In a generation built upon decades of life altering music and live performances, it is astounding to consider a time prior to Rock N’ Roll music. An age when no one would have had any idea of what you meant when you said, “I’m going to a rock concert tonight.” Organized by the man who coined the term “Rock N’ Roll”, The Moondog Coronation Ball broke this musical barrier and is believed to be the first ever Rock N’ Roll concert.
Often referred to as the “Father of Rock N’ Roll,” Alan Freed was initially known best as “Moondog.” At the start of his career at the Cleveland radio station WJW in 1951, Freed began as a classical music DJ. It wasn’t until friend and local record store (Record Rendezvous) owner, Leo Mintz, approached him sharing the notable growth in his sales of rhythm and blues records to young people of all races, did Freed shift genres.
Altering his entire persona, Alan Freed took Mintz’s advice and began hosting the Moondog Show. Aspiring to individualize and better describe the music he was playing, Freed began calling the music Rock N’ Roll. The term, which accurately described this contemporary, rebel genre, took hold and historically made its way around the world.
Freed and Mintz began to recognize the exponential growth in popularity of the recently coined genre of music and decided to hold a live dance event featuring several of the artists the Moondog Show consistently played. Headlining the concert was Paul Williams and His Hucklebuckers and Tiny Grimes and the Rocking Highlanders.
The Moondog Coronation Ball sold out in a single day. Being held at the Cleveland Arena, the venue maxed out at 10,000 people. In what we can now say is typical Rock N’ Roll fashion, nearly 25,000 people showed up to the Cleveland Arena on March 21, 1952 expecting to get in. This massive number of people may be the result of counterfeit tickets, overbooking, or both. Less than an hour into the event, the mammoth crowd waiting outside the arena burst through the gates, past police, and into the venue.
Swiftly shut down by police, The Moondog Coronation Ball was barely underway before its abrupt halt. Alan Freed took to air the next day to deeply apologize for what had appeared to be a failed event and with no real understanding of the historic moment that had just occurred. If you ask me, The Moondog Coronation Ball was more than the first Rock N’ Roll show but the first evidence of what being a Rock N’ Roll fan involved. Utter passion, perseverance, and outrageous pandemonium.
Horning, Mark. “Cleveland’s 2017 Moondog Coronation Ball: The History Continues.”AXS. N.p., 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 13 July 2017.
“The Moondog Coronation Ball Is History’s First Rock Concert.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 13 July 2017.