Moondog Coronation Ball

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Concert poster

The Moondog Coronation Ball was a concert held at the Cleveland Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 21, 1952. It is generally accepted as the first major rock and roll concert.


Alan Freed had joined WJW-Radio 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.[1] Mintz decided to sponsor Freed's three hours of late-night programming. Once they saw the popularity of the program increase, they decided on holding a live dance event featuring some of the artists whose records were appearing on Freed’s show.[1]


The concert was organized by Freed (a disc jockey and considered to have popularized the term "Rock and Roll" at WJW-Radio), along with Lew Platt, a local concert promoter, and Freed's sponsors, including Mintz, owner of the Record Rendezvous store.

The concert featured Tiny Grimes, Paul Williams and the Hucklebuckers, and the Rocking Highlanders (an African American instrumental group that appeared in kilts). Also on the bill were the Dominoes, Varetta Dillard and Danny Cobb.[2]

More tickets were printed than the arena's actual capacity, in part due to counterfeiting and a printing error.[3][4] With an estimated 20,000 individuals trying to crowd into an arena that held slightly more than half that — and worries that a riot might break out as people tried to crowd in — the fire authorities shut down the concert after the first song by opening act Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams ended.[5] Freed made a public apology on WJW the next day.[6] The concert was held on March 21, 1952.[1]

Contemporary revival[edit]

Cleveland rock radio station WMMS (100.7 FM) attempted to stage a revival of the concert in 1986 under the name "Moondog Coronation Ball II"; then-program director John Gorman had intended for the event to serve as an oldies rock and roll tribute concert – part of the campaign to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland. For legal reasons, the event never materialized. A few years later in 1992, Gorman, then at local oldies radio station WMJI (105.7 FM), successfully organized a 40th anniversary concert called "Moondog Coronation Ball '92". The concert has been held every year since, featuring oldies rock and roll acts, and sponsored by WMJI. In recent years, the event has been held at Quicken Loans Arena.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b c "The Moondog Coronation Ball is history's first rock concert". History. Hearst Corporation and The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  2. ^ Kelley, Kevin (March 21, 2016). "The Story of Rock 'n' Roll's First Concert". Ultimate Classic Rock. Townsquare Media. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  3. ^ Sheerin, Jude (March 20, 2012). "How the world's first rock concert ended in chaos". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  4. ^ Kelly, Ken (March 21, 2016). "The Story of Rock 'n' Roll's First Concert". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Sandy. "Moondog Coronation Ball – Past and Present". Advance Publications. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  6. ^ "Alan Freed audio of apology". Alan Freed. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  7. ^ "Omniamerica Group V. Street Gold Records, Ltd". Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  8. ^ "Majic 105.7 to Host the 2014 Moondog Coronation Ball :: Official Site of Quicken Loans Arena". January 24, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014.

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