LOCONTI, HENRY JOSEPH (June 17, 1929- July 7, 2014) was the owner and founder of the legendary AGORA in Cleveland, Ohio. The son of Philomena LoConti-Bronstein and John LoConti, Henry grew up in Cleveland. In his youth he worked in the jukebox industry, first with some of his relatives and later with a company known as Leaf Music. After a serving in the military, LoConti returned to Cleveland and opened the first incarnation of the Agora in 1966, on the campus of CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY.

While the original Agora was popular, its small size forced LoConti to relocate to a larger building on E. 24th street, near Payne Avenue. Opening in 1968, this new Agora would become the most famous version of the club. The club held concerts on Monday nights, bringing in young talents such as Bruce Springsteen, KISS, and Talking Heads to entertain audiences, which now numbered over a thousand in the new building. In addition to these popular concerts, the Agora also organized weekend dance nights, jazz concerts, and even had a small basement club referred to as “Mistake” that helped underground bands gain more experience. The Agora became so prominent that LoConti opened a number of other clubs throughout the U.S., including in the states of Texas, Georgia and Florida. A small fire forced the Cleveland club’s closure in 1984.  However, it would not reopen at this location due to issues with the landlords, CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY. The final iteration of the Agora opened in 1986, at E. 55th and Euclid, and remains open to this day.

LoConti and the Agora’s importance to rock in Cleveland cannot be overlooked. Aside from hosting many up-and-coming stars, LoConti also formed a partnership with the local rock radio station WMMS and organized the “WMMS Coffebreak Concerts”, live concerts that took place in the Agora and were broadcast by WMMS, which increased the reach of the bands who played in the Agora. In addition to this, the club’s concerts were also broadcast on television on WJW Cleveland’s channel 8, further boosting the popularity many of the stars who played at he Agora. LoConti and the Agora not only helped propel many stars to fame through their these broadcasts, but, in some ways, also helped new emerging genres of rock become extremely popular Cleveland by providing a space where fans could gather and watch these broadcasts.

LoConti was married three times, with his last wife being Bonita “Bonnie” LoConti. Together they had 12 children, including Kathleen-Cefaratti, Judy Barna, Maureen Migliorini, Rick LoConti, Pam Nichols, Lisa Newcomb, Henry LoConti Jr., and Douglas, Robert, Carla, Christopher and Joseph LoConti. He passed away from lymphoma and is buried in Maple Shade Cemetery.

Alberto Cabrer

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