by Steve Bucher
It was the 1970s, and bell-bottom jeans and disco was all the rage. Akron had been the rubber capital of the world, but tire production was leaving the city, and hundreds of young people were looking for ways to relieve their youthful angst in the crumbling industrial capital. The Akron Sound rose from those ashes. The trajectory was similar to that of the Liverpool Sound across the pond a decade earlier, but the Akron Sound was anti-disco and heavily experimental, with a big dose of “forget your everyday problems.” The Pretenders, Devo, the Rubber City Rebels and many other local bands were putting their city on the map.
I was lucky enough to have still been in my very early 20s during this fertile period of the Akron Sound. I helped form the garage rock band Cirrus along with my brother Fred (L. Guitar, Vocals), my cousin Joe “Bug” (Drums, Vocals) and a friend Terry (R. Guitar).
I played bass guitar and sang lead vocals. We wrote dozens of original songs and we wanted to record them for our friends but recording studios were few and far between in the Akron area back then. Cirrus decided to build a professional recording studio to capture our music, and to the recording studio to other bands too.
We officially opened Cirrus Recording Studios at 789 N. Main St. in the spring of 1976. Photographs are so prevalent in today’s culture, but unfortunately there weren’t a lot of pictures taken back then to tell the whole Cirrus Studio story. We recorded a lot of local bands and musicians that were really great — but we were also able to capture two separate recording sessions that are excellent examples of the diverse 1970s Akron Sound.
Those included Akron’s own gentle giant, folk singer John Bassette, and punk rock pioneers The Human Switchboard. Both artists used our studio recordings to release vinyl EPs to help further their music careers. John Bassette recorded and released The Sleeping Poet EP in 1977. It was well-received at the time.
The Human Switchboard’s self-titled EP was mixed by Crocus Behemoth from the Cleveland proto-punk band Pere Ubu at Cirrus Recording Studios. The Human Switchboard did not have a bass player, so I played my bass guitar on 3 of their 4 tracks. (They spelled my last name wrong on the record cover – of course!)
That was the diverse Akron Sound. After their Cirrus Recording Studio EP, The Human Switchboard started playing New York’s CBGB and getting press releases in major music publications. They eventually landed a real record deal with IRS subsidiary Faulty Products and released their Who’s Landing In My Hangar LP. Both Who’s Landing In My Hangar and the original Human Switchboard EP were recently re-released.
Akron bands supported and promoted each other to create a homogenous blend of music. I hope you picked up on the fact that we recorded both folk and punk rock at the same studio! It was a very open music scene and there were some fun and crazy ideas we recorded at Cirrus Recording Studios. At one recording session, twenty Kent State art students booked four hours of studio time to record the 1812 overture using only kazoos. Nothing was considered too crazy or silly. It was just fun.
We were excited to perform our original music at Akron/Canton clubs, including the Flying Machine, JB’s, the Rathskeller and most of the bars on Water Street in Kent. Cirrus was also lucky to have played and met with many other great Akron Sound bands like the Rubber City Rebels, Tin Huey and John Bassette. It was a dream come true for any young person growing up in the Akron area.
The 70s Akron Sound had a lasting impact on Akron, and that impact can still be heard in the current, diverse local music scene. There are many new artists that are keeping the spirit alive by releasing new recordings on vinyl, including the Akron Recording Company’s Where the Hell is Akron, Ohio album series available now at most record stores.
Steve Bucher is a recently retired electronic engineer with 30 years of service. He still enjoys playing and recording in his mini-Cirrus Recording Studio near Akron, Ohio.