Little Bits of History

I Dig Rock and Roll

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 21, 2011

Moondog Coronation Ball poster

March 21, 1952: The first Moondog Coronation Ball is held in Cleveland, Ohio and is the first major rock-and-roll concert. The concert was the idea of Alan Freed, a disk jockey working at WJW-Radio in Cleveland. The concert was to last from 10 PM to 2 AM at the Cleveland Arena with Paul Williams, Tiny Grimes, The Dominoes, Danny Cobb, Varetta Dillard, and “many others!” playing. Tickets were $1.50 in advance and $1.75 at the door.

Alan Freed’s fans were called Moondoggers, hence the name of the concert. He wanted to reward his loyal listeners. This new type of music was very urban, very new. It was more upbeat than the blues. People wanted to enjoy the experience in person; break out and dance. Freed had no idea how many people would actually attend such a concert. Originally, 7,000 tickets were printed. These sold and another 2,000 were printed. Without realizing it, more than one person was printing tickets. In all 20,000 tickets were printed and sold. Great! Except the Arena only had about 10,000 seats.

As people filled the venue, Lew Platt (promoter) and Rendezvous Records (Freed’s radio show sponsor) were thrilled. However, even after the place was filled, more people were trying to shove their way in. Fire authorities were alarmed by the crowds, fights were starting to break out, and after the first number was performed by Paul Williams, the concert was shut down. Even with this inauspicious beginning, the Moondog Coronation Ball continues as a yearly event in Cleveland also known as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Freed was a visionary with a self-destructive streak. He began his radio career in Akron, Ohio and moved to Cleveland. After the success of this concert and with his growing fan base, he moved to New York City. He pre-recorded shows that were broadcast in Luxembourg and Liverpool, England. He was in the movies and on the small screen. He was accused of taking payola, money from producers to play certain records on the radio. He lost his standing in the radio community and began working at smaller radio stations. He died at the age of 43 from liver failure, the result of chronic alcoholism.

“Rock ‘n Roll is the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear.” – Frank Sinatra

“Rock and Roll: Music for the neck downwards.” – Keith Richards

“Videos destroyed the vitality of rock and roll. Before that, music said, “Listen to me.” Now it says, “Look at me.”” – Billy Joel

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” – John Lennon

Also on this day:
Who shot JR? – In 1980, the cliffhanger ending to the season for Dallas.
Taco Bell – In 1962, the first Taco Bell opened.

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