The “birthplace of rock n’ roll” (?)

12 06 2009

I’m here in Cleveland, Ohio for the next several days.  Some (mostly folks from Ohio) believe Cleveland to be the “birthplace of rock n’ roll.”

I’ve not extensively researched the issue, but as best as I can tell, Cleveland’s claim in this regard is based primarily on one-time Cleveland DJ, Alan Freed, referring to the then emerging genre as “rock and roll.”  It appears Mr. Freed was almost instrumental in bringing very early rock shows to the area and promoting them.

Outside of that, I’m not so sure why Cleveland is perceived as so important to expanding the style.  I want to take nothing away from this fine city, but my recollection is that Memphis would have arguably been the most important city in terms of discovering and expanding the style.  Perhaps it deserves its own post that I’ll do some other time, but Sun Records, as many know, might have been the most importantly label in rock history.  Sun launched Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, to name just a few of the early rock/rock-a-billy masters.  (Sun also recorded Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and BB King, giants of the blues.)  Chuck Berry was recorded by Chess Records in Chicago.  Arguably, Chuck was as important as Elvis, if not moreso, in getting rock and roll off the ground.

Although it seems a stretch to call Cleveland rock n’ roll’s “birthplace,” I like the connection.  I hope to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum before we leave.

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