Like so many members of the Baby Boomer generation, music - specifically rock and its related siblings country, blues, soul, gospel, and jazz - has played a central role in my life and the society surrounding it.
Cleveland DJ Alan Freed, who is credited with popularizing the term rock and roll, also is acknowledged to have staged the first rock concert on March 21, 1952. On March 26, of that same year I was born, meaning that rock music, which has shaped me in so many ways, predates my arrival on the planet by only 5 days.
Recently, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for 2 days of exploration and research. In this ongoing series of posts entitled In the Hall, I will offer some glimpses of what you can find there if you too (or U2 in rock lingo) do visit the national mecca of rock history.
For 70-year-old Alabama native Buddy Rousso, the road to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was fairly typical of many older Baby Boomers: It began with a young Rousso in 1956 watching Elvis Presley perform on The Ed Sullivan Show on a neighbor's TV with his family, continued through Beatlemania, incorporated hundreds of live concerts including a 1965 Atlanta show by the Beatles, and encompassed thousands of hours of listening to classic rock on car stereos, 45s, albums, eight-tracks, cassettes, CDs, MP3s, and now programmed stations on SiriusXM satellite radio.
In Cleveland, I encountered Rousso and his 68-year-old wife Jo Anne, also a native of Alabama, while they were examining a showcase devoted to Jack Bruce, the legendary bassist for the Hall of Fame British band Cream.
As many rock music enthusiasts enjoy doing, the Roussos were quite happy to talk about the big role that music has played in their lives.
Jo Anne said she was introduced to what would become rock and roll in second grade by her older sisters. They would weekly watch The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, a musical variety show that aired on Saturday nights from 1950 to 1959. She said her sisters took her to see Jerry Lee Lewis at a local county fair when she was 10.
"I never really liked country, but I loved rock," Jo Anne said.
As young teenagers, both Roussos passion for rock music was fueled by radio. Buddy listened to WBAN :"The Big Bam" originating from Montgomery, while Jo Anne was hearing the tunes played on WVOK in Birmingham.
Of course, I had to ask Buddy how he came to see the Beatles live.
"We were too poor back then to take vacations so I had cousins in Atlanta and I would go there for a week in the summer and then they would come to our place for a week. It just worked out that when I was there in 1965 so were the Beatles and we got tickets," he said.
There have long been reports that the Beatles actual performances were often drowned out by the cumulative sounds of thousands of girls screaming, shrieking, and crying. Did that happen in Atlanta?
"There was screaming from beginning to end, but we actually heard the music. The biggest disappointment was that they played so few songs," Buddy explained.
Buddy and Jo Anne met while both were attending Alabama University. In addition to a shared affinity for music, both still have a raging passion for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. The Roussos have had seats on the 50-yard line for all "Roll Tide" home games since the 1980s.
Actually, the mid-September trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was directly linked to their mutual passions of sports and music.
"We have a bucket list and on that list we want to see a couple of college football games around the country each season. Last week, we went to South Bend (Indiana) to see Notre Dame and this week we'll be in Ann Arbor to see Michigan play," Buddy said "When we realized we would be so close to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we had to come here for a day."
So what did the Roussos think of their first visit to the Hall?
"I love the origins and the history of it all. I could stay all day listening to all the old stuff," a smiling Jo Anne said.
"I would definitely give it an 'A,'" Buddy added.
He did have one suggestion for improvement, however.
"When I first went to Cooperstown (the upstate New York site of the Baseball Hall of Fame), they have those busts of all those Hall of Famers. Man, I loved touching the old players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that I had read so much about. I think it would be great if they could so something like that here," Buddy explained.
Encore 1 - Buddy's Record Collection
Buddy has maintained a collection of 350 of his favorite albums, all alphabetized in a specially designed case. Which are his 3 favorites?
- The White Album by the Beatles
- One Cream album (depending on the day and mood)
- Something from Janis Joplin
Encore 2 - The Beatles Set List from the the August 18, 1965 concert at Atlanta Stadium that Buddy Attended