Last week we talked about a U2 concert where only about a dozen people showed up. Many times we’ve talked about Live Aid and the Beatles legendary rooftop appearance in 1969 recently immortalized by the film Get Back. But today we remember a concert that might have been an even more significant ticket – the first rock concert ever was held this day in 1952. In Cleveland, fittingly, the city now home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Radio DJ Alan Freed was behind it and hosting (Freed is generally credited with coining the term “rock and roll”). He was working with WJW in Cleveland which was mainly a classical music station. However, as a local record store owner was selling a lot of R&B records, he sponsored a weekly late night show of that sort of music, hosted by Alan Freed, aka “Moon Dog”. They decided to bring some of the acts they played – Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers, the Rockin’ Highlanders (a Black group that apparently played in kilts) and others to a live dance/show at the Cleveland Arena. Dubbed the Moondog Coronation Ball, the 10000 seat arena filled…unfortunately, due to counterfeit tickets and math problems in ticket printing, about twice that many kids showed up. A huge push to get in caused the fire department to complain and the police shut it down after just one song… first concert, first concert conflict with local authorities all in one night! Still, one song in, the world of rock concerts had begun. Music would never be the same.
Alas, there aren’t any concerts taking place there anymore. The Cleveland Arena, which at one time hosted both professional hockey and basketball, was torn down in 1977. By then it was looking rather ragged and old-fashioned compared to other similar sports facilities and parking was entirely inadequate for large crowds. A Red Cross office building now stands on the site on Euclid Ave.