Music of the Midwest exhibit, containing clothing, instruments, and promotional band art

Kick Out the Jams

Rock & roll history wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Midwest or, specifically, the Rock Hall's own hometown, Cleveland. This exhibit shines a spotlight on both places and highlights their place in history.

The Music of the Midwest


Rock & roll is primarily a byproduct of the South. Nowhere, however, was it better expanded upon than in the Midwest. The heartland region became a hotbed for a talent explosion that started in the '60s and continues through today.

Detroit was the home of Motown Records and was also full of teen clubs where local performers such as Bob Seger, the Amboy Dukes and the MC5 honed their skills. Chicago developed diverse bands ranging from the jazz-influenced rock of Chicago Transit Authority to the theatrical and thematic progressive music of Styx. In the '80s, Minneapolis rose to international prominence as the home base of Prince and the breeding ground for such alternative rockers as the Replacements and Hüsker Dü.  Perhaps the rock artist most associated with rural America is Seymour, Indiana’s favorite son, John Mellencamp, the author of “Small Town.”

Cleveland Rocks


Cleveland earned its place on the rock and roll map in the early '50s when local deejay Alan Freed was the first to call the R&B music he was playing on his nightly radio show “rock and roll.” Freed also promoted what is considered to be the very first rock and roll concert, which was held at the Cleveland Arena on March 21, 1952. In the '60s, Cleveland fostered such local talent as the Outsiders, the O’Jays and the James Gang, and the nationally syndicated Upbeat Show served as a major launching pad for numerous artists.

In the early '70s, the Raspberries, Circus and Glass Harp made their mark nationally. The Dead Boys and Pere Ubu exploded out of Cleveland and became part of the birth of punk rock and post punk. Radio station WMMS also became a major force in the '70s, helping break such artists as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen and Roxy Music. Thirty miles south of Cleveland, Akron and nearby Kent produced Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Rachel Sweet and the masters of de-evolution, Devo.               

The '90s saw the rise of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Macy Gray and LeVert, while rapper and television star Kid Cudi has emerged in the new millennium as a major star.  As Ian Hunter said back in 1979, “Cleveland Rocks!”