By DEAN & NANCY HOCH
Listen up all you rock-and-roll fans: If you’ve never visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio—maybe you’ve never even heard of it—be sure to put this amazing place on your bucket list.
The two of us did just that last summer as part of a 5000-mile road trip from our home in Southeast Idaho to the places where we both grew up in Western Pennsylvania. As part of our nostalgic visit, we first traveled to the beautiful, little resort town of Edinboro where we originally met, located just south of Lake Erie. It was here we relived memories of the first tunes we ever “rocked to” as teenagers, in a place on the shores of Edinboro Lake called The Canoe Club.
Sadly, it now exists only in our memories, but we do vividly recall our first date and dancing to the beautiful “Unchained Melody,” followed by one of the first rock-and-roll hits we had ever heard, played by Bill Haley and the Comets, “Rock Around the Clock.” Boy, did we rock and roll to that one, over and over again.
With family still in Pennsylvania, we have made many trips back East to visit, but we never took the time to include Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in our itineraries.
Last summer we were determined to do just that, and we were glad we did. We were surprised to find it located in downtown Cleveland.
Our half day convinced us we could have spent a couple full days and still not have seen everything there was to see and experience.
We enjoyed displays, films, concert snippets, and so much more—every “reincarnated” artist, or group of artists, imaginable from the hundreds of inductees voted on each year for inclusion. Just a few featured are the inimitable Elvis, Billy Joel, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Fats Domino, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Elton John, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, and on and on—most with clips of their performances over the years.
Pick your style of music—gospel, jazz, boogie woogie, rhythm & blues, country, or whatever—it will be there. See the displays of the artists’ instruments and some of their outlandish costumes. You’re in for a lot of fun!
Exploring the seven levels, we discovered we had the choice of being part of a four-hour-long, indoor concert, if you can imagine, on Level Four, going and coming, as you please. The part we decided to sit in on was one of Paul Simon’s outstanding shows. One entry fee covers everything, except food.
While eating our lunch at what is known as the All Access Café, we spoke with a grandmother from Dallas, Texas, where everything, of course, is BIG.
She told us she was a rock-and-roll fan from the 60s, as were we, and she was accompanied by her grandson, Donovan, age 14. She had asked him, prior to the trip, where he might like to go on a vacation with her. He hesitated about the choices, so knowing he had the goal of being a drummer someday, she suggested he go with her to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
He immediately agreed, and said he was enjoying his day with his grandmother and appreciated this special treat she had provided. By that time in the day, he had already had fun playing live drums as part of his experience in “The Garage,” the Rock Hall’s newest, permanent exhibit.
This one is set up, of course, to look like garages of the past, where would-be rock stars began their careers. Anyone can take turns performing as attendees stop and listen.
Interestingly, we found the café to be eco-friendly, serving tasty soups, salads, and sandwiches served in bamboo bowls and recycled paper containers. The quality of the chef-prepared food was excellent.
As we toured, we were impressed by the hundreds of kids and young adults filling the Hall, as well as the oodles of gray-hairs like ourselves.
We might add a couple of tidbits that we learned on our tour. One was that Leonard Bernstein, conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra during past decades, relaxed at home by listening to the Beatles.
Another item mentioned was that Elvis had perfect pitch.
It was fun to see replays of some of the hundreds of Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan shows over the years, where many of the artists were given the nod to worldwide notoriety.
The stated mission of the Hall of Fame, built in 1995, is clear: “To engage, teach & inspire through the power of rock & roll.” As the Hall advertises, “It delivers a legendary music like no other.”
All in all, any fan or would-be fan of the rock-and-roll greats, current and past, will be assured a delightful and exciting experience. It’s definitely worth any distance of flying, hitch hiking, riding a bike, or driving to get there. ISI