The Moondog Coronation Ball is history’s first rock concert

The Moondog Coronation Ball is history’s first rock concert


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Breathless promotion on the local radio station. Thousands of teenagers, hours before show time, lining up outside the biggest venue in town. The scene outside the Cleveland Arena on a chilly Friday night in March more than 50 years ago would look quite familiar to anyone who has ever attended a major rock concert. But no one on this particular night had ever even heard of a “rock concert.” This, after all, was the night of an event now recognized as history’s first major rock-and-roll show: the Moondog Coronation Ball, held in Cleveland on March 21, 1952.

The “Moondog” in question was the legendary disk jockey Alan Freed, the self-styled “father of rock and roll” who was then the host of the enormously popular “Moondog Show” on Cleveland AM radio station WJW. Freed had joined WJW in 1951 as the host of a classical-music program, but he took up a different kind of music at the suggestion of Cleveland record-store owner Leo Mintz, who had noted with great interest the growing popularity, among young customers of all races, of rhythm-and-blues records by black musicians. Mintz decided to sponsor three hours of late-night programming on WJW to showcase rhythm-and-blues music, and Alan Freed was installed as host. Freed quickly took to the task, adopting a new, hip persona and vocabulary that included liberal use of the phrase “rock and roll” to describe the music he was now promoting. As the program grew in popularity, Mintz and Freed decided to do something that had never been done: hold a live dance event featuring some of the artists whose records were appearing on Freed’s show. Dubbed “The Moondog Coronation Ball,” the event was to feature headliners Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers and Tiny Grimes and the Rocking Highlanders (a black instrumental group that performed in Scottish kilts). In the end, however, the incredible popular demand for tickets proved to be the event’s undoing.

Helped along by massive ticket counterfeiting and possibly by overbooking on the part of the event’s sponsors, an estimated 20,000-25,000 fans turned out for an event being held in an arena with a capacity of only 10,000. Less than an hour into the show, the massive overflow crowd broke through the gates that were keeping them outside, and police quickly moved in to stop the show almost as soon as it began. On the radio the very next evening, Alan Freed offered an apology to listeners who had tried to attend the canceled event. By way of explanation, Freed said: “If anyone…had told us that some 20 or 25,000 people would try to get into a dance—I suppose you would have been just like me. You would have laughed and said they were crazy.”


Alan Freed, DJ who staged 1st rock concert

The story is best told by his son, music publisher Lance Freed. His dad, he recalls, did a nightly program, "The Moondog Show," on WJW, playing "race" records - that is, R&B. Back in 1952, he says, "he was the only white disc jockey playing music created by blacks on a white-owned station." His father, he adds, came to call the music rock 'n' roll "as a way to put a new face on the stigma of music created largely by black artists. He took the phrase from the records he was playing, with lyrics such as 'Rock me baby, roll me baby, all night long.' 'Rock 'n' roll' was a known euphemism, in the black community, for sex. But to the public, 'rock 'n' roll' became the name for a mysterious new genre of music."

Freed called himself the King of the Moondoggers. While records played, he would sometimes keep his microphone on and, as his son says, "shout encouragement to the artist, or beat out the rhythm of the music on a telephone book."

By March 1952, Freed had been on WJW for seven months, and got plenty of phone calls every night for requests and dedications, but had no idea how big his audience was. He would find out soon enough. Along with a record store owner and a booking agent, he was staging a dance concert at the Cleveland Arena, an ice hockey arena with a capacity of 10,000. Freed called it "The Moondog Coronation Ball." At the concert, he said, he would be crowned officially as King of the Moondoggers.

But there would be no coronation. Besides 9,000 people who purchased advance tickets, at least that many more showed up, hoping to gain admission. Just as the opening act, Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers, completed their first song, many in the crowd outside decided to get into the arena. They broke through gates and glass doors and pushed their way in, overwhelming the police and firefighters who'd been called in to deal with the congestion and snarled traffic around the arena. They shut down the dance, and the audience was sent home.

The next day, WJW fired Freed. Says his son: "Terrible things were said about him. He took the blows, but begged station management to allow him one final show, so that he could apologize to the people of Cleveland." On the air, Freed accepted blame for the disaster, but also asked listeners to phone and write messages supporting him. Otherwise, he said, this would be his last broadcast.

Thousands of fans called and visited the station thousands more sent telegrams. "My father not only kept his job," said Freed, "management expanded his program."

Lance was only 5 years old at the time, but, he says, "When I look back over the years, I can say with confidence that March 21, 1952, marked the birth of rock 'n' roll." A 1999 article in the New York Times, he says, described the Coronation Ball as being considered "the first rock concert." Another newspaper noted that it was "the first rock 'n' roll riot."

"It was more than a concert, or a riot," Lance says. "It was a key event in civil rights history. It broke down the barriers of segregation through music and brought people of diverse racial and economic backgrounds together." A few years later, Freed moved to New York, where he was a star DJ and concert promoter, and portrayed himself in several movies. As Lance notes, one of them was titled "Mr. Rock and Roll."

Random notes: KGO, which has not fared well in the ratings since its format switch, has revamped its weekend lineup, adding more news and two new shows. Saturdays will kick off with a news block from 5 to 10 a.m., followed by Tim Montemayor, who is on from 10 to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Montemayor, formerly syndicated with Sporting News Radio, is followed by Michael Finney until 4. "Cooking With Ryan Scott," featuring the former "Top Chef" contestant, airs from 4 to 6 p.m. Pat Thurston goes from 6 to 9 p.m. (and is on Sundays, 4-7 p.m.). Karel (who's also on Sunday evenings) will be on from 7 to midnight. Brent Walters' "God Talk" airs Sundays, 5-8 a.m., followed by John Hamilton's travel show until 10 a.m. Brian Copeland is on 1-4 p.m. . Frank Dill and Mike Cleary headline the next Broadcast Legends luncheon, March 28 in Berkeley, with Stan Bunger interviewing the KNBR icons. For ticket info, go to www.broadcastlegends.com . Not "outta here": KNBR and the Giants have extended their broadcasting partnership through 2018, which would mark 40 years together. Let's go, Giants!

Tony, Tony, Tony: On the eve of Tony Bennett's visit last month, for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," Mayor Ed Leesuggested that every radio station in town play that song at noon, when Bennett would be getting honored at City Hall. Didn't Hizzoner know that requests are, like, so 50 years ago? And that the song doesn't fit any current radio format?

But, at noon on Valentine's Day, there it was. "The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gay . " Rolling through the AM dial, I heard it on KSFO and KNBR. On KGO, an announcer promised to play it after the headlines. After getting no more Bennett on AM, I flipped to FM. No surprise: KOIT was playing it, as part of a tribute produced by Teri King. So was "Kiss," "Star 101.3," KOSF, KFOG and KSAN. Nine stations in all. Cumulus was all in CBS ("Live 105," "Now" and "Alice") was out, although KCBS reported on the City Hall shindig. Clear Channel played the song on two music stations ("Star 101.3" and KOSF), but not on KMEL and "Wild," or on its talk outlets (KKSF and KNEW). However, said operations manager Don Parker, KMEL did a tribute to Bennett at noon, "with the song playing in the background." And, he added, "We dedicated our 'Noon Throwback Mix' to Tony."

At a sound check at the Fairmont Hotel's Venetian Room, where he performed that evening, Bennett didn't accept questions from the invited media, but took one from Radio Waves, about the airplay he'd received. "It's unbelievable," he said. "I never experienced so much love in my life. . I'll never forget it as long as I live."


Today in history: Moondog Coronation Ball held in Cleveland

On March 21, 1952, the Moondog Coronation Ball, considered the first rock and roll concert, took place at Cleveland Arena.

In 1556, Thomas Cranmer, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake for heresy.

In 1685, composer Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany.

In 1804, the French civil code, or the "Code Napoleon" as it was later called, was adopted.

In 1925, Tennessee Gov. Austin Peay signed the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of the Theory of Evolution in public schools. (Tennessee repealed the law in 1967.)

In 1935, Persia officially changed its name to Iran.

In 1946, the recently created United Nations Security Council set up temporary headquarters at Hunter College in The Bronx, N.Y.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan began a four-day conference in Bermuda.

In 1963, the Alcatraz federal prison island in San Francisco Bay was emptied of its last inmates and closed at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1972, the Supreme Court, in Dunn v. Blumstein, ruled that states may not require at least a year's residency for voting eligibility.

In 1981, Michael Donald, a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama, was abducted, tortured and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. (A lawsuit brought by Donald's mother, Beulah Mae Donald, later resulted in a landmark judgment that bankrupted one Klan organization.)

In 1997, President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin wrapped up their summit in Helsinki, Finland, still deadlocked over NATO expansion, but able to agree on slashing nuclear weapons arsenals.

In 2006, the social media website Twitter was established with the sending of the first "tweet" by co-founder Jack Dorsey, who wrote: "just setting up my twttr."


Today in history: Moondog Coronation Ball held in Cleveland

On March 21, 1952, the Moondog Coronation Ball, considered the first rock and roll concert, took place at Cleveland Arena.

In 1556, Thomas Cranmer, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake for heresy.

In 1685, composer Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany.

In 1804, the French civil code, or the "Code Napoleon" as it was later called, was adopted.

In 1925, Tennessee Gov. Austin Peay signed the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of the Theory of Evolution in public schools. (Tennessee repealed the law in 1967.)

In 1935, Persia officially changed its name to Iran.

In 1946, the recently created United Nations Security Council set up temporary headquarters at Hunter College in The Bronx, N.Y.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan began a four-day conference in Bermuda.

In 1963, the Alcatraz federal prison island in San Francisco Bay was emptied of its last inmates and closed at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1972, the Supreme Court, in Dunn v. Blumstein, ruled that states may not require at least a year's residency for voting eligibility.

In 1981, Michael Donald, a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama, was abducted, tortured and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. (A lawsuit brought by Donald's mother, Beulah Mae Donald, later resulted in a landmark judgment that bankrupted one Klan organization.)

In 1997, President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin wrapped up their summit in Helsinki, Finland, still deadlocked over NATO expansion, but able to agree on slashing nuclear weapons arsenals.

In 2006, the social media website Twitter was established with the sending of the first "tweet" by co-founder Jack Dorsey, who wrote: "just setting up my twttr."


The Story Behind the Only Existing Ticket from the Moondog Coronation Ball

I’ll never forget the look on Terry Stewart’s face when I told him that my family had a ticket from the Moondog Coronation Ball, which took place in Cleveland on this day 64 years ago. Stewart was seated at his desk in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, surrounded by some of his personal rock memorabilia amassed over time. There was the full-length jumpsuit signed by both Elton John and Bernie Taupin. There was a lock of Elvis' hair mounted alongside a letter of authenticity. And there was the very microphone that famous deejay Alan Freed used while on the air.

But what neither he nor the Rock Hall had in their collections was a ticket from the Moondog Coronation Ball, which is widely regarded as the first rock concert. None were known to exist, Stewart said, while pointing to a reproduction of the ticket on his wall that I hadn’t noticed. We have one, I told him, a near-perfect document preserved behind glass for decades.

My grandfather is Leo Mintz, who in 1939 opened the first Record Rendezvous on Prospect Avenue. By the late ‘40s, that legendary record shop was doing a brisk business in rhythm and blues records – “race records” – but Mintz wanted the music to have a broader appeal, especially in the white communities. He enlisted the help of Akron deejay Alan Freed, buying him airtime on Cleveland’s WJW and supplying all the records (and most of the scotch). "The King of the Moondoggers" went live in 1951, and just months later he and Mintz organized the infamous Moondog Coronation Ball, which not only was the first rock concert but also the first rock concert riot due to a ticket printing error that doubled the number of attendees.

The original 7,500 tickets to the concert at the Cleveland Arena sold out ligtening fast. My Uncle Milty decided to organize a second night, and he printed up a second batch of tickets. Unfortunately, the second batch of tickets had the same date as the first, so 15,000 ticket-holders, plus walkups, showed up to an arena that couldn’t accommodate them.

Those tickets were printed and sold at Record Rendezvous in 1952, and one of them - the very last of the original batch - was safely stowed away for posterity. It’s a magical piece of Cleveland history that now resides behind glass at the Rock Hall. Our family donated it to the museum a few years ago so that it can be enjoyed by all rock fans who visit Cleveland. The gesture also was an attempt to shine a brighter light on Leo Mintz, who despite helping coin the phrase “rock and roll” has always been outshined by Alan Freed in the history books.

In 2010, the Rock Hall dedicated the Leo M. Mintz Gallery, honoring the man many credit with not only coining the phrase, but also paving the way for the Rock Hall’s future place in Cleveland.

“Leo Mintz had the idea to do the radio show and play the music,” Stewart told me back then. “Without him, I think Cleveland would have had an incredibly difficult time making the case historically that the Hall should be here. And I doubt there would have been the impetus to even try.”

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The Moondog Coronation Ball is history’s first rock concert - HISTORY

Hulton Archive/Getty Images American disc jockey and radio performer Alan Freed (1921 – 1965) who coined the term rock ‘n’ roll sits in a 1010 WINS sound studio during a radio broadcast.

In his short life, Alan Freed was many things. A beloved disk jockey, a proponent of early integration, a television personality, a controversial figure, and a songwriter. But if there’s one thing Alan Freed is most remembered for, it’s being the “father of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Born on Dec. 15, 1921, in Pennsylvania, Freed grew up just in time for the beginning of a new era. His family moved to Ohio in 1933. After graduating high school, Freed went to Ohio State University where he picked up an interest in radio.

He served in the army during World War II and worked for the Armed Forces Radio. After the war, in 1945, Freed worked as a disk jockey for several radio stations around Ohio, before settling at WAKR in Akron.

On his show, he played a mix of jazz, pop, blues, country, and R&B. Freed quickly became a local fan favorite for the new music he was introducing to the airwaves.

Freed eventually left his job at the station, but found it difficult to find good work due to the non-compete clause he had signed at WAKR. In 1951, he wound up picking up a graveyard shift at a station called WJW in Cleveland. As it turned out, WJW radio would be the place Alan Freed would make history, not only by playing rock and roll music but actually introducing the phrase rock and roll to mass audiences.

Inspired by the New York street musician Louis T. “Moondog” Harding, Freed called his WJW show the Moondog House and himself the King of the Moondoggers. His on-air personality was vibrant. While most disk jockeys at the time kept a more mellow composure on air, Freed wanted his listeners to feel a part of the music community he was creating.

It was more than just the music though. In the 1950s, the embers of the civil rights movement were starting to glow. Alan Freed played recordings by black artists instead of cover versions by white artists, which wasn’t a common thing to do at the time. He also put together concerts with racially mixed audiences, which further helped to bridge the segregation gap between white and black teens at the time.

Freed organized the Moondog Coronation Ball in March of 1952 at the Cleveland Arena, the biggest venue in town. Featuring Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers and Tiny Grimes and the Rocking Highlanders, it was the very first rock and roll concert. Tickets sold out in a day.

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images Moondog Coronation Ball poster

It was an early spring night and thousands of teenagers lined up outside the area hours before the show was set to start. An estimated 20,000-25,000 fans turned out for an event being held in an arena with a capacity of only 10,000. Less than an hour into the performances, the overcrowding caused the gates outside to break. The police got involved and canceled the show before it ever really began.

In an apology on his show the next day, Freed said, “If anyone had told us that some 20 or 25,000 people would try to get into a dance—I suppose you would have been just like me. You would have laughed and said they were crazy.”

As unsuccessful as the first rock concert was, it was successful in showing that the lust for rock and roll music was strong.

The Moondog Coronation Ball solidified Freed’s fame and status as the father of rock ‘n’ roll. He got extended airtime on his radio show as well as a television show. Premiering on ABC on May 4, 1957, the “Big Beat” was America’s first prime-time rock and roll TV show.

Getty Images ‘All shook up’ even before the show begins, excited teenagers are kept in line by police barricades outside the Paramount Theater. The youngsters were anxiously awaiting the opening of the box office so they could get inside to see Alan Freed’s Rock ‘n Roll stage show.

Despite the show’s high rating, a live episode that featured a performance by Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers showed Lymon dancing with a white girl. This outraged the networks and caused them to cancel the show.

Freed was able to make a deal where the show could continue on a local level. Alas, the deal wouldn’t mean much thanks to a scandal that would soon rock the music industry and Freed directly. It was a little thing called payola.

Payola was the payments from record companies to radio stations with the order to play specific records. Not only was Freed accused of accepting payola, but he became involved in a conflict of interest controversy. Since Freed had songwriting credits on certain records, it entitled him to part of the royalties made through sales of those records. Thus, playing those records on his shows in order to give them more publicity and consequently receive more royalty payments, didn’t look so good on his end.

In 1959 he was fired from his TV show and soon after from his radio station as well. Payola was officially made illegal in 1960. Two years later, Freed would plead guilty to charges of commercial bribery.

The negative press surrounding Freed made him a pariah to the major radio stations. He wound up working for a small scale radio station on the West Coast.

In 1965, Alan Freed died from diseases brought on by alcoholism. He was 43 years old.

Despite the troubled years, he faced at the end of his life, Alan Freed is still considered a key creator of rock and roll. He was one of the first people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1986. He also was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1988, and in 1991, he earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He’s also been lamented in the music of major future artists whose music wouldn’t be possible without the birth of rock and roll.

“This one’s for you Al Freed,
Wherever you go, whatever you do
‘Cause the things they’re doing today
Will make a saint out of you” — Payola Blues, Neil Young

Next read about the rock and roll groupies who changed music history. Then check out these 25 strange Elvis facts.


[NATL] Top News Photos: Pope Visits Japan, and More

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan began a four-day conference in Bermuda.

In 1963, the Alcatraz federal prison island in San Francisco Bay was emptied of its last inmates and closed at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1972, the Supreme Court, in Dunn v. Blumstein, ruled that states may not require at least a year's residency for voting eligibility.

In 1981, Michael Donald, a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama, was abducted, tortured and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. (A lawsuit brought by Donald's mother, Beulah Mae Donald, later resulted in a landmark judgment that bankrupted one Klan organization.)

In 1997, President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin wrapped up their summit in Helsinki, Finland, still deadlocked over NATO expansion, but able to agree on slashing nuclear weapons arsenals.

In 2006, the social media website Twitter was established with the sending of the first "tweet" by co-founder Jack Dorsey, who wrote: "just setting up my twttr."

Ten years ago: Former Vice President Al Gore made an emotional return to Congress as he pleaded with House and Senate committees to fight global warming skeptical Republicans questioned the science behind his climate-change documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Five years ago: A previously divided U.N. Security Council sent a strong and united message to the Syrian government and opposition to immediately implement proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan to end Syria's yearlong bloodshed. Meting out unprecedented punishment for a bounty system that targeted key opposing players, the NFL suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton without pay for the coming season and indefinitely banned the team's former defensive coordinator in addition to other sanctions, Commissioner Roger Goodell fined the Saints $500,000 and took away their second-round draft picks for the current year and the next.

One year ago: Laying bare a half-century of tensions, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro prodded each other over human rights and the longstanding U.S. economic embargo during an unprecedented joint news conference in Havana. A former U.S. State Department employee who had used his government-issued computer to prey on vulnerable young women and manipulate them into sharing nude photos was sentenced in Atlanta to five years in federal prison.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Kathleen Widdoes is 78. Songwriter Chip Taylor ("Wild Thing") is 77. Folk-pop singer/musician Keith Potger (The Seekers) is 76. Actress Marie-Christine Barrault is 73. Singer-musician Rose Stone (Sly and the Family Stone) is 72. Actor Timothy Dalton is 71. Singer Ray Dorset (Mungo Jerry) is 71.Singer Eddie Money is 68. Rock singer-musician Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) is 67. Rock musician Conrad Lozano (Los Lobos) is 66. Rhythm-and-blues singer Russell Thompkins Jr. (The Stylistics) is 66. Comedy writer-performer Brad Hall is 59. Actress Sabrina LeBeauf is 59. Actor Gary Oldman is 59. Actress Kassie Depaiva ("Days of Our Lives") is 56. Actor Matthew Broderick is 55. Comedian-talk show host Rosie O'Donnell is 55. Rock musician Jonas "Joker" Berggren (Ace of Base) is 50. Rock MC Maxim (Prodigy) is 50. Rock musician Andrew Copeland (Sister Hazel) is 49. Hip-hop DJ Premier (Gang Starr) is 48. Actress Laura Allen is 43. Rapper-TV personality Kevin Federline is 39. Actor Scott Eastwood is 31. Actor Forrest Wheeler is 13.

Thought for Today: "History is principally the inaccurate narration of events which ought not to have happened." — Ernest Albert Hooten, American anthropologist (1887-1954).


HISTORY, March 21: Twitter founder sends history's first tweet

Today is Wednesday, March 21, the 80th day of 2018. There are 285 days left in the year.

On March 21, 1918, during World War I, Germany launched its Spring Offensive on the Western Front, hoping to break through the Allied lines before American reinforcements could arrive. (Although successful at first, the Spring Offensive ultimately failed.)

In 1788, fire broke out in New Orleans on Good Friday, destroying 856 out of more than 1,100 structures only one death was reported.

In 1935, Persia officially changed its name to Iran.

In 1952, the Moondog Coronation Ball, considered the first rock and roll concert, took place at Cleveland Arena.

In 1963, the Alcatraz federal prison island in San Francisco Bay was emptied of its last inmates and closed at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1981, Michael Donald, a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama, was abducted, tortured and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. (A lawsuit brought by Donald's mother resulted in a landmark judgment that bankrupted one Klan organization.)

In 2006, the social media website Twitter was established with the sending of the first "tweet" by co-founder Jack Dorsey, who wrote: "just setting up my twttr."

Birthdays: Songwriter Chip Taylor ("Wild Thing") is 78. Singer-musician Rose Stone (Sly and the Family Stone) is 73. Actor Timothy Dalton is 72. Singer Eddie Money is 69. Actor Gary Oldman is 60. Actor Matthew Broderick is 56. Comedian-actress Rosie O'Donnell is 56.

Thought for Today: "Among individuals, as among nations, peace is the respect of others' rights." -- Benito Juarez, Mexican statesman (born this date in 1806, died 1872).


Freed, Alan "Moondog" (1921-1965)

One of the most popular and influential pioneering radio disc jockeys, Alan "Moondog" Freed helped make Cleveland, Ohio, an early hotbed of rock 'n' roll music through the programs that he hosted on radio station WJW there in the 1950s. Moving to WINS Radio in New York, he soon became a nationally-known celebrity as one of the first important supporters of the new youth-oriented music that was sweeping the country during that decade. His theory that white teenagers would listen to and purchase rhythm and blues records by black artists proved insightful. For more than a decade, Freed constantly promoted the emergent music format via stage shows, national radio, television, and in a series of movies. Although he did not coin the phrase "rock 'n' roll," he is credited with popularizing the term which had originally been a euphemism for sexual intercourse on "race" records beginning in the 1920s. Freed's talent for promotion soon became his downfall as he and other disc jockeys across the nation were implicated in the payola scandals in 1959. Author John Jackson underscores Freed's contribution to contemporary American music by stating he "proved how essential the disc jockey was to the growth of rock & roll."

Aldon James Freed, who was born on December 21, 1921, and raised in rural Salem, Ohio, had a strong interest in music from childhood. While attending Ohio State University he became fascinated with the activity at WOSU Radio, the university station. He did not become involved with the station during his stay at the university, but, instead, enrolled in a broadcasting school in Youngstown, Ohio. Throughout the 1940s he toiled at a variety of small, local radio stations in Pennsylvania and Ohio where he held numerous positions such as sweeping floors, news and sports announcing, and playing music. The young announcer's fortunes changed dramatically when he took a position with Cleveland's WJW (850 AM) as host of a rhythm and blues program in 1951. He adopted the name "Moondog" from a raucous recording featuring a howling dog titled "Moondog Symphony." Freed's on-air antics soon made him a popular personality with Cleveland's young black community. Six months after the debut of his late night radio broadcast, he and the owner of the area's largest record store entered a partnership to promote a dance called the "Moondog Coronation Ball." On March 21, 1952, more than 10,000 mostly black teens packed the Cleveland Arena to see rhythm and blues performers Paul Williams, Varetta Dillard, and the Dominoes. The arena became so overcrowded with the unexpectedly large mass of people that city officials were forced to stop the show for safety reasons. The Moondog Coronation Ball is considered a signifi-cant moment in the development of rock 'n' roll. Bill Randle, one of the nation's most respected deejays in the 1950s, characterizes Freed's 1952 event as the "beginning of the acceptance of black popular music as a force in radio. It was the first big show of its kind where the industry saw it as big business."

By 1954, Freed's relentless promotion of himself as well as the rhythm and blues style cemented his position as the music's chief spokesperson. Increasingly, young white record buyers began to cross the racial barrier that had separated mainstream pop songs from rhythm and blues. Freed was further able to enlarge his growing white audience when he moved his program to the powerful WINS radio station in New York. The disc jockey became a national figure through his syndicated radio program, many television appearances, and his role in the film Rock Around the Clock (1956). Playing himself, Freed portrayed a disc jockey encouraging adults to accept the new rock 'n' roll music as sung by Bill Haley and the Comets. The film's great success in the United States and across Europe significantly boosted the exposure of rock music to new audiences.

As the influence of rock 'n' roll spread worldwide, Freed became embroiled in a scandal that would tarnish the remainder of his career. The House Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight, which in 1959 had concluded its investigation of corruption on television quiz shows, began to probe charges that songs heard and heavily promoted on the radio were selected for airplay due to commercial bribery. These secret payments in return for record promotion were known as "payola," a portmanteau word combining "payoff" and "victrola." After years of legal wrangling and a steadily diminishing career, Freed eventually pleaded guilty on December 10, 1962, in the New York Criminal Court to accepting payments and gifts from Superior Record Sales and the Cosant Distributing Corporation "without the knowledge and consent" of his employers. He was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term and fined $500. He later noted that payola practices had not been ended despite all the government's efforts. Freed never regained his earlier prominence and died on January 20, 1965, after a long illness.

Alan Freed has secured a place in American music history as the first important rock 'n' roll disc jockey. His ability to tap into and promote the emerging black musical styles of the 1950s to a white mainstream audience is seen as a vital step in rock's increasing dominance over American culture. Freed's contribution to the music he sold so successfully was honored in 1986 by the Rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame, which selected him as one of the first inductees in the special "non-performer and early influences" category. In 1995, the city of Cleveland hosted the Rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame and Museum's dedication not far from the site of Freed's Moondog Coronation Ball and the radio station where he popularized the phrase "rock 'n' roll."


Timelines :: Rock & Roll

1951
A DJ from Cleveland Ohio, Alan Freed, is credited for coining the phrase &ldquorock and roll&rdquo, referring to the newest style of music brought to the airwaves during that time. One of the records played was Roy Brown&rsquos &ldquoGood Rocking Tonight&rdquo, making the first ostensible reference to sex through music.

1952
Alan &ldquoMoondog&rdquo Freed organizes the first rock and roll concert in Cleveland called the &ldquoMoondog Coronation Ball&rdquo. The audience and the performers were mixed in race and the evening ended after one song almost ended in a riot.

1954
Elvis Presley begins recording and performing the hit titled &ldquoThat&rsquos Alright Mama&rdquo, a rock/country-western fusion known as rockabilly. His unique vocals and instrumental sounds earned him the title the &ldquoKing of Rock &lsquoN Roll&rdquo, and Elvis became known as the first teen idol and most famous musical celebrity to date.

1958
American rock influences The United Kingdom, and a new group called Cliff Richards and the Drifters was formed.&rsquo Racial barriers weren&rsquot as much trouble in The U.K., and teens quickly embraced the new style of music known as The British Invasion (1964-1969).&rsquo Richards is credited for the ideas of a &lsquolead guitarist&rsquo and &lsquoelectric bass guitar&rsquo, which would pave the way for other British groups like The Beatles.

Early 1960&rsquos
Rockabilly hits the West Coast and transforms into a mostly instrumental version infused with vocal harmonies, referred to as &ldquosurf music&rdquo. This music features more heavily played guitar, thus influencing modern heavy metal later on.&rsquoPopular artists in this era were The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean.

1964
The Beatles make an appearance on &lsquoThe Ed Sullivan Show&rsquo, making TV history for rock and roll.&rsquo Other British bands followed suit, including The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and The Who, introducing an edgier sound to British Rock.

1965
Bob Dylan releases the tune &lsquoLike a Rolling Stone&rsquo to mainstream radio.&rsquo With over 6 minutes of playing time and intense poetic contents, this would forever change all preconceived notions of what radio music should sound like.&rsquo

Mid-1960&rsquos
The Rolling Stones are credited with being the first band to do away with band uniforms.&rsquo The lead to longer, untamed hairstyles, radical clothing changes, and a more &lsquowild&rsquo look compared to previous bands that had a more &lsquoclean-cut&rsquo appearance.

Late 1960&rsquos
As a reaction to the Vietnam war, drugs, and social injustices, a new wave of music called psychedellic rock is ushered in.&rsquo Artists like The Grateful Dead, JimiHendrix, and Jefferson Airplane play a large roll in changing the sound of music with dramatic guitar riffs and electronic sounds.&rsquo The British had their own versions of this music style, as featured by the popular group Pink Floyd.&rsquo The culmination of this style of music was brought to fruition by the mass gathering for peace and love through music at the famous three-day gathering calledWoodstock.

1970&rsquos
Transition from 60&rsquos psychadelic styles became more sexually charged, creating a metamorphosis into a more free form of music in the 80&rsquos.&rsquo Blues-rock bands were formed, including Cream and Led Zepplin, who would later influence heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.&rsquo These bands were ruled by the heavy guitar sounds and stunning on-stage performances.

1973-1981
A new dance-style of music, influenced by earlier funk bands of the early 1970&rsquos, began to emerge called disco.&rsquo Popular groups such as K.C and the Sunshine Band, The O&rsquoJays, The Bee Gees, Barry White, and Gloria Gaynor topped the charts with their versions of the disco beat.&rsquo The style created a need for disco clubs nation-wide, including the famous Studio 54, and a new need for teens to gather together for a more sexually charged style of dance, as featured in 1977&rsquos Saturday Night Fever.&rsquo The trend wouldn&rsquot last long as people became increasingly upset at the loss of more classic rock sounds. The anti-disco movement culminated in the disco demolition riot in Chicago during the summer of 1979.

1980&rsquos
New pop groups emerged on the scene, like Van Halen, Queen, The Go-Go&rsquos, and Michael Jackson.&rsquo These artists became more mainstream in music, appealing to a wider variety of people.&rsquo Some of these were the ever famous &lsquohair bands&rsquo, such as Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Ratt, whose sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle began to sway public opinion of the bands&rsquo normal behaviors.&rsquo Rock and roll became more of a lifesyle as well as a musical style.&rsquo Many current music channels today report on many bands&rsquo quick climax to fame, only to come crashing down due to substance abuse, lawsuits, and the consequences of over spending.

1990&rsquos
New alternative rock groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana emerged on the scene, completely wiping out former hair bands with their more mellow, depressed sounds of reality-based lyrics called grunge.&rsquo In 1994, the leader of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, fatally shot himself, leaving a wife and daughter behind. &lsquoIn 1996, rapperTupac Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas.&rsquo Shortly after, in March of 1997, Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls or The Notorious B.I.G.) was shot inLos Angeles.&rsquo Both parties had succumbed to gang violence and east coast/west coast feuds, resulting in the death of two artists.

Early 2000
The music industry takes on the major music-sharing company Napster in an effort to permanently ban music piracy.&rsquo They win, forming the group RIAA, and for the first time pitting the public against the very artists they idolize.&rsquo Shortly after that, American Idol debuts, allowing the general public to choose from a variety of artists of their discretion.

2004
Sean Combs, also knows as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy etc., begins the &lsquoVote or Die&rsquo campaign, enlisting several musicians and celebrities to stand and vote in the very divided election of that year.&rsquo He will use his position of power in the music industry to have an influence on the young Americans in the nation to vote their opinions.&rsquo However, in the wake of the election, several of his recruits for the cause never even registered to voice their opinions.&rsquo

2005
Finnish band HIM debuts their album Dark Light in the top 20 on the Billboard Top 200. The band was originally called His Infernal Majesty, but it was shortened to HIM after the band says they began getting &ldquounwanted occult associations&rdquo, according to the band&rsquos lead singer Ville Valo who admitted to making things up and joking about the name during interviews, leading to conflicting accounts of the origin of the name and the confusion that exists today. The band uses a symbol they call a &ldquoheartagram&rdquo which is a combination of a heart and a pentagram. Many fans of the band have heartagram tattoos, and it has been popularized in the US on MTV by professional skateboarder Bam Margera, who uses it for promotional purposes. The band has had several albums released, such as Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 and 666 Ways To Love: Prologue. Their song &ldquoJoin Me In Death&rdquo went No. 1 in Germany.

2008
Female pop/rock singer Katy Perry&rsquos debut single &ldquoI Kissed A Girl&rdquo, a song about same sex kissing, spends 6 weeks in the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and goes triple platinum in the United States. Perry, the daughter of two pastors, is a former Christian singer who released a self-titled Christian album in 2001 under her real name, Katy Hudson.

2009
June 25 &ndash Michael Jackson, &ldquoKing of Pop,&rdquo died in his home after suffering apparent cardiac arrest. His death was later ruled a homicide and it was determined that he died from lethal levels of Propofol, a powerful anesthetic, combined with sedatives in his system. Two years later, his physician, Las Vegascardiologist Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison for his role in Jackson&rsquos death. Jackson, who had begun his record-breaking career in music as a child, transformed the face of pop music with his singing, songwriting, dancing, and production skills, and was famous for his eccentric&mdashand often downright strange&mdashbehavior.

September 13 &ndash Rapper Kanye West took rudeness and unsportsmanlike conduct to new heights when he added a new stunt to his list of awards-show antics at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. As young country/rock/crossover sensation Taylor Swift began thanking all the folks who helped make the song &ldquoYou Belong with Me&rdquo the Best Female Video award winner, West went onstage, grabbed the microphone, and announced that his pal Beyonce (&ldquoAll the Single Ladies&rdquo singer) was the one who really deserved the prize. The outburst stunned viewers, Swift, and Beyonce (seated in the audience), and before the show was over, West had issued an apology to Swift and her mother in his blog.

2010
Beyonce and Taylor Swift were top winners at the 2010 Grammy awards, with Beyonce landing six trophies and Swift taking home four, plus the show&rsquos biggest honor, Album of the Year.

Lady Gaga launched her &ldquoMonster Ball&rdquo tour, grossing $227.4 million and drawing 2.5 million people, making it the highest-grossing tour ever by an artist on a first worldwide run through large venues. The artist, known for her outlandish costumes, has a dedicated fan base known as &ldquolittle monsters&rdquo and has become an award-winning LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) icon.

2011
Teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, who was &ldquodiscovered&rdquo on YouTube in 2008, reportedly earned $53 million in the year ending in May 2011. His concert documentary, &ldquoNever Say Never,&rdquo earned just over $30 million in just one weekend. He is said to earn over $300,000 per concert, plus royalties, merchandise and other career-related income. In March of 2011, he was cited as the second most popular celebrity on the Twitter website with 8.3 million followers (behind Lady Gaga).

July 23 &ndash Grammy winning soul singer Amy Winehouse died from too much alcohol on July 23, 2011. With a blood alcohol content five times higher than the limit for drunk driving, her death marked the end of a long public battle with substance abuse. Many of her performances were characterized by slurred speech and erratic behavior, and she was known for her involvement in destructive relationships.

2012
February 11 &ndash Whitney Houston Dead at the Beverly Hills hotel Whitney Houston was discovered dead in her hotel room bathtub. On March 22 the L.A. coroner&rsquos office declared Whitney Houston&rsquos death an &ldquoaccident.&rdquo However, the toxicology report also stated: &ldquoCocaine and metabolites were identified and were contributory to the death. Marijuana, Alprazolam (Xanax), Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) and Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) were also identified. Shortly after Whitney&rsquos death, family members were told by the coroner her cause of death was from: Xanex and other prescription drugs mixed with alcohol.

August 9 &ndash Madonna Defies Ban on Promotion of Gay Lifestyles -In St. Petersburg, Russia the singer did her best to disrespect and ignore the city&rsquos ban on the &ldquopropagation of homosexuality&rdquo and &ldquopromotion of gay lifestyles&rdquo &mdash in ways that went beyond just holding a Madonna concert. Fans were greeted at the entrance of the venue with pink wristbands─which represent &ldquotolerance of the gay community&rdquo and she further took the opportunity to speak out from the stage in favor of the gay lifestyle and waved a few LGBT flags and encouraged the fans to hold up their hands up high in the air to draw attention to their pro-gay wristbands.

Madonna Sued for $10.5 Million &ndash Some very upset Russians have sued Madonna for $10.5 million because she deeply offended them causing &ldquopsychological stress and emotional shock&rdquo because of her blatant onstage support for gays and lesbians during a recent concert in St. Petersburg. The complaint includes a video taken at the concert showing the irreverent Madonna stomping on a cross. The city recently passed a law banning the propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, transgenderism and pedophilia.

June 8 &ndash Ex-Fleetwood Mac Guitarist Found Dead &ndash Bon Welch age 65 was found dead in his home in Nashville after an apparent self-inflicted shot in the chest. His wife said he left behind a suicide note.

Madonna&rsquos Creepy NFL Super Bowl Halftime Show &ndash A number of analysts have pegged Madonna&rsquos halftime show as one loaded with satanic symbolism and rituals a massive Illuminati ritual exposing her raunchy-dark ideology once again.

Singer M.I.A. Flips the Bird at Super Bowl Halftime Show &ndash In front of some 114 million viewers, British singer M.I.A. flipped the bird and appeared to sing, &ldquoI don&rsquot give a (expletive)&rdquo at one point, though it was hard to hear her clearly. The NFL and NBC wasted little time in responding. &ldquoThe obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans,&rdquo said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna&rsquos halftime show.

2013
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
has officially announced the 2013 inductees: Rush, Public Enemy, Randy Newman, Heart, Donna Summer and Albert King will all join the class of 2013, with Summer, who passed away this May, and King, who died in 1992, earning the honor posthumously. Lou Adler and Quincy Jones will both receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on April 18th, 2013 at the Nokia Theater and broadcast on HBO May 18th.

2014
Gwar frontman Dave Brockie dies of an accidental heroin overdose on March 23, 2014.

2015
April 20 &ndash AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd
pleaded guilty to threat to kill and drug charges. In July, he was sentenced to eight months of house arrest.

2016
Music suffered heavy losses in 2016, a year like no other in recent memory. David Bowie and Prince were two of the most popular artists that died.

2017
Earlier this month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its 32nd class: Joan Baez, Tupac Shakur, Electric Light Orchestra, Pearl Jam, Journey and Yes. The ceremony at Brooklyn&rsquos Barclays Center &ndash which airs Saturday on HBO &ndash featured some of the funniest speeches in years and an impressively diverse performance lineup, with Baez&rsquos folk, a multi-part Tupac medley and Lenny Kravitz&rsquos gospel serving as a counterbalance to all the searing, arena-friendly rock. Here, we look back at the night&rsquos most unforgettable moments.


Watch the video: Moondog Coronation Ball - Part 2