Some towns much older than ours proudly flaunt the fact that George Washington slept there. Among youthful Miami's many dubious claims to fame: While onstage at Coconut Grove's Dinner Key Auditorium in 1969, a very drunk Jim Morrison, lead singer for the Doors, allegedly exposed himself. He was arrested shortly thereafter and subsequently put on trial for the offense the following year. Morrison's actions, which in the words of authorities "attempted to precipitate a riot," didn't have quite that effect. No one got a glimpse of his schlong, and the concert continued as planned. But the occurrence did spark a rally for decency at the Orange Bowl: kids and adults cheering on good behavior, an ironic footnote considering what goes on in today's Miami. But then rock and roll since its inception has always been the music of youth, sparking rebellion, scaring parents, and selling untold numbers of records.
While rock and roll was certainly not born here, Miami's place in the musical firmament is secure. Aside from the infamous Morrison incident, much music has been played and made here over the years. A stretch of Northeast Second Avenue in Overtown, once known as Colored Town, was nicknamed Little Broadway in its heyday, boasting venues as varied as cathouses where strains of jazz could be heard; the Sir John nightclub, where Sam Cooke belted 'em out in 1963; and theaters such as the still-standing Lyric, where top acts performed. The environs of Northeast 79th Street hopped, featuring destinations like the Peppermint Lounge, where the dance dubbed the peppermint twist was supposedly created. And the stars hung over as well as hung out in Miami Beach too. Back in the Fifties Sinatra crooned in the Fontainebleau's La Ronde Room. Later the Beatles plugged in their instruments up the avenue at the Deauville. In the late Eighties, Woody's on the Beach, co-owned by Rolling Stones' guitarist Ron Wood, kept the neighbors up at night on Ocean Drive. And a few years down the road, Island Records owner Chris Blackwell quietly began amassing his hotel empire, with one facility, The Marlin, offering a state-of-the-art recording studio utilized by chart-toppers such as Aerosmith and Live.
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Those are just a few of the fascinating facts you'll be treated to via the Rockin' Around the Town video bus tour, held in conjunction with the Historical Museum of Southern Florida's current exhibition, "Florida's Rock 'n' Roll Legends." Your guide is Miami-bred historian Paul George. Decidedly un-rock and roll, George won't be sporting fuchsia spandex pants and a leopard-spotted cropped T-shirt, but he does know his stuff. And when you and he tire of listening to his spiel and looking out the window at things and places that once were, you can watch TV! The Louis Wolfson II Media History Center will provide vintage clips of a most musical nature. A long strange trip indeed.