Record Rendezvous, the Cleveland Record Store That Started Rock 'n' Roll

Steve DiMatteo

Record Rendezvous Store
Record Rendezvous is one of the most important record stores in the history of rock 'n' roll, and it was located right here in Cleveland, Ohio. But you wouldn't know it walking by 300 Prospect Avenue downtown and seeing the abandoned storefront today.
It's a sad state for the place that was essential in helping Cleveland become the capital of rock 'n' roll. But let's go back for a second.

Leo Mintz opened Record Rendezvous in 1938, moving to 300 Prospect Avenue in 1945, which is where the store sat until it closed in 1987. 

Mintz was instrumental (pun intended) in changing the industry. His store was the first to install listening booths for customers, and he was an innovator for taking records out from behind the counter and putting them in boxes for patrons to browse through. That's like 99% of the fun of going to a record store, and we have Record Rendezvous to thank for it.

But perhaps the most important thing is that Mintz coined the term "rock 'n' roll" when he saw his young customers dancing in the store when he'd put on a rhythm and blues record. "Rock 'n' roll" itself was a term from old blues lyrics, and Record Rendezvous was known for being a primary destination for both white and black audiences, with everyone buying what was known as "race records," 78 rpm discs that were originally marketed to black America

Seeing the shift in who bought what types of music, Mintz convinced local DJ Alan Freed to play a rock 'n' roll record on his program in 1949, and things pretty much took off from there. Record Rendezvous would go on to sponsor all of Freed's concerts, including the famed Moondog Coronation Ball on March 21, 1952, which is often cited as the first true rock concert.

The legend of Record Rendezvous and Cleveland's reputation as a true rock 'n' roll city only grew. Over the years, numerous big names walked through the doors of the downtown shop, which was run by Mintz until six months before his death in 1976.

Today, the location still sits empty, and it's unclear when something else will take its place. But no matter what, Record Rendezvous deserves a better fate than its current sad condition.

So the influence of Record Rendezvous is seemingly being lost to time, but at least you know just how deserving Cleveland truly is to have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its shores.

(Photo credit: Cleveland Public Library)

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