Excerpt from blog post by Mike Raymond 2/2/10
Through both live concerts and behind the microphone at WJW Radio in Cleveland, deejay Alan Freed did more to spread the gospel of rock and roll during its infancy than any other non-performer.
By adopting a persona “the Moondog”, playing rhythm & blues records, and popularizing the term rock and roll and the music that it defined, Freed became a crucial player in the push to move African-American music into the mainstream. Taking it a step further, Freed and local promoters put on what is widely accepted as the first rock concert— the Moondog Coronation Ball at the old Cleveland Arena on Euclid Avenue.
The inaugural event attracted more than 20,000 people back in March of 1952, double the capacity of the arena. Fans began rioting, knocking down ticket takers and ushers. Eventually the concert was shut down by the police and fire departments..
The riot became national news, and Freed’s popularity escalated. Freed eventually moved to New York and began booking concerts at the Brooklyn Theater breaking new ground in featuring both black and white artists.