Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Rock On

From the March 21st edition of The Writer's Almanac and Garrison Keillor:

It was on this day in 1952 that Allan Freed organized the first ever rock and roll concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1951 Alan Freed took to the airwaves for the first time under the name Moondog. He was convinced by a record storeowner named Leo Mintz to play rhythm and blues songs to an audience of mostly white teenagers. This was a new idea at the time, and it made Freed very popular with his audience.

Freed became a favorite in Cleveland, and so he decided to hold a concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, for his loyal listeners. He hired bands like the Dominoes, the Rockin' Highlanders, Tiny Grimes and Danny Cobb to play the Cleveland Arena which held 10,000 people. At first, Freed was afraid the concert would be a bust because nobody would show up. But thousands of teenagers lined the sidewalks of Euclid Avenue, holding tickets Freed had printed, eager to hear these black artists perform their music. The arena filled easily, and thousands of teenagers were barred from entering, even though they had tickets.

The first performer that night was Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams. During his first song, the barred teenagers tried to force their way inside. They broke doors and windows, people were knocked down and pushed aside, and fights broke out all over the arena. The police closed down the concert after Williams had played only one song.

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