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A Look Back at the First Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 1986

photo of Chuck Berry and Keith Richards

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts its Class of 2016 today in New York City. WKSU'sKabirBhatia looks back to the very first Rock Hall induction, 30 years ago.

The inaugural class included Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers, as well as Cleveland DJ Alan Freed, who coined the term "rock and roll" in the 1950s. Mike Olszewski was a reporter for WERE radio back then, and was at that first ceremony.

“They wanted the folks at the Waldorf-Astoria to see what it was like when people were on the road. So they all paid a thousand or $1,500 a seat. But they got meatloaf [and] Oreos for dessert. Basically what you’d get in a diner. They did get a couple of good bottles of wine, don’t get me wrong.”

In May of that year, Cleveland was chosen as the site for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which finally opened in 1995. Olszewski learned that Cleveland was chosen from one of the country’s top record executives.

Mike Olszewski on Clive Davis and the Cleveland announcement

“There were a lot of folks that were trying to get this Hall: New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles. I remember Jerry Lee Lewis wanted it in his hometown in Louisiana. It was going to be announced Monday in New York City. That Friday, I was working at a radio station, and Clive Davis was on-the-air with a syndicated show. Well, Clive Davis was on the board [of the Rock Hall]. So I simply called the radio show and I said, ‘Is it true that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going to be in Cleveland?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll verify that.’”

Davis was eventually inducted in 2000. This year’s class includes Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, Cheap Trick and N.W.A.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.