Cleveland is known as the birthplace of rock and roll. Why? Well, it may have produced musical acts and musicians like Nine Inch Nails, Michael “Kid Funkadelic” Hampton, Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins (whose song “I Put A Spell On You” was covered by many artists and even featured in cult classic
Hocus Pocus), and Gilby Clarke and Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses, but the real story of rock dates back to a local radio disc jockey and a record store. Some local landmarks continue to carry on this rockin’ legacy, but few places compare to these 7 wonders of the rock and roll world. Are you ready to explore Cleveland’s rock and roll history?
1. Alan Freed's final resting place in Lake View Cemetery.
Albert James "Alan" Freed was not a Clevelander by birth, but he changed the course of music history during his time here. While honing his college education, he found a passion for radio and transitioned into a job as a disc jockey at Cleveland radio station WJW. It was here that he coined the term "rock and roll" to describe his favorite genre of music.
Freed organized the first rock and roll concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, though its popularity caused an unexpected number of crowds to arrive. For safety reasons, the concert was shut down after just one song. Due to a habit of accepting bribes from record companies, Freed's later years were tumultuous. He died in Palm Springs, California and was buried in New York, though he was laid to rest for good with an appropriately musical headstone in Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery in 2002.
Address: 12316 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44106
2. The site of the old Cleveland Arena.
If you've never heard of the Cleveland Arena, it probably predates your lifetime. This arena came into existence in the midst of the Great Depression in 1937, originally intended to host the Cleveland Barons, the local minor league hockey team. However, the arena would go on to entertain fans of a number of local sports. Even the Cleveland Cavaliers played their first few seasons here!
While the site was demolished in 1977, it went down in history as the location of the first rock and roll concert. The Moondog Coronation Ball, which was coordinated and organized by the aforementioned Alan Freed, was so popular that thousands of counterfeit tickets were produced. Some 20,000 individuals showed up to an arena that was equipped to handle about half of that size crowd, so the fire department had to step in and shut the concert down for the sake of safety. The local legend surrounding the event states that it was shut down after just one song by Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams, though some eyewitnesses have claimed that other performances took place. Some have reinforced this, though the boisterous crowd may have drowned out the following performances.
Address: 3717 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44115
3. The remnants of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
Do you remember the Cleveland Municipal Stadium? It was demolished in 1996, and like the Cleveland Arena, it served a variety of purposes. Following its construction in 1931, this 78,000-seat stadium hosted sporting events as well as concerts. The first concert held at the stadium was put on by none other than The Beatles. While their first concert here was doubtlessly impressive, The Rolling Stones performance of 1978 was purportedly the very first concert to bring in over $1 million dollars in gross income. Following the demolition of this stadium, its remnants were placed in Lake Erie to create man-made reefs.
Address: Location: 1085 West 3rd Street, Cleveland, OH, 44114
4. WJW-AM's former office space.
WJW came to Cleveland in 1943 when it was purchased by William M. O'Neil. He moved his new station into the Guardian Building in Cleveland, and it was here that Alan Freed coined the phrase that changed music as we know it. He was working the graveyard shift when he eased into his new position, but by 1951 he had tapped into the heart of what the next generation was craving – rock and roll, and lots of it!
Address: 629 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44114
5. The iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
No list of rockin’ Cleveland landmarks would be complete without a look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This fascinating museum was dedicated in 1995, and it has attracted a great deal of attention from locals and visitors alike. Rock and roll is engrained in its very architecture, which is meant to emulate the dramatic energy of rock music. Its exhibits alternate, introducing visitors to unforgettable moments in music history.
Address: 1100 E 9th Street, Cleveland, OH, 44114
6. Record Rendezvous, the store that fueled rock and roll.
Many would not recognize the name Record Rendezvous anymore, but this location was integral in the founding of rock and roll. At a time when America was still segregated, owner Leo Mintz and Alan Freed spotted an unusual trend: white kids were buying "race records," or music that had been marketed to black music lovers. Mintz encouraged Freed to showcase the music on his radio show, and he supplied some of the records that Freed played. According to some sources, it was Mintz that
actually coined the term "rock and roll" when Freed remarked that their favorite genre needed a name.
Address: 300 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44115
7. The Public Auditorium, where concerts still take place to this day.
The Public Auditorium opened in 1922, and its gorgeous facade almost seemed to beckon to musicians. It was here that the North American premiere of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust took place, and here that guitarist Django Reinhardt made his U.S. debut alongside none other than Duke Ellington. Over the years, some of rock and roll's greats performed here: Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. If you're a fan of more modern rock, you may remember that a majority of Ozzy Osbourne's live album
Tribute was recorded here, as well. Additionally, several Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were hosted at the Public Auditorium. Who knew that such a mundane building had so much history?
Address: 500 Lakeside Avenue E, Cleveland, OH, 44114
Cleveland’s rock and roll history abounds at these seven wonders of the music world. Do you remember any major events in music history taking place here in Cleveland?