March 2009 Issue
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum draws music lovers to the city where rock was born.
Detroit is known for the Motown sound, and Memphis sings the blues.
But when it comes to the music that moved a generation, Cleveland’s claim is indisputable: The heart of rock ’n’ roll is here. It began beating in the summer of 1951, when disc jockey Alan Freed burst upon the Cleveland airwaves with his Saturday night “Moondog” show. Assuming the persona of a crazed hipster who howled and banged on a cowbell, the DJ urged his listeners to embrace the music he loved. Freed called it “rock ’n’ roll,” because, he explained, the moniker “seemed to suggest the rolling, surging beat of the music.”
As the ’80s dawned and the city’s movers and shakers heard about the campaign to create a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, they pulled out all the stops to make sure it landed here. Greater Clevelanders lent their support by generating a petition that garnered 660,000 signatures, and flooding a USA Today newspaper poll with 110,315 phone calls nominating their city for the site. In 1986, Cleveland was named the winning location. In 1995, the Rock Hall became reality.
“Cleveland was really there at the birth of rock ’n’ roll,” says Joel Peresman, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, “and the city continues to be a vibrant rock market.”
That’s apparent, he adds, in the fact that almost 500,000 visitors of all ages pass through the Rock Hall’s doors each year to be in the presence of revered artifacts, costumes and handwritten lyrics and listen to the songs they love.
“When you think about it,” Peresman muses, “what other museums are out there that generations can share without any eye-rolling? Parents have a wonderful time reliving what they grew up with, and kids are energized by a new experience.
“The Rock Hall is truly a place that everyone can enjoy.”
The fact that the induction is coming home to Cleveland is also worthy of bragging rights.
“Once again, the people of Cleveland have stepped up,” Peresman says.
Jeff Beck The noted Yardbirds guitarist has mastered a variety of musical genres, ranging from blues-rock, heavy metal and jazz fusion to a blend of guitar-rock and electronica. The Grammy Award-winning artist has guested at scores of sessions with icons including Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and Mick Jagger.
Bill Black Best known as the bassist for Elvis Presley, Bill Black’s work is the centerpiece of “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Mystery Train,” “That’s All Right (Mama),” “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.” During the 1950s and ’60s, he scored numerous instrumental hits as the leader of the Bill Black Combo.
D.J. Fontana As Elvis Presley’s drummer for 14 years, D.J. Fontana’s genius is heard on “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Jailhouse Rock.” His drumming built the foundation of rock ’n’ roll percussion, influencing legends such as Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts and Max Weinberg.
Wanda Jackson An American rockabilly and country music singer, Wanda Jackson was still in high school when she was discovered by Hank Thompson in 1954. Jackson is known for mixing traditional country music with fast-moving rockabilly, often cutting each side of a record with a different type of music. Her successful career in country music includes “Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine,” “The Box it Came In,” “My Big Iron Skillet” and “Fancy Satin Pillows.”
Little Anthony & The Imperials Hailed for their achievements in rhythm and blues, soul and doo-wop, Little Anthony & The Imperials have enjoyed unparalleled success, dating to the 1950s. Lead singer Jerome Anthony “Little Anthony” Gourdine is known for his high-pitched falsetto voice, featured on “Tears on My Pillow,” “I’m On the Outside (Looking In)” and “Goin’ Out of My Head.”
Metallica The most successful heavy metal band of the past quarter century, Metallica has primarily consisted of drummer Lars Ulrich; rhythm guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield; and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, as well as current bass player Robert Trujillo. Longtime bassists for the band, the late Cliff Burton, and Jason Newsted, are also being inducted. The group earned a growing fan base in the underground music community and critical acclaim with the 1986 release, “Master of Puppets,” described as one of the most influential and “heavy” thrash metal albums.
Run-D.M.C. Founded by Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and Jason “Jam-Master Jay” Mizell, Run-D.M.C. took hip-hop from the streets of New York to the mainstream national stage. Run-D.M.C. was named Greatest Hip Hop Group of All Time by MTV.com, and Greatest Hip Hop Artist of All Time by VH1.
Spooner Oldham A keyboard player, songwriter and session musician, Spooner Oldham has recorded and performed with notable artists such as Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and Neil Young. His work is showcased on Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man.”
Bobby Womack An active recording artist since the early 1960s, Bobby Womack’s career has spanned more than 40 years in the styles of R&B, soul, rock ’n’ roll, doo-wop, gospel, country and funk. As a singer, Womack’s hits include “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha,” “Woman’s Gotta Have It” and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.” He co-authored and recorded what would become The Rolling Stones’ hit “It’s All Over Now.”