Leon Bibb on what makes Cleveland THE music city

CLEVELAND, Ohio - I am a Rock and Roller. Yeah. Maybe I don’t rock the way many of the kids rock today, but even with gray hair, I still rock to my favorites. “Rock on, Leon; rock on,” said my friends. I’m celebrating the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. This Cleveland gemstone will induct its class of 2018.

The inductions are in Cleveland this year. We will rock on with more on that in a moment.    

But here’s the chorus line. The Rock Hall is also Cleveland’s music. That iconic structure at North Coast Harbor helps define us. So do the photographs of rock stars and the Rock Hall Gift Shop at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Fly into Cleveland and you know you’re in a-rockin' town.     

But I would like to see more rock and roll spirit among businesses in the city. In New Orleans, Nashville, or Memphis – communities which praise beginnings of their Dixieland jazz, country and western, or blues – the very thought of their offerings are woven into the fabric of those cities. Their musical ideas wash over you like a sweet bass line laid down on a good bass guitar. It moves your soul, brother. It touches your heart, sister.    

Cleveland does that, too, but more music is welcome. The old Drew Carey TV Show — set in Cleveland — told the world who we are. Remember? “Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks!” We do. So let’s rock on. 

The Rock Hall and “visit Cleveland” groups certainly “sell” our rock roots. But I want to see other businesses lay in that bass line. Are you catching my rhythm and rhyme?

The old phrase “rock and roll” came out of early black rhythm and blues music. In the  1950s, Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed popularized the term to a broader radio audience. Rock got hotter. Cleveland kids got hipper.  

Years later came the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, pulling into the city big bucks from visitors. “Money, Money, Money,” chorus the singing group.  Local government and visit-the-city groups promote the Rock Hall musical wave. But the promotion of the music and Cleveland’s roots can come from other businesses as well. In New Orleans, Nashville, Memphis, and Detroit Motown – they help sell the idea of the music not only to visitors but also to themselves.     

Along with New York, Cleveland will share the induction ceremony spotlight every other year. It's far better than it had been when Cleveland had the inductions only every few years. 

Still, I wish it was here every year because a lot began in Cleveland, and there are still jitterbugs here. Had the Beatles sung of it, they would have said Cleveland put in a “Hard Days Night” in getting the Rock Hall. Elvis would croon of Cleveland: a “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”. Clevelanders in a Temptations-style: “The Way You Do The Things You Do.”  And the Beach Boys would have said there are “Good Vibrations” in Cleveland.  

The Rock Hall of Fame and Museum gives us “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”. Be pleased about that and the class of 2018. Should we sing the praises and celebrate the Rock Hall gemstone we have? As my man, Smokey Robinson would sing it, “Ooh, Baby, Baby!”  

Print this article Back to Top