Sites Behind the Sounds

Cruising some of the spots behind Ohio’s large and ongoing contribution to the fabric of American music

click to enlarge Think about back in the day where Bone Thugs started it all. - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Think about back in the day where Bone Thugs started it all.
Cincinnatians hopefully know about their city’s rich musical heritage thanks to the rise in grassroots and even civic efforts to memorialize things that had a big impact on the music world, like the groundbreaking King Records. 

Taken as a whole, Ohio’s contributions to music are indispensable. 

Besides going to a concert or festival, when you think “roadtrip,” “Ohio” and “music,” you probably think of Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That’s a good plan, if you’ve never been, but if you have, besides a few rotating exhibits, you’ve seen it all before.

So this summer, whether you’re up for a very strange cross-state drive or maybe you’re just in a particular area of the state and want to impress a friend, we’ve gathered some sites behind some celebrated Ohio music and musicians. These aren’t typical tourist attractions — you won’t find a gift shop — but at the very least you can Instagram a photo of you standing at a locale and make all of your friends think you’re pretty cool… or incredibly strange. 

Troutman Sound Labs

Where: 1835 Catalpa Drive, Dayton

Drive Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Dayton, Ohio was home to a Funk scene in the ’70s/’80s that was rivaled by none, producing bands like Lakeside, Slave, Ohio Players, Heatwave and Zapp, creators of hits like “More Bounce to the Ounce” and featuring the Troutman brothers. Sadly, Zapp’s legacy ended in Dayton — in 1999, Roger Troutman (who also had success as a producer and solo artist) was shot and killed by his brother Larry outside of Troutman Sound Labs at 1835 Catalpa Drive, northwest of downtown in the Triangle Park neighborhood. 

While Troutman’s studio (where Roger produced albums like Zapp III) and business buildings at the site are gone, you can pay your respects at the the corner of Salem Avenue and Catalpa, which features a cool sound sculpture. Erected in 2012, the artwork is named for the Zapp & Roger hit “I Can Make You Dance” — it’s also tuned to the song, with the tower “tune rods” playing wind-activated notes. A plaque also sits at the spot, with a colorful Zapp mural facing the memorial. 

John Legend’s Childhood Home

Where: 2339 Lexington Ave., Springfield, Ohio

Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

In Springfield, Ohio you can see where it all started for a more contemporary hit-maker. In 1978, John Roger Stephens was born in Springfield, growing up in the humble two-story abode at 2339 Lexington Ave. By 2005, the world knew that kid as John Legend, as he proceeded to win 10 Grammys and an Oscar. Legend posted a shot of him visiting and standing in front of the house a few years back on Facebook, but it’s just a standard, slightly worn suburban home (please don’t bother the people who live there now!). 

Twenty One Pilots Tyler Joseph’s High School

Where: 6675 Worthington Galena Road, Columbus

Drive Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Known for the breakout success of 2015 album Blurryface, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun of AltPop/Rock/Rap duo Twenty One Pilots have always paid respect to fans in their Columbus hometown. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Joseph got his first taste of putting on an athletic show in front of adoring fans at Worthington Christian High School, in a northern suburb of Columbus. Joseph was the “sharp-shooting” point guard for Worthington Christian’s basketball team. 

In 2008, Joseph took team to the Division IV state finals, which were played at Columbus’ Schottenstein Center. Joseph had a scholarship offer to play college ball, but decided he wanted to pursue music instead, forming Twenty One Pilots by the following year. It paid off. Joseph returns this June to the Schottenstein Center, where Worthington Christian lost those finals, to play a sold-out concert. 

The Black Keys’ Basement

Where: 54 Metlin Ave., Akron

Drive Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

In Akron, Ohio’s Highland Square area, there’s a nice but non-descript house that played a key role in the career of another Ohio duo now playing arenas — The Black Keys. In 2001, drummer Patrick Carney invited fellow Akronite Dan Auerbach’s band over to record some songs in the unfinished basement of his home at 54 Metlin Ave. The “band” didn’t show up, but Auerbach did, and the two started jamming and recording. 

The duo crafted a raw demo tape from their jams and sent it to a handful of labels. Alive Records showed interest, so the duo returned to the basement to record what became the band’s first album, The Big Come Up, in 2002. When Carney eventually sold the house, the realtor used the Black Keys connection in the listing, declaring it “a piece of musical history!”

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s Neighborhood

Where: Saint Clair Avenue and E. 99th St., Cleveland

Drive Time: 4 hours

Five miles northeast of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame sits the intersection of Saint Clair Avenue and E. 99th St. and the corner that Ohio’s biggest Hip Hop export made famous. Cleveland’s Bone Thugs-n-Harmony broke through in 1995 with E. 1999 Eternal and the group’s lyrics often referenced the scene around the St. Clair/99th corner in Glenville, the largely poor, African-American neighborhood in which the members grew up. Their big hit “1st of tha Month” captures the party atmosphere caused by welfare-check-cashing-time in the neighborhood and “the 99” and St. Clair are name-checked frequently. Glenville isn’t quite the neighborhood Bone Thugs wrote about — it’s lost a lot of population, resulting in many abandoned buildings and houses.

Art Tatum Landmark

Where: 1123 City Park Ave., Toledo

Drive Time: 3 hours

In terms of music, Jazz pianist Art Tatum is Toledo, Ohio’s most important native. Tatum (born in 1909) had a huge influence on the evolution of Jazz and is widely considered the genre’s greatest pianist. 

In downtown Toledo sits a small two-story home at 1123 City Park Ave. with some peeling paint, boarded-up windows and an official historical marker in the yard. The home that Tatum lived in as he accumulated his early musical knowledge is over 100 years old and looks its age. 

According to Toledo City Paper, the house is owned by Tatum’s last living heir, his niece Lucille Johnson, who is in her mid-80s and unable to fix up the house, though she’s willing to sell it to anyone interested in preserving Tatum’s legacy.

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