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“I WANNA ROCK!” Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame remains a big draw more than 20 years after its opening

Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

By Michael Mackie

Distinctive and much photographed entrance to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Distinctive and much photographed entrance to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Ever since Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened in 1995, it’s been a musical work in progress. With more memorabilia than you can shake a Hard Rock at, it’s become one of downtown Cleveland’s diamonds … and pearls.

With its unique double pyramid design, it’s become a Mecca for tourists … over 10 million of ‘em … who want to see what the multi-story, hyper-interactive museum has to offer. Because cur-rockers, er, curators are constantly opening new exhibits or dusting off artifacts to display, visitors are bound to see something new. “Since rock and roll is the soundtrack of our lives, I’m never surprised at how resonant our exhibits are,” said Meredith Rutledge-Borger, Associate Curator for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

John Mellencamp wore this leather jacket throughout the 1980s. Source: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Currently on display? An elaborate exhibit honoring John Mellencamp’s slow-burn rise from young rocker to visual artist to advocate. Another exhibit pays homage to fifty years of “Rolling Stone’s” iconic interviews and magazine covers.

The top floor of the Rolling Stone/50 Years exhibit features iconic covers and exclusive interviews with Mick Jagger, Taylor Swift & Lenny Kravitz. Photo: Rob Muller/Rock & Roll Hall of Fame .

“I want people to realize that this music is not just wallpaper or background noise, but it’s an important part of our culture,” said Rutledge-Borger. “I love to hear visitors say, ‘I remember that!’ or “I know exactly where I was when I first heard that song!’ It makes me so happy to have triggered hopefully great memories that really shaped peoples’ lives.”

For newbies, it’s like stepping in the wayback machine. “It’s interesting to see who influenced who,” said visitor Jim Popp. “You can almost trace how those old-school blues players helped artists like Elvis and Led Zeppelin follow in their footsteps.” With seven gargantuan levels to tackle – each with plenty of nooks and crannies tucked away -- prepare to give yourself plenty of time to get immersed. “I keep finding things,” said Popp. “Talk about a learning experience.”

Taylor Swift's custom 1989 microphone from her recent world tour. Source: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame / Carl Harp

Taylor Swift's custom 1989 microphone from her recent world tour. Source: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame / Carl Harp

Want to know how the term “rock and roll” or “new wave” got coined?  See the evolution of the electric guitar? It’s all there for visitors to soak in. Think of it as immersion therapy for the pop-culture inclined. “I lived in Cleveland when the Hall of Fame opened and I had the chance to see it before most people. I know it has changed a lot in the last twenty years to keep the exhibits fresh, but the overall feel of the place has remained … in one word, nostalgic,” said Melissa Hintz. “I'm also a huge history nerd, so seeing all the pioneers of the rock moment was fascinating to me and brought back fond memories.”

The original outfits worn by The Village People. Why they didn't pose the mannequins in a YMCA pose is beyond us? 

The original outfits worn by The Village People. Why they didn't pose the mannequins in a YMCA pose is beyond us? 

Every exhibit or priceless musical relic on display offers up a little slice of Americana – with a little British flair thrown in for good measure. (Fun fact: The Rock Hall is the largest artifact-based Beatles exhibit in the world.) John Lennon's psychedelic Sgt. Pepper jacket – check. Kurt Cobain’s guitar – check. But the museum is starting to showcase more modern memorabilia – including a popular exhibit paying homage to diva/style maven/powerhouse singer/icon Beyoncé. “We asked Beyoncé for her outfit from her Super Bowl performance and her reps came back and said sure, but we have ‘something bigger’ in mind,” said Rutledge-Borger. “They ended up sending a whole collection of outfits, including the leotard and glove from the ‘Single Ladies’ video”.

Bangles, baubles, beads and bling of Beyoncé. Source: Michael Mackie

Bangles, baubles, beads and bling of Beyoncé. Source: Michael Mackie

Michael Mackie and Kristi Capel in front of the Rock Hall's famed pyramid

Michael Mackie and Kristi Capel in front of the Rock Hall's famed pyramid

For locals, it’s become a mainstay – and a go-to place to take out-of-towners. “The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is something you have to put at the top of your list of places to see ... and/or take visitors,” said Kristi Capel, an anchor for the local Fox affiliate. “The memories … the memorabilia. It’s always the first stop for my guests when it comes to ‘Kristi’s Tour of Cleveland’.”

Even better? You never know what band could be making an impromptu appearance or jaw-dropping jam session in the outdoor plaza. Even employees still get star struck. “The day that U2 visited in 2002 will stand out for me forever, said Rutledge-Borger. “They were so engaged with all the exhibits – and are real fans of the artists that influenced them. I’m looking forward to their upcoming tour and hopeful that they will make a return visit to the Hall. I can’t wait!”

 

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard,
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Phone: 216.781.ROCK (7625)

www.rockhall.com

Open every day from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Extended hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Other nearby fave places?

Blue Point Grille -- 700 W St Clair Ave -- While there are literally dozens of great restaurants in Cleveland’s Warehouse District, Blue Point Grille is on-point for their amazing seafood. They also pride themselves on one of the best happy hours in town. An ever-changing menu is another one of their claims to fame. If you’re looking for inspired fare, Blue Point takes the (crab)cake.

Inca Tea – Various locations including CLE International Airport -- Trying to wean yourself off coffee? This homegrown tea house has you covered. Made from magical elixirs – including purple corn – and six different varieties from which to choose, you won’t miss your jolt of java in the least. They’re even über-environmentally friendly. Inca Tea’s packaging is made from 100% recycled material and their tea bags and envelopes are 100% biodegradable. Drink responsibly … and then some.