CLEVELAND - The president of Positively Cleveland, which is the city's visitors and convention bureau, said rock and roll music needs to be heard in more businesses and places where people gather.
"We'd all agree that would be a great development to have a lot more music out there, obviously, including and featuring rock and roll," said Dennis Roche, as he looked out the big picture windows of his office's Public Square location.
Public Square is the historical center of Cleveland, which, with its many suburbs, is the largest metropolitan area in Ohio. Although there are tens of thousands of people who pass through Public Square daily, there are no references on the square of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is located almost within its sight.
I am a longtime Clevelander who often travels to other cities where I always make comparisons to my hometown. I look for what those other communities have and how they market themselves. Because we are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame city, I see Cleveland as the capital of rock and roll music. But I get the feeling we, as a community, have not fully embraced the Rock Hall.
When you visit the hall of fame at the northern end of East 9th Street, you will see visitors from throughout the nation. They come to Cleveland to plug into the music of their lives. I grew up watching Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and any other television show where rock and roll was played. I even still have the first rock and roll record I ever bought. It plays on a 45 r.p.m. turntable, of course.
Some of those television shows, where rock and roll were the centerpieces in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, originated from Cleveland. Among them was "Upbeat," a syndicated production of WEWS-TV, where I am employed as a news anchor.
The music was, and is, a part of the fabric of my life, so I am always looking for its distinctive beat throughout my hometown of Cleveland. This city fought like crazy in the late 1980s to get the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame established here. As a news reporter, I covered the groundbreaking when several rock stars were present to get us on our way.
In 1995, when the Rock Hall was finally opened, I was also there with a news camera to shout to the world what had been accomplished. However, it appears to me the "selling" of rock music is largely confined to the Rock Hall itself, which does a wonderful job.
Where are the other promoters to help sell the idea of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In New Orleans, you need only stick your head out the window and New Orleans-style jazz music covers you like Louisiana sunshine. The music and the culture surrounding it are everywhere. Everywhere.
The same is true for Nashville, which bills itself "Music City, USA." The culture of country and western music washes over you like a rainfall on the brim of your ten-gallon hat. The music is a great part of the Nashville lifestyle. The same can be said of Memphis and its blues orientation. Probably, other cities, too. So what about Cleveland and rock and roll music?
"My preference would be to feature rock and roll loud and clear perhaps as the lead offering in our many cultural offerings, but no the exclusion of others," said Roche.
He agrees Cleveland needs to raise its national profile. Every city probably wants to do that. Doing so would also raise the money conventioneers would spend in a city.
Rock and roll music has been around long enough for it to attract, one way or another, all age groups. Even some of the rockers, themselves, who are greying at their temples are still rockin' with rhythm. So people from all walks of life can plug into the music.
We Clevelanders sometimes are down on ourselves. With the establishment of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we gathered around the hypnotic beat of a lot of rock music and celebrated. There is still celebration at the Rock Hall and there is still rock music played in the private lives of the area's people.
However, the music has not yet covered the community, helping solidify the people of the community. In New Orleans, you need only step off the airplane, or the bus, or the train and you will be hit with a culture which is unique to that city.
I understand the New Orleans culture is generations older than rock and roll music, and like a good gumbo, it has had time to simmer with all of those choice ingredients tossed in. Take a spoonful of New Orleans culture and you will know what I mean.
In Cleveland, we need more spoons of rock and roll. When I fly into Cleveland Hopkins Airport, I would like to hear rock music, in all its various forms, played. I would like to see more signage announcing what is in Cleveland, proclaiming in larger letters that we are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame city.
Rock music did not start in Cleveland. It came from every corner of America, actually blending together to make a new artform, which has been embraced throughout the world.
Cleveland played a key part in naming the artform. Alan Freed, a Cleveland