John Wilson is a musician and music industry veteran who was born in Cleveland in 1949. In this 2009 interview he discusses growing up on Cleveland's east side, his life long involvement with rock and roll music, and the issue of racism, both within the music industry and in Cleveland. As his family was one of the first black families in his east side neighborhood, Wilson experienced racism at a very young age. He also developed a love for rock and roll as a child, and he describes this as well, talking about the artists he listened to, the places where he heard music, and the performing groups he formed with his friends. Wilson also speaks more generally about racism in the record industry, both now and in the past, and the nature of race relations in Cleveland in the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. Throughout the interview, he connects the subjects of rock and roll music and racism, describing the social and political messages in African-American music, the effects this kind of "protest" music had on black communities, and the ability for music to bring people of different races together.
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This collection of interviews covers topics of race relations and rock and roll music in Cleveland between 1952 and 1966. The interviews were conducted by Dana Aritonovich as she researched her thesis – The Only Common Thread: Race, Youth, and the Everyday Rebellion of Rock and Roll, Cleveland, Ohio, 1952-1966 – in pursuit of a Master of Arts in History at Cleveland State University, which was successfully completed in 2010. Interview subjects are music fans, musicians, and disc jockeys from…