Cleveland? A Whole Lotta Love for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Julie Royce's picture


A Whole Lotta Love for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Until this past summer, Cleveland never made my list of 500 places to visit before I die. Although it is only a short 4 ½ hour drive from my home, I hadn’t even put it on my short list of possible day trips to consider when all of my drawers were organized and I was really bored. So I surprised myself when I declared to my husband it was time to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. August marked the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock’s Love, Peace and Music, and to this Boomer it just seemed appropriate to make a pilgrimage to a spot that promised to celebrate that event in style.


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Historic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Marker

Driving towards the museum’s architecturally grand structure we sensed we were in for something special. The building was designed by world renowned architect I.M. Pei who tried to incorporate the energy of Rock and Roll into his bold, geometric series of glass and metal triangles. Pei’s modern lines are set against the traditional and ageless artistry of Mother Nature who painted the azure waters of Lake Erie as background.


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

I.M. Pei’s Masterpiece


Creating the museum was no small project. It cost only a hair’s breadth under $100,000,000 to build the museum. Over a half billion visitors have enjoyed the result, making it Cleveland’s most popular tourist draw. There are five to six hours of wandering pleasure awaiting you on seven floors of exhibitions and in 150,000 square feet of displays. 


There are more than two hours of films in five different theaters. Sequins and guitars peak from every crack, crevice and corner. The artifact collection includes Bruce Springsteen’s outfit from the cover of Born in the U.S.A., Madonna’s bustier from Like a Virgin, John Lennon’s Sgt. Pepper Uniforms and Les Paul’s ‘clunker’ guitar. Demanding a greater share of space are Elvis’ Cadillac and John Lennon’s piano. As your eyes relish these visual cues to great moments in music history your ears revel to pulsating Rock and Roll and the music that birthed it. 


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Boulevard


The museum traces the influence of gospel, country and blues as well as the importance of cities like Memphis, Detroit and San Francisco on the music. More than a quarter century before Michael Jackson moonwalked, Chuck Berry scooted across stages displaying his famous one-legged hop. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame captures it all.  There are many interactive displays to help you feel the rhythm. The Beat Goes On lets you explore who influenced the greats like Janis Joplin. Aging Boomers, Gen Xers and visitors of all ages tap their feet and clap their hands to the museum’s retrospective of the music that impacted world culture.


The Hall of Fame began naming yearly inductees in 1986 with Chuck Berry, James Brown and Ray Charles among the original ten. Now more than 200 of the most deserving talents in the industry have been honored and their stories reverberate through the Museum’s collections.


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Flashy Guitars in the Lobby


This year the museum opened the world’s first exhibit devoted to Bruce Springsteen - “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.” Visitors can trace the Boss’ musical journey from his early bands (Child, the Castiles and Steel Mill) to E Street and his launch as a solo artist. To paint the full picture the display features scrapbooks, archival concert footage and even Springsteen’s 1960 Corvette purchased after his successful Born to Run. The exhibit runs through the spring of 2010. If you schedule a trip before December 31, 2009 you can also catch a tribute to Motown’s 50th Anniversary.


With everything happening at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we might have gotten temporarily sidetracked but we did eventually make it to the Woodstock celebration filled with facts, trivia, exhibits and music to help us relive that indelible piece of Rock and Roll history. In a crowded little theatre we watched footage of Joe Cocker singing “With a Little Help from my Friends.” We learned tidbits of information that will not change our lives but may make us better Trivial Pursuit players. For example, you probably didn’t know that Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid performer at the concert, cashing a check for $10,000. 


Woodstock still conjures images of muddy fields, a near half-million people, shared joints, tie-dyed t-shirts and flowers in long uncombed hair. The concert epitomized a generation that believed it could change the world with its music; Joan Baez promised “We Shall Overcome” and Tim Harden asked “How Can We Hang On to a Dream.” Those of us who couldn’t attend the live concert lived that four day event in August 1969 vicariously. In August 2009 we revisited the memory.


I had such a good time visiting Rock and Roll memories that I may even return to Cleveland and perhaps take in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History or the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art – along with another visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Michael Jackson Memorial

Michael Jackson Memorial


However, even after enjoying the experience, I found myself leaving without an inkling of how Cleveland gained bragging rights as the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Doesn’t it have to be Tupola where Elvis was born, or Elko, South Carolina where James Brown took his first breath, or maybe Detroit where Motown evolved?  However it is rationalized, the end justified the means and the museum was a gratifying experience.


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located at 751 Erieside Ave, Cleveland. For further information check the web at or call 1/800/493-Roll.


Note: We visited as guests of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for Wandering Educators.


Comments (1)

  • Dominique-Midwe...

    14 years 5 months ago

    I have to admit that I was rooting for Detroit to get the R&R HOF when they were considering several locations for this museum, but I can see the rationale for Cleveland. Did you catch the exhibit spotlighting Cleveland DJ Alan Freed and his contribution to popularizing the music and the term "rock & Roll" in the 1950s? It's probably as good of a case as any for locating the museum in Cleveland.

    We've still got Motown here in Detroit, which is also a great little musuem for music lovers. I know they've talked about expanding that museum, but they always include plans to keep the famous little blue&white Hitsville U.S.A. house.

    I've written about both museums at Midwest Guest...and visited both over the years...nice that they're both within a few hours of me :)

Leave a comment