Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Roots of Rock and Roll

In 1970, when I began my college career at Ohio University, student enrollments were in the neighborhood of 20,000. The campus was bursting at the seams. The lines were especially long in the great hall where we were required to get our student I.D.'s, a chore which was eased considerably by the girl in line behind me with whom I had struck up a conversation. Her name was Pam. She had a nice smile and happened to be from Cleveland, my own place of birth.

Whatever small talk we made during that hour in line has been forgotten, but by the time we were through with registrations I had her phone number and she agreed to see me again.

Few details of that first college date are worth repeating and most of them unremembered. For her it was a dud because she was with me. But I'll not forget one thing we talked about that night amongst the trees behind Scot Quad, she in her brushed leather jacket with fringes. She said that friends of hers were involved in building a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

I was pretty much in disbelief. Why would they put a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? She undoubtedly answered that, though it seems to be one of the details missing from my memory. All I remember is that it just seemed too far out. The only bands we had in Ohio of national significance were Grand Funk Railroad and The Glass Harp. But little did I know...

Sixteen years later when it came to pass, those who had dreamed were rewarded. But still, why Cleveland? Chiefly, it's because of the efforts of a disc jockey named Alan Freed who promoted the new genre of music.

There were many disc jockeys of the time taken up in the euphoric new sound, which was a blend of African-American rhythms and blues while borrowing from traditions of cowboy music, jazz, country and folk. The key thing, though, was making music kids could dance to.

As history has it, Freed, aka Moondog, put together a five band event at the Cleveland Arena which he called the Moondog Coronation Ball on March 21, 1952. Promoting it on the air brought untold numbers of youth, and a riot ultimately broke out. This event has been labelled the first rock and roll concert.
Freed's career was later marred by the Payola Scandal that hurt a lot of disc jockeys of the time, but pretty much left rock and roll unscathed, as witnessed by its pervasiveness through the Sixties and beyond.
There you have it. Rock on. And enjoy the day.

2 comments:

downlights said...

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Pedro H. Albuquerque said...

Nice article, thanks for sharing!