Friday, October 14, 2011

Cleveland (and the rest of Ohio) Rocks

     I have been a working historian for over 20 years now, working mainly on self-publishing projects. Recently, I've decided to combine two of my loves - history and music. To say that this is a fun project is a gross understatement - I am having a blast!
     My new project idea is to present a musical rock and roll history lesson of sorts. The more research I do, the more I realize how integral the State of Ohio was, and still is, to the history of rock and roll music.
     Presently, I am compiling a list of songs to include in a presentation, which will be performed for schools, historical societies, and other gatherings of folks interested in the history of a musical genre that has spanned several generations already, and will continue to do so.
On this blog, I will share some youtube files of the original artists, with Ohio connections, performing their contributions to thehistory of rock and roll music.

Pure Prairie League was formed in Waverly, Ohio by Craig Fuller, John David Call, and George Ed Powell. Fuller was a concientious objector to the Viet Nam War, and subsequently left the band. Due to the controversy, their record label, RCA, dropped Pure Prairie League. The band continued to tour on their own, mostly to college campuses. In 1975, the song "Amie" became a ruaway hit, three years after its release. The smell of money promted RCA to re-sign the band. Enjoy their hit love song, Amie.


Cleveland native Eric Carmen wrote and recorded one of my personal favorite songs of all time. Carmen's first band was The Raspberries formed in 1972

Here's The Raspberries performing thier hit "Go All the Way" on the MIke Douglas Show in 1974.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Alan Freed - The Man Who Gave the World Rock and Roll

     While it was the various artists who wrote the songs and entertained the masses, it was Alan Freed who gave these artists the forum to bring their art to the fans of rock and roll.
     Albert James Freed was born in Pennsylvania on December 15, 1951. When he was twelve his family moved to Salem, Ohio. Freed always had a keen interest in music. Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw were among the artists he enjoyed. While in high school, Freed played trombone in a band he formed, called the Sultans of Swing.
     When Freed finished high school he had given up on a career in music. He enrolled at Ohio State University to study mechanical engineering. While at Ohio State, he was exposed to their radio station, and fell in love with radio. He left Ohio State and embarked on a career which would change the world.
     Freed began his radio career at a small station in Pennsylvania. Next, he returned to Ohio to do some sportscasting for a Youngstown station. In 1945 he landed a job at WAKR in Akron, where he played jazz and pop music. He soon became a local celebrity due to his unique style and obvious love for his fans and their music. Freed became wildly poular with the teenagers in Akron. He garnered an amazing 60 percent share of the local radio market. Freed played his show in front of a live studio audience of about 70 dancing teenagers. He played jazz and big band swing as well as pioneers of rhythm and blues such as Louis Jordan. Freed was an active participant in his shows. He didn't just announce the record and play it, he would sometimes sing along with the record, or bang on a phone book with his hands keping time with the rhythm. He hired a local 17-year-old piano player, Erich Schrader, who played in a boogie woogie style. Freed and Schrader would both play along with some records, with Freed on his trombone. Freed would often say to Schrader, "are you ready to rock and roll," or "let's rock," just before they started jammin' with the record. This was in 1946, and it was the first time the term rock and roll was used in association with the new music which was becoming all the rage.
     However, this was not the first time the term was used. I will talk about this in my next blog. Meanwhile, drop me a line and tell me about your experiences with rock and roll, and how it has influenced your life. Who is your favorite rock artist, and when did you first hear them?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rock and Roll and its effect on society

     Music became a part of mainstream America soon after the Industrial Revolution, when people had more disposable income, and a need for entertainment. The music industry was born. By the end of the 1920's nearly every home in America owned a radio. A new song which garnered radio play would be virtually guaranteed commercial success. Of course, this continues today.
     Fast forward (pun intended) to the rock and roll era. No other form of music has had quite the impact on society as rock and roll. Rock and roll is rooted with rhythm and blues and country. Fans of rock and roll were originally drawn to the music because "it had a good beat and you could dance to it." Then, as it is today, fans of rock and roll are very passionate about the music, and they are usually absolutely immersed in the culture surrounding rock and roll.
     In my opinion, the biggest contribution rock and roll made to society was the softening of race barriers. Rhythm and blues was predominately popular with African-Americans culture. Meanwhile, country music was mostly entertainment for white Americans. The synthesizing of the two art forms led to music enjoyed by both races.
     Alan Freed, the originator of the term "rock and roll," was a major factor in bringing this new upbeat music to the forefront of American culture. In a time when the predominate attitudes toward race dictated that any music destined to be widely popular would come from white America, he played the new music he called "blues and rhythm." Most of the music Freed played during the early 1950's was by African-American artists. Freed played the music because he liked it, and he knew his listeners, which were predominately white, would like it too. He was right, and white teenagers were loving this new music. This gave the African-Americans legitimacy in the music world, and many historians agree that rock and roll helped tremendously toward better race relations.
      My next blog will deal more with the life of Alan Freed. Meanwhile, please give me your opinions about the history of rock and roll concerning race relations.