Gleason’s

Gleason’s, variously referred to as Gleason’s Bar, Gleason’s Musical Bar, Gleason’s Cafe, and Gleason’s Restaurant, was a bar and restaurant located at 5219 Woodland Ave., at the corner of Woodland and East 55th Street. It was founded by William “Jap” Gleason in 1944. Prior to opening the restaurant, Gleason had been a manager for Alonzo Wright’s Sohio Service Stations for 16 years. He worked for 10 years at the Kinsman–East 125th location, and for six years at the location on E. 55th and Woodland. “Jap” ran Gleason’s for 19 years, and was extremely popular, with the restaurant pulling in crowds even on Monday nights. It was well known for its food, the musical acts it hosted, and the care Gleason put into the club and its patrons. At one point he spent $1,700 renovating the restrooms, to the delight of many. The bar hosted musical acts such as Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie Brenston, and Charlie Brown’s Smarties Band. Gleason was also responsible for the trend of “Talent Nights” at clubs and bars in the Cleveland area. An article in Call & Post from 1964, advertising a talent night at Lucky Bar, tells the story of how, a decade earlier, business at Gleason’s had been slow. When voiced his dismay to the mostly empty bar, one of the few patrons at the bar suggested that he host a talent night. The idea was wildly successful, and bars and clubs in the area took on the idea as well. In 1963, “Jap” decided to sell Gleason’s, and the restaurant was officially sold in 1964. Gleason remained in charge, until in July 1964, former manager of Gleason’s, Al Howell, opened House of Blues at the Gleason’s location. Prior to opening House of Blues, Howell had opened up a barbecue restaurant next door to Gleason’s.

Tiny Grimes at Gleason’s | Call & Post, Nov. 18, 1950

Resources

  • “Display Ad 5 — No Title.” Call & Post. July 25, 1964.
  • Fuster, John. “About the Stars.” Call & Post. January 11, 1964.
  • Fuster, John. “About the Stars.” Call & Post. July 25, 1964.
  • Fuster, John. “About the Stars.” Call & Post. December 28, 1963.
  • “Other 21 — No Title.” Call and Post. September 2, 1944.
  • “Powder Room at Gleason’s Given $1700 Face Lift.” Call & Post. May 14, 1949.
  • Sarrouh, Adonees. “Gleason’s Musical Bar.” Cleveland Historical. https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/634.
5219 Woodland Ave, Cleveland, OH 44104

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