Anniversary of The Very First Rock And Roll Concert

03/21/2011
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On this day in 1952, DJ Alan Freed held the first-ever "rock and roll concert" at the Cleveland Arena, with his Moondog Coronation Ball, featuring Billy Ward and the Dominoes, Tiny Grimes, and Paul Williams and the Hucklebuckers. The police shut down the show early, nearly causing a riot. Gibson and takes a look back:

The first rock and roll concert didn't have a light show. It didn't have a massive sound system or a smoke machine. Fans didn't hold up cigarette lighters or cell phones, and there was no t-shirt booth. There was no encore. In fact, only one song was even played. But it did light a fire in the hearts and feet of tens of thousands of teenagers and served as the opening shot of an unstoppable revolution in the history of popular music.

The Moondog Coronation Ball was the brainchild of Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey who was making big waves on WJW radio in 1951. The 29-year-old Johnstown, Pennsylvania native had come to WJW in February 1951 as the host of a classical music show. But by July, clued in by a local record-store owner named Leo Mintz that kids were buying tons of traditionally black rhythm and blues music, Freed shifted to rhythm and blues and adopted a cool, fast-talking, on-air persona called the King of the Moondoggers. It may have stirred up a few fuddy-duddies in the white community, but the ratings didn't lie. The Ol' King of the Moondoggers was racking up big ratings and soon other stations were adopting similar formats. more on this story

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