This Day in Music

Flying High

Copeland was born in Haynesville, Louisiana on March 27, 1937. Influenced by T-Bone Walker, he formed the ‘Dukes of Rhythm’ in Houston, Texas, and made his recording debut in 1956, signing with Duke Records the following year. Although his early records met with little commercial success, he became a popular touring act over the next two decades.

His early recording career embraced blues, soul and rock and roll. He cut singles for Mercury, Golden Eagle and All Boy, amongst others. His first single was “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lily”, and he later cut successes such as “Down On Bending Knees” and “Please Let Me Know”. For the most part, his singles featured Copeland as a vocalist more than a guitar player.

Driven by disco to rethink his future, he moved to New York in 1979, and played extensively in the eastern cities. In 1981, he was signed by Rounder Records, releasing albums including Copeland Special (1981) and Bringing It All Back Home (1985), and touring widely. Copeland appeared at the 1983 Long Beach Blues Festival, and the 1988 San Francisco Blues Festival. He won a Grammy in 1987 for best traditional blues album for the album Showdown!, recorded with Albert Collins and Robert Cray.

Copeland also played at the 1985 Montreux Jazz Festival, as a guest with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Vaughan and Copeland performed the Bob Geddins song, “Tin Pan Alley” together on Vaughan’s Blues At Sunrise compilation album. He also played on the first edition of BRBF (Blues Peer Festival) later that year.

His later years were dogged by ill health due to a congenital heart defect. He died, aged 60, in Harlem, New York, from complications of heart surgery for a heart transplanted six months earlier.

History’s First Rock Concert

Moondog Coronation Ball

Breathless promotion on the local radio station. Tickets selling out in a single day. Thousands of teenagers, hours before show time, lining up outside the biggest venue in town. The scene outside the Cleveland Arena on a chilly Friday night in March more than 50 years ago would look quite familiar to anyone who has ever attended a major rock concert.

But no one on this particular night had ever even heard of a “rock concert.” This, after all, was the night of an event now recognized as history’s first major rock-and-roll show: the Moondog Coronation Ball, held in Cleveland on March 21, 1952.

The “Moondog” in question was the legendary disk jockey Alan Freed, the self-styled “father of rock and roll” who was then the host of the enormously popular “Moondog Show” on Cleveland AM radio station WJW. Freed had joined WJW in 1951 as the host of a classical music program, but he took up a different kind of music at the suggestion of Cleveland record store owner Leo Mintz, who had noted with great interest the growing popularity, among young customers of all races, of rhythm-and-blues records by black musicians.

Mintz decided to sponsor three hours of late night programming on WJW to showcase rhythm-and-blues music, and Alan Freed was installed as host. Freed quickly took to the task, adopting a new, hip persona and vocabulary that included liberal use of the phrase “rock and roll” to describe the music he was now promoting. As the program grew in popularity, Mintz and Freed decided to do something that had never been done: hold a live dance event featuring some of the artists whose records were appearing on Freed’s show.

Dubbed “The Moondog Coronation Ball,” the event was to feature headliners Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers and Tiny Grimes and the Rocking Highlanders (a black instrumental group that performed in Scottish kilts). In the end, however, the incredible popular demand for tickets proved to be the event’s undoing. Helped along by massive ticket counterfeiting and possibly by overbooking on the part of the event’s sponsors, an estimated 20,000-25,000 fans turned out for an event being held in an arena with a capacity of only 10,000.

Less than an hour into the show, the massive overflow crowd broke through the gates that were keeping them outside, and police quickly moved in to stop the show almost as soon as it began. On the radio the very next evening, Alan Freed offered an apology to listeners who had tried to attend the canceled event. By way of explanation, Freed said: “If anyone…had told us that some 20 or 25,000 people would try to get into a danceā€”I suppose you would have been just like me. You would have laughed and said they were crazy.”

Among the First Wave of American Bands to Become Popular

Among the first wave of American bands to become popular in the wake of the British invasion, the group combined rock, folk, and country music into a sound all its own. Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay formed Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles. Its million selling song ‘For What It’s Worth’ became a political anthem for the turbulent late 1960s.

Neil Young and Stephen Stills first crossed paths in 1965 at the Fourth Dimension in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Young was there with The Squires, a Winnipeg group he had been leading since February 1963, and Stills was on tour with The Company, a spin off from the Au Go Go Singers. Although the two did not see each other again for almost a year, the encounter left both with a strong desire to work together.

When The Company broke up at the end of that tour, Stills moved to the West Coast, where he worked as a studio musician and auditioned unsuccessfully for, among other things, The Monkees. He had been in a band called Buffalo Fish with fellow Greenwich Village transplant Peter Tork, and told him to audition.

Told by record producer Barry Friedman that there would be work available if he could assemble a band, Stills invited fellow Au Go Go Singers alumnus Richie Furay and former Squires bass player Ken Koblun to come join him in California. Both agreed, although Koblun chose to leave before very long and joined the group 3’s a Crowd.

In early 1966 in Toronto, Young met Bruce Palmer, a Canadian who was playing bass for a group called the Mynah Birds. In need of a lead guitarist, Palmer invited Young to join the group, and Young accepted. The Mynah Birds were set to record an album for Motown Records when their singer Ricky James Matthews, later known as Rick James, was tracked down and arrested by the U.S. Navy for being AWOL. With their record deal canceled, Young and Palmer decided to head for Los Angeles where they hoped to encounter Stills.

Roughly a week later, discouraged at having been unable to locate Stills and ready to depart for San Francisco, they were stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when Stills, Furay and Friedman, sitting in their white van, recognized Young’s black 1953 Pontiac hearse, which happened to be passing by in the opposite direction. After an illegal u-turn by Furay, some shouting, hand-waving, and much excitement, the four musicians realized that they were united in their determination to put together a band. Drummer Dewey Martin, who had played with garage rock group the Standells and country artists such as Patsy Cline and The Dillards, was added to the roster less than a week later after contacting the group at the suggestion of the Byrds’ manager, Jim Dickson.

Taking their name from the side of a steamroller, made by the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company, that had been parked on the street outside Friedman’s house where Stills and Furay were staying, the new group debuted on April 11, 1966, at The Troubadour in Hollywood. A few days later, they began a short tour of California as the opening act on a bill featuring The Dillards and The Byrds.