I've been wondering why the Rock and Roll Museum is located in Cleveland. When I asked the ticket seller, he smiled wryly and said, "That's because we paid the most money." Then he referred us to some exhibits about Alan Freed, who was a famous disk jockey here who supposedly coined the term "rock and roll." Freed went on to fame and fortune in New York City where he eventually was caught up in the payola scandal that took down many DJ's, who accepted bribes from artists who wanted their recordings played on the air. Although Freed died destitute, he is one of many honorees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here.
Whatever the real reason, the museum is a real asset to Cleveland and well worth visiting. It's on the lake shore and part of a larger museum campus. The whole set up reminded us of the museum campus in Chicago. After you've spent five hours in most museums, your feet and back might be aching, but here we did a lot of sitting, watching and enjoying performance clips from many artists beginning in the 1940's. It was great to see how much archival footage viewable here from the earliest black and white days. It always makes me sad to think that the kinescopes of the first ten years of the Johnny Carson show have been destroyed. We especially enjoyed snippets of America's teenager Dick Clark and American Bandstand. It felt like every musician who ever performed in the English speaking world must have made an appearance on that show. It was recorded live and sometimes mistakes crept in. Dick kept introducing Gladys Pip and the Knights. They were too polite to correct him.
The introductory film made it very clear that the roots of rock and roll come via traditional African American music from both the church and the dance hall. Elvis Presley was a leader in "borrowing" this music and presenting it in a way that was appealing to white teenagers and appalling to their parents. One amusing exhibit highlighted the over the top reactions many older Americans had to this cultural phenomenon, calling it the devil's music and relishing in smashing the record platters to bits.
I tapped my toes and sang along with the music until I hit that wall in the early 1990's when I apparently stopped listening to or enjoying rock, a phenomenon that seems to happen to everyone at some point in their older life. And as I listened my mind time traveled back to where I was and what I was doing when I first heard those songs. Aches and pains melted away and I was young and energetic once again.
A special exhibit highlighted the Rolling Stones who have been performing for fifty years and are still going strong. There is so much ephemera generated with music performance. The museum was filled with posters, costumes, tickets, programs, photographs, set lists, yellow legal pads with lyrics scrawled on them, musical instruments. A five hour visit did it justice, but could not include it all.