Moondog Ball Turns 60 Today

Alan Freed, King of the Moondoggers
  • Alan Freed, King of the Moondoggers

The tenuous claim Cleveland has often made for being the “birthplace of rock and roll” is that the “first rock concert” took place here. That event, known as the Moondog Coronation Ball, after the local radio show of DJ Alan Freed who promoted it, took place on March 21, 1952 at the long-demolished Cleveland Arena at E. 36th and Euclid.

That concert, featuring a multi-act lineup of black rhythm & blues acts, probably wouldn’t fit anyone’s definition of a “rock concert” today. But at the time, it was unusual to have such a large white crowd — the building was oversold to twice its capacity — converge to hear black acts. That was due to Freed’s exposure of those acts on his show, with its heavy white teenage listenership.

In recent years, Live Nation and WMJI-FM 105.7 have sponsored an annual Moondog Coronation Ball concert sometime in March in tribute to the 1952 event. This year’s concert on Saturday, March 31 at Quicken Loans Arena features Creedence Clearwater Revisited, KC & the Sunshine Band, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, and Sam Moore of Sam & Dave. That mostly white pop lineup is a far cry from the original Moondog Ball. But then, today's Moondog audience is a far cry from the exuberant teenagers who forced the show's shutdown. — Anastasia Pantsios

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