By , on April 15, 2009

Rock & Roll Manhattan Map

The St. Nicholas Rink opened in 1896 as a members-only skating club. In 1906, it became the St. Nicholas Arena and opened up to professional boxing: Jack Johnson, Rocky Graziano, and Cassius Clay a/k/a Muhammad Ali all fought there. On January 14-15, 1955, the pioneering disc jockey Alan Freed hosted his first New York rock & roll shows at the St. Nicholas Arena. The concerts, both of which sold out the 6,000-capacity venue in advance at $2.00 per ticket, featured an all-Black roster of performers including Fats Domino, Clyde McPatter & the Drifters, Ruth Brown, the Moonglows, the Clovers, the Harptones, Charles Brown, and Big Joe Turner.

Based on his previous three years’ experience of promoting such events, Free wasn’t surprised by the SRO crowds. But as John A. Jackson wrote in his 1991 biography Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll, “what made the deejay’s St. Nicholas dance a milestone in the acceptance of rock & roll was the racial composition of the audience, which was estimated to have been half white—the first such documented ratio.” Alan Freed soon moved his rock & roll revues to other stages; the St. Nicholas Arena was demolished in the 1980s for construction of new offices for the ABC television network.

1 Comment to “ST. NICHOLAS ARENA (West 66th Street, between Columbus Ave. & Central Park West)”

  1. John 'Peanutz' Koenig says:

    Thanks for your info on Alan Freed and the First Rock & Roll Concert. I’m putting into place a unique formatted net station. The amount of research is at times, over-powering. Thanks for the input!

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