March 21 – Moondog Began It All 70 Years Ago

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. 

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8 thoughts on “March 21 – Moondog Began It All 70 Years Ago

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    I hate when history is torn down but I get it…doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’m sure the big acts of the day played there…when it wasn’t cancelled lol. Freed did his part for sure.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yep, a big day on the music calendar although I imagine very few back then thought so. I’m like you I guess, a bit of a nostalgia buff or something when it comes to urban architecture and significant spots. Always hate when important stadiums or other venues get demolished. It’ll be one very sad day in Beantown if they ever level Fenway Park and build a Verizon 5G Field with a nice even 9-foot outfield wall and lux box seats.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        Frank McCourt was going to tear it down if they would have let him buy it…. That was one of many reasons they didn’t…but The Dodgers..oh what the hell…he can have it.

        Yea it’s worse in America than the UK from what I’ve seen.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. But, sadly, Rock’n’roll sure didn’t look like it had any historical significance back then. True though, there ain’t many brass plaques sitting on old historical buildings in the States as much as in the UK though. It seems nothing stands in the way of another Tr- tourist tower going up or another extension of the Riverside Freeway or whatever getting laid out. Knock down that ol’ theatre or studio or record store, pave it over and move on- and don’t look in the rear-view mirror. (Guess who woke up on the wrong side of bed this sad sour and wet morning?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. very true… I see articles about Britain and you see pubs with a big brass marker outside put there by the city or county telling of Madness’s first gig or house where Ringo Starr lived when he was 16… that kind of thing. Nothing much like that over here.

      Liked by 1 person

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