many famous Motown artists and touring acts featuring legends such as James Brown, Otis Redding, The Supremes, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, and others.

Leo’s closed in the 1970s. In the 1990s it was demolished. This vital piece of Cleveland culture became relegated to memories. “Leo’s Listening Party” serves as a “community meeting without the meeting.” Community members shared stories, memories, and sang along with live entertainment. As a Listening Party, the event proved to be much more – countless community members reunited after decades, and residents realized that they were neighbors for the first time. This outdoor concert united the music of Leo’s era with food and community building.

After the initial success of these listening parties, the community asked them to “keep it going.” With the help of the community, MidTown Cleveland hopes to expand Leo’s themed concerts into an inter-generational, community-building effort while also documenting the storytelling and oral histories of our community elders.

 

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