The Cleveland Music Timeline

How exactly we came to be the Rock capital of the world

1938 Leo Mintz opens Record Rendezvous, one of the country's first record shops

July 1951

Alan Freed gets job at WJW radio, starts "The Moondog Rock & Roll House Party," sponsored by Mintz

March 21, 1952 The first rock concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, ends after one song by Paul Williams when 20,000 show up to oversold Cleveland Arena; Freed's popularity soars

Feb. 26, 1955

Tommy Edwards and WERE radio bring an unknown Elvis Presley to town for the Circle Theater's "Hillbilly Jamboree"

1958 Baldwin-Wallace's WBWC becomes the U.S.'s first totally student-funded and -operated radio station

1958 O'Jays form in Canton, originally as the Triumphs and the Mascots before becoming the O'Jays in 1963

1961 Robert Johnson protégé Robert Lockwood Jr. moves to Cleveland from Chicago and puts out adventurous, creative albums and plays locally until his death in 2006 at 91

1962 Stan Kain takes over La Cave at 10615 Euclid, books Velvet Underground, Simon & Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix, Judy Collins, and Neil Young, among others

1962 Jane Scott premieres her teen music column in The Plain Dealer

1963 DJ/television performer Ernie Anderson hosts WJW's horror movies as Van Dyke-sporting hipster alter-ego Ghoulardi, inspiring future musicians from the Cramps to Pere Ubu

1964 Upbeat Show debuts on WEWS Channel 5 as The Big Five Show, later changing its name for syndication around the country, peaking at more than 100 stations. Show runs through 1971

June 27, 1964

The Valentinos release "It's All Over Now" by Bobby Womack and his sister-in-law Shirley Womack; a month later, Rolling Stones turn it into their first #1 hit

Sept. 15, 1964 Beatles show at Public Hall creates such a furor that Mayor Ralph Locher bans them

Nov. 3, 1964 Rolling Stones play Public Hall, supporting their second album, 12x5, featuring mostly covers, including "It's All Over Now"

Late 1965 Mike & Jules Belkin form Belkin Productions, book first show in early 1966; they become one of the country's top concert promoters. The company today is part of Live Nation

Dec. 12, 1965 WIXY 1260 AM starts its climb to the top of the Cleveland radio pack with off-the-wall promotions keyed by teenage program director Eric Stevens and lively young DJs like Jack Armstrong and later Dick Kemp

Feb. 26, 1966 Agora Theatre and Ballroom open in Little Italy on Cornell Road as a college club near the Case Western Reserve campus

April 16, 1966 Begun as the band the Starfires, the Outsiders achieve their biggest success with Top 5 hit "Time Won't Let Me"

Aug. 14, 1966 Beatles ban doesn't last: They play to 20K at Municipal Stadium on final U.S. tour; the concert is stopped for 30 minutes when fans overrun the barriers

Nov. 25, 1966 First paid gig at the Coffee House by the Mr. Stress Blues Band, then featuring guitarist Glenn Schwartz, and later, other local icons including Peter Laughner, James Gang bassist Dale Peters, and drummer Anton Fier

1967 Agora moves to East 24th St., below Agency Recording, where David Bowie once spent all night mixing and mastering a show with Iggy Pop at the Agora earlier in the evening

Feb. 26, 1967 Case radio station WRUW 91.1 FM signs on

Dec. 9, 1967

Otis Redding performs at Leo's Casino club, dies in plane crash heading to Madison, Wisconsin, the next day

January 1968 Glenn Schwartz quits the James Gang on Sunday (to join Pacific Gas and Electric); Joe Walsh solicits the empty slot on Monday

Summer 1968

Blossom Music Center opens as home of the Cleveland Orchestra and starts booking rock shows the following year, including Blood Sweat & Tears and Janis Joplin

June 7, 1969 John Carroll radio station WJCU 88.7 FM signs on (initially as WABU and later WUJC)

June 27, 1970 James Gang plays at Public Auditorium with the Who and James Taylor (!!??). The Who ask them to open on their upcoming U.K. tour. A few weeks later they release their biggest album, James Gang Rides Again, led by the hit "Funk #49"

July 1970 First issue of Scene is published; staff celebrates by getting wasted, decides to make a second issue

Summer 1972 Raspberries form in 1970, rising from ashes of popular local acts Cyrus Erie and the Choir, sign to Capitol, and release their self-titled debut of catchy Beatles-inspired power pop. Their debut single

"Go All the Way" climbs to #5

Aug. 1972 O'Jays release their first hit album, Backstabbers, fueled by the title track and chart-topper "Love Train"

Sep. 22, 1972 David Bowie plays his first U.S. date at Music Hall


The earliest six-piece form of

Devo plays its first show at the Kent State performing arts festival

July 1973 Denny Sanders brings his friend John Gorman from Boston to run WMMS; Gorman becomes architect of the station's glory years

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.
Scroll to read more Music News articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.