March 21: The Moondog Coronation Ball

MoondogOn March 21, 1952, the Cleveland Arena in Cleveland, Ohio played host to the Moondog Coronation Ball, widely considered to be the first major rock and roll show. Unfortunately, it was a very short show. I’ll explain.

The concert was organized by Alan Freed, the DJ at Cleveland’s WJW-Radio who is credited with coining the term “rock and roll”. On air, Freed called himself “the Moondog” so this exciting first of its kind show would be his “coronation ball”. Tickets to the show sold pretty quickly amongst Cleveland’s youths, and due to a mix of printing errors and counterfeiting there were more tickets sold than there were seats in the arena.

On the night of the concert, 20,000 people tried to crowd into an arena that could only hold a little over 10,000. As more and more people tried to pack themselves in the arena, the fire marshal began to fear a riot and promptly shut the show down after  Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams’ first song. Freed was forced to apologize on air the next afternoon. Of course, that’s the official story. There are some who believe that city officials ordered the show shut down because after all, it was a racially mixed show that was to be performed before a nonsegregated audience.

While it might not have been the first successful rock and roll show, it was still the first big rock concert. So, in tribute to Alan Fred, let’s raise a Coronation Cocktail. Coronation is a fruity aperitif that comes to us from A.S. Crockett’s The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book and was originally created to mark the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII.

Coronation Cocktail

  • 3/4 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Applejack
  • 1 dash Apricot Brandy

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: The only man to pass the Kobayashi Maru.


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