"You were sorta like Cleveland's Warhol or McLaren" I mentioned to Johhny Dromette recently...
"Ha. I had much more in common with Chuck Barris", he responded. Ahh, yes, the Gong Show. That prompted a memory of Peter Jesperson of Twin/Tone fame telling me "you Clevelanders know how to put on a show." And if that is the case, much of the credit or blame goes to Johnny Dromette.
Johnny Dromette is the name we all know him by. John Thompson is his given name. He was born in 1952 in Cleveland and graduated from Hawken in 1970. After a short stint at Duke University and working at a record store there in Durham, Dromette returned to the Cleveland area and soon opened his own record store, Hideo's Discodrome, in the summer of 1976.
Located in Cleveland Heights, it quickly became a spot for those that didn't quite fit anywhere else. The store featured great window displays, shocking to the "normal" passersby, had obscure kraut rock and psychedelic records on a wall that weren't even for sale but you could at least look at them and wonder what they sounded like, employed the likes of David Thomas, Peter Laughner, Jimmy Ellis (CLE Magazine) and Michael Weldon (Mirrors, Psychotronic Video) and had in store happenings such as DEVO or the Dead Boys playing live and fashion or poetry nights (where Bernie of Bernie & The Invisbles surfaced).
Around this time Dromette also began to dabble in putting on shows. The biggest three of those became legendary. Taking over the WHK Auditorium on December 3rd of 1977, Dromette staged DEVO IN CLEVO.
The show included Destroy All Monsters and The Styrenes. At one point Jerry Casale (DEVO) grabbed Dromette by the collar and screamed "this is fucked up, man!" It was such a train wreck that David Thomas said to Dromette during the evening "Johnny, you have a disaster on your hands".
This led to the next two shows, both in 1978, being billed as Disasto 2 (headlined by Pere Ubu) and Disasto 3 (headlined by The Pagans), with 3 ending in a riot and also ending with the banning of Dromette from promoting any more shows at the WHK Auditorium.
Other notable gigs of his included The Nerves at The Pirate's Cove, The Cramps & The Pagans at the Real World and The B-52's & The Pagans there as well. Dromette was also managing The Pagans and his carnival barker introductions for the band before they hit the stage were as thrilling as the live set.
Now just using the name The Drome, the store had moved to Detroit Ave in Lakewood near The Phantasy Night Club and stayed there most of 1978 and '79. This is the location that bridged the second and third wave of ClePunk youths to the beginning.
By this point, the first wave of bands and the characters that formed them had mostly moved on. But a new crop of teens were hitting The Drome for the latest Pagans' 45 or the current issue of Mongoloid or CLE Magazine. They were getting their hands on the electric eels Agitated 45 for the first time. The Pagans were playing in store gigs. Nick Knox could be spotted shopping there. Patti Smith made a memorable appearance, standing on the records spouting whatever, but it was Patti Smith!
It is hard to keep this time line train on the tracks as Dromette had his hands in so much at once. But there was also the label, Drome Records. Dromette managed to issue six 45s on his label. Three still very highly sought after releases from The Pagans, two from X__X and one from The Lepers. This further allowed Dromette to utilize his talents as a graphic artist, designing The Pagans 45s. To this day, he continues to do lay outs for Pere Ubu, The Cleveland Steamers and many more including a lot of work on the wonderful Smog Veil Records archival releases.
At the end of 1979 the store moved to its final location, downtown at 1290 Euclid Avenue. And by the end of 1980, Johnny Dromette himself moved on. Some say a gong could be heard as he closed the shop door for the last time.