From Ann Arbor, we continued on to Ohio, my last of 12 new states on the trip. We made it to Kenzie’s aunt’s home outside Cleveland around lunchtime. While Kenzie spent the afternoon with her aunt and cousin and cousin’s adorable children, Bill and I headed into the city to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Hall of Fame is a pretty strange-looking building located right on Lake Erie. Our afternoon in Cleveland happened to be a Saturday, and there were lots of people at the museum enjoying the exhibits and the air conditioning. Before even entering the building, we learned from a historical marker outside that Cleveland is important to the history of rock and roll because it was a Cleveland DJ who first used the phrase to describe a song.
There are tons of artifacts in the museum–costumes, guitars, concert posters, handwritten lyric drafts, letters, pieces of concert sets, even one of Elvis’s cars. The exhibits are set up mostly in chronological order, from the roots of rock and roll through the proliferation of various subsets of rock, like heavy metal, punk rock, and even hip hop and rap. There was a short exhibit on the relationship between technology and music that explained how Les Paul developed his guitars (including an early prototype made with a 150-pound piece of a railroad) and how the transistor radio helped rock to develop and spread (it let teenagers listen to music away from their parents). We also enjoyed the exhibit showing disapproving politicians and other concerned citizens complaining about the blasphemous and degrading nature of rock music. The people protesting rock were from the 50s and 60s, which seemed pretty funny today since the musicians at that time still wore suits and below-the-knees dresses, and the music seemed so tame compared to what was to come in later decades. However, we also noticed that we could replace “rock” with “rap”, and the complaints would be identical to many concerns about music today.
We were also lucky to be visiting the museum during its temporary Women Who Rock exhibit. We learned about the women who started singing gospel, and who influenced the men who are considered the essential early rockers–like the Chuck Berrys, the Elvis Presleys, and the Johnny Cashes. We discovered that punk rock was a gateway into the music industry for women, and that Carole King, in addition to the songs for which she is known, wrote classic songs for 60s artists like the Drifters and the Shirelles. And, we saw Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
After our visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we drove through a bit of downtown Cleveland, then headed back to rejoin Kenzie. The three of us enjoyed some Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean with Kenzie’s cousin Owen, and had a tasty dinner of burgers/veggie burgers with homemade french fries and vegetables and salad–delicious! The next morning, our hosts made us a wonderful breakfast of oatmeal and berries before we departed for our last stop on the trip, Pittsburgh.