Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DJ Alan Freed hosted the first rock ‘n’ roll show: March 21, 1952

The first Moondog Coronation Ball was held in Cleveland. The event is generally considered the first rock ‘n’ roll show in the U.S. Featured acts included a mix of black and white performers intended to attract a racially mixed audience. Among the acts were Paul Williams’ Hucklebuckers, Tiny Grimes’ Rockin’ Highlanders (featuring Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), The Dominoes, and Danny Cobb. At the time, nearly all performances, radio stations, and record labels were racially segregated.

DJ Alan Freed, who conceived and promoted the event, is credited with coining the term “rock and roll.” The event took its name from “Moondoggers” – the nickname he gave his listeners. Freed came to Cleveland’s WXEL-TV in April 1950 and began his late-night, rock-n-roll-themed Moondog show on WJW radio in July 1951. He went to New York in 1954 and left the business in 1959 after involvement in a payola scandal. He died in 1965 at age 43.

The event, held at the Cleveland Arena, proved a bit of a fiasco as promoters continued selling tickets long after they’d reached the venue’s roughly-10,000 seat capacity. At least some of the additional tickets have been attributed to counterfeiting. It was estimated that 20,000 fans showed up. When they couldn’t get in, the crowd broke down the doors to storm the arena. Local authorities shut down the concert after the first song for fear of rioting.

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