Authorities in the Californian city of Santa Cruz banned rock and roll music at public gatherings.

The previous evening had seen around 200 teenagers attend a concert at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium by the Los Angeles-based Chuck Higgins and his Orchestra. Higgins and an earlier band, the Mellotones, had scored a West Coast hit four years earlier with the saxophone instrumental “Pachuko Hop”. This jump blues single has since been described as one of the key releases that bridged the upbeat jazz styles of the 1940s to the frenetic rhythm and blues that was to emerge the following decade.

Shortly after midnight members of the Santa Cruz police, under the command of Lieutenant Richard Overton, entered the venue and shut down the concert. He later described the predominantly teenage crowd inside the auditorium as being ‘engaged in suggestive, stimulating and tantalizing motions induced by the provocative rhythms of an all-negro band.’

The next day the Santa Cruz authorities announced an outright ban on rock and roll music, with the justification that ‘rock and roll and other forms of frenzied music [were] detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community.’

According to a report in a local newspaper from the time, the Chief of Police had said that, ‘we have nothing against rock and roll music…it’s just what some people do while listening to it.’ Within days, however, Santa Cruz’s teenagers had begun to protest against the ban. In response City Manager Robert Klein announced that the music, ‘along with other harmless types of swing music, enjoyable to young and old’ was welcome. Despite this, a scheduled concert by another rock and roll artist was cancelled by the auditorium manager.

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