In 1951, Alan Freed joined radio station WYW in Cleveland, Ohio. He was hired to host a classical music program. Freed was a friend of Leo Mintz who was the owner of the famed Record Rendezvous store. It was Mintz who suggested that Alan change the format of the show to the rhythm and blues genre recorded by black musicians that was becoming extremely popular with all kinds of young customers.
To show his support, Leo sponsored Alan Freed’s three-hour late night program of what was then called “Race Music.” With the popularity of the program proportionately increasing with each show, they decided to hold a live dance event featuring some of the artists whose records were being played on the show. Freed (who is credited with coining the phrase “Rock and Roll”) partnered with Lew Platt (a local concert promoter), as well as his program sponsors including Mintz to hold the first ever dance concert titled, “The Moondog Coronation Ball.”
What the men did not realize is the amount of popularity that the music has grown to in Northeast Ohio. The concert had been heavily promoted by the radio station and word of mouth brought interest to a fever pitch. Although the Cleveland Arena could hold 10,000, more tickets were printed than the venue’s capacity along with a slew of counterfeit tickets that flooded the city. It is estimated that on the night of the concert on March 21, 1952 over 20,000 music fans showed up with tickets to see the show. Fearful that a riot would break out, the police and fire authorities shut down the concert after just one opening number by Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams. The next day, Freed made a heartfelt and sincere public apology during his show on WJW.
In 1986, Cleveland Rock Station WMMS tried a revival of the concert calling it “Moondog Coronation Ball II” as an oldies rock and roll tribute concert. During this time Cleveland was vying to be the location of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Legal reasons killed the idea for the concert but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came to Cleveland in spite of that.
It was not until 1992 that local oldies radio station WMJI (105.7FM) was able to hold a 40th anniversary concert titled “Moondog Coronation Ball ‘92”. Featured on that bill was Little Anthony and the Imperials ("Tears on My Pillow"), singer Jerry Butler (who ended up as commissioner of Cook County, Chicago), The Diamonds ("Little Darlin’" and "The Stroll"), Ronnie Spector ("Be My Baby"), The Drifters ("Save The Last Dance for Me"), Len Barry (1-2-3), The Tokens ("The Lion Sleeps Tonight") and Clarence ("Frogman") Henry of New Orleans.
The event proved to be so successful that it has been held ever since bringing oldies rock and roll acts back to the stage for a grateful audience. In recent years the event has been held at Quicken Loans Arena that is located next to Progressive Field (Home of the Cleveland Indians) in downtown Cleveland.
This year the Moondog Coronation Ball returns once again to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio with an exciting line-up that is sure to please everyone. Featured performers for the event include Tommy James and the Shondales, Grand Funk Railroad and Three Dog Night.
Ticket prices range from $38.75, $53.75 and $68.75 plus a $3 facility fee. There is an eight ticket limit per purchase. Tickets may be purchased at the Quicken Loan Box Office, all Northern Ohio discount Drug Marts, online at www.theQarena.com or by calling (888) 894-9424.
WMJI (who is hosting the event) will be giving out free pairs of tickets all week long at 9:10 a.m., 1:10 p.m., 3:10 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. Tune into to 105.7 FM to win.