March 21, 1952
|The book featured at right from Life Magazine, marks the date of the Moondog Ball as the birthday of Rock.|
LIFE Rock and Roll at 50:
A History in Pictures
|Alan Freed wanted to reward his loyal listeners, his Moondoggers. He wanted a concert to celebrate the new teen music. A BIG event.|
And he got just that. An event so big that many consider it the birthday for Rock and Roll.
|Neither Lew Platt (the actual promoter) nor Alan Freed nor Rendezvous Records, his radio show sponsor, had any idea how many people would come. It wasn’t like they could call Ticketmaster back then.|
Lacking money for sophisticated promotion, they used what they had – the ultimate salesman – Freed. And Freed set out to make the Coronation Ball regal enough to crown a king of Moondoggers – himself.
So at first they printed 7,000 tickets. $1.50 and $1.75. Then owner of the Rendezvous, Leo Mintz, left on holiday leaving his brother-in-law, Milton Kulkin in charge. Uncle Miltie, as Freed called him, printed another 2,000 tickets which sold in a day. And as it tuned out, he wasn’t the only one printing tickets so nobody had a clue as to how many had even been made. But the Arena was a big municpal facility so they weren’t worried. In fact they were thrilled that they might sell out the Arena!
|While Freed and his wife ate steak dinners, Uncle Miltie was checking out the Arena. And what he saw astonished him. People were lined up around the block to get in.|
Historical accuracy requires that it be noted that the faces lined up along Euclid Avenue were mostly Black. The revolution had not yet hit surburbia and Rock and Roll was not born that night as some suggest.
What was different was the sound. More vital and far less sorrowful than blues, this sound, this beat was alive. And it made people want to dance with the joy of being alive and young. This was a teen phenomena.
What was novel was the idea of people going to a big municpal hall to dance. The Globetrotters played there, not musicians you’d heard on the radio. Today the idea of a Rock concert being held in a huge facility is commonplace.
But this is where the dream and the reality collided. Even after the hall was full to capacity, those crowds were pushing and shoving. Doors crashed open, glass exploded. Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams was on stage when the first fight broke out. And still they poured into the Arena, just to be a part of it. Dancing, moving wildly, the crowd became more and more unruly.
Even the big glittery sign proudly announcing “Moondoggers” came tumbling down.
That’s when the Fire Marshals came and shut it all down. Nobody else got to play, not the Dominoes, Tiny Grimes, or the Rockin’ Highlanders. Not Danny Cobb or Varietta Dillard. This hugely famous concert and only one song was played.
Freed of course went on from there. Two years later he moved to New York to WINS and it is there that he introduced white teens to this new music, the new sound.
But to this day, they are still talking about Moondog’s Coronation Ball. Whatever else it may have been – it was an original.
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