The World Series of Rock Was a Hit from 1974-1980

October 11, 2018

World Series of Rock Poster

While the Cleveland Indians played some of their most mediocre baseball in the 1970s, their home field at that time, Cleveland Stadium, hosted the World Series multiple times. The World Series of Rock that is.

Co-produced by Belkin Productions, the area’s top entertainment promoter, and WMMS, Cleveland’s number one rock station, the World Series of Rock was a day-long, multi-act concert. A total of 15 events were held between 1974 and 1980 featuring the top rock acts of the day. The series took a year off in 1976.

The first show was held on Saturday, June 23, 1974. Contrary to the hard rocking tendencies of co-sponsor WMMS, one of the headline acts was The Beach Boys. Area native Joe Walsh and his band at the time, Barnstorm, also performed. Lynyrd Skynyrd and a then-largely-unknown, and heavier sounding R.E.O. Speedwagon were also on the bill. Doors opened at 12:30 with the first act slated for 2:00 p.m. A crowd of 40,000 showed up for that inaugural show.

Two more shows were held that year in August and September. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Climax Blues Band, and The James Gang performed at the August 4th concert, while Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Santana, The Band, and Jesse Colin Young were on the bill for the September 1st concert.

Other acts at subsequent World Series concerts included Chicago, Yes, Blue Oyster Cult, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC, The Cars, Pink Floyd, and many more. The Rolling Stones headlined one, pulling over 80,000 to the stadium on June 14th, 1978.

By 1980, however, the shows had gotten out of hand with fights, drunkenness, and drug use increasingly more common. The mayhem often rivaled the ill-fated “Ten Cent Beer Night” which took place in June of 1974.

So wild was the crowd, the Cleveland Clinic had to set-up first aid stations around the stadium, with the promoters footing the bill. After several shootings took place at the 1979 concert, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, who also headed Stadium Corporation, stated no more World Series of Rock  concerts would be held. However, there was one show the following year, on June 19th, with Bob Seger, J. Geils Band, Eddie Money, and Def Leppard performing. That show closed the raucous and often controversial series for good.

The security issues were certainly a major factor in the decision to discontinue the series, but other factors contributed. Multi-act, day-long, and multi-day outdoor concerts, at least in North America, were waning in popularity in the early 1980s. Single-act shows, though, with an opening act, still did well. Indeed, during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, the old stadium welcomed Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Who, and the Eagles.

Fittingly, the final concert held there was one celebrating the opening of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next door in 1995. Following the departure of the Cleveland Browns (the Indians moved out after the 1993 season), the stadium was demolished to make room for a brand new football stadium for the reborn Cleveland Browns. That facility has hosted several concerts but mostly by country acts. However, with the surge in popularity of music festivals like Bunbury in Cincinnati, as well as Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Bumbershoot, perhaps the World Series of Rock could be revived.




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