ALBERT JAMES "ALAN" FREED (December 15, 1921 – January 20, 1965)
was an American disc jockey . He became internationally known for
promoting the mix of blues , country , and rhythm and blues music on
the radio in the United States and Europe under the name of rock and
roll . His career was destroyed by the payola scandal that hit the
broadcasting industry in the early 1960s.
* 1 Early years
* 2 Career
* 2.2 WJW
* 2.3 WINS New York
* 2.4 Film and television
* 2.5 Legal trouble, payola scandal
* 3 Personal life
* 4 Later years and death
* 5 Legacy
* 6 References
* 7 Further reading
* 8 External links
Freed was born to a Russian-Jewish immigrant father, Charles S.
Freed, and Welsh-American mother, Maude Palmer, in Windber,
Pennsylvania . In 1933, Freed's family moved to
Salem, Ohio , where
Freed attended Salem High School , graduating in 1940. While Freed was
in high school, he formed a band called the Sultans of Swing in which
he played the trombone . Freed's initial ambition was to be a
bandleader; however, an ear infection put an end to this dream.
While attending the
Ohio State University
Ohio State University , Freed became interested
in radio. Freed served in the US Army during
World War II
World War II and worked
as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio. Soon after
World War II
World War II , Freed landed
broadcasting jobs at smaller radio stations, including WKST (New
Castle, PA ); WKBN (Youngstown, OH ); and
WAKR (Akron, OH ), where, in
1945, he became a local favorite for playing hot jazz and pop
recordings. Freed enjoyed listening to these new styles because he
liked the rhythms and tunes.
Freed is commonly referred to as the "father of rock \'n\' roll " due
to his promotion of the style of music, and his introduction of the
phrase "rock and roll", in reference to the musical genre , on
mainstream radio in the early 1950s. He helped bridge the gap of
segregation among young teenage Americans, presenting music by
African-American artists (rather than cover versions by white artists)
on his radio program, and arranging live concerts attended by racially
mixed audiences. Freed appeared in several motion pictures as
himself. In the 1956 film Rock, Rock, Rock , Freed tells the audience
that "rock and roll is a river of music which has absorbed many
streams: rhythm and blues, jazz, ragtime, cowboy songs, country songs,
folk songs. All have contributed greatly to the big beat."
Alan Freed joined
WAKR and became a local favorite, playing
hot jazz and pop recordings. The radio editor for the Akron Beacon
Journal followed Freed and his "Request Review" nightly program of
dance. When he left the station, the non-compete clause in his
contract limited his ability to find work elsewhere, and he was forced
to take the graveyard shift at Cleveland's WJW radio where he
eventually made history playing the music he called "Rock and Roll."
In the late 1940s, while working at
WAKR (1590 AM) in
Akron, Ohio ,
Cleveland record store owner
Leo Mintz . Record Rendezvous
was one of Cleveland's largest record stores, who had begun selling
rhythm and blues records. Mintz told Freed that he had noticed
increased interest in the records at his store, and encouraged him to
play them on the radio. In 1951, Freed moved to
Cleveland and, in
April 1951, he was under a non-compete with WAKR. However, through the
help of William Shipley the RCA distributor in Northern Ohio, he was
released from his non-compete and joined WJW radio on a midnight radio
program sponsored by Main Line, the RCA Distributor and Record
Rendezvous. Freed peppered his speech with hipster language and with a
rhythm and blues record called "Moondog" as his theme song, broadcast
R&B hits into the night.
Mintz proposed buying airtime on
Cleveland radio station WJW (850 AM)
to be devoted entirely to R&B recordings, with Freed as host. On July
11, 1951, Freed started playing rhythm and blues records on WJW.
Freed called his show "The
Moondog House" and billed himself as "The
King of the Moondoggers". He had been inspired by an offbeat
instrumental called "
Moondog Symphony" that had been recorded by New
York street musician Louis T. Hardin, aka "
Moondog ". Freed adopted
the record as his show's theme music. His on-air manner was energetic,
in contrast to many contemporary radio presenters of traditional pop
music , who tended to sound more subdued and low-key in manner. He
addressed his listeners as if they were all part of a make-believe
kingdom of hipsters, united in their love for black music. He also
began popularizing the phrase "rock and roll " to describe the music
Later that year, Freed promoted dances and concerts featuring the
music he was playing on the radio. He was one of the organizers of a
five-act show called "The
Moondog Coronation Ball " on March 21, 1952,
Cleveland Arena . This event is known as the first rock and
roll concert. Crowds attended in numbers far beyond the arena's
capacity, and the concert was shut down early due to overcrowding and
a near-riot. Freed gained a priceless notoriety from the incident.
WJW immediately increased the airtime allotted to Freed's program, and
his popularity soared.
In those days,
Cleveland was considered by the music industry to be a
"breakout" city, where national trends first appeared in a regional
market. Freed's popularity made the pop music business take notice.
Soon, tapes of Freed's program began to air in the
New York City
New York City area
over station WNJR/1430 (now
WNSW ) Newark, New Jersey.
WINS NEW YORK
In 1954, following his success on the air in Cleveland, Freed moved
to WINS (1010 AM) in
New York City
New York City . Hardin, the original Moondog,
later took a court action suit against WINS for damages against Freed
for infringement in 1956, arguing prior claim to the name "Moondog",
under which he had been composing since 1947. Hardin collected a
$6,000 judgement from Freed, as well as an agreement to give up
further usage of the name Moondog. WINS eventually became an
around-the-clock Top 40 rock and roll radio station, and would remain
so until April 19, 1965—long after Freed left and three months after
he had died— when it became an all-news outlet.
FILM AND TELEVISION
Freed also appeared in a number of pioneering rock and roll motion
pictures during this period. These films were often welcomed with
tremendous enthusiasm by teenagers because they brought visual
depictions of their favorite American acts to the big screen, years
before music videos would present the same sort of image on the small
Freed appeared in several motion pictures that presented many of the
big musical acts of his day, including:
* 1956: Rock Around the Clock featuring Freed, Bill Haley ">
Freed's gravestone in
Because of the negative publicity from the payola scandal, no
prestigious station would employ Freed, and he moved to the West Coast
in 1960, where he worked at
KDAY /1580 in
Santa Monica , California.
In 1962, after
KDAY refused to allow him to promote "rock and roll"
stage shows, Freed moved to
Miami , Florida, but that
association lasted only two months. During 1964, he returned to the
Los Angeles area and worked at KNOB /97.9.
Freed died in a
Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs, California , hospital on January 20,
1965, from uremia and cirrhosis brought on by alcoholism ; he was 43
years old, and was initially interred in the
Ferncliff Cemetery in
Hartsdale, New York . In March 2002, Judith Fisher Freed carried his
ashes to the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in
Cleveland, Ohio . On
August 1, 2014, the Hall of Fame asked Alan Freed's son, Lance Freed,
to permanently remove the ashes, which he did. The Freed family
later announced the ashes would be interred at Cleveland's Lake View
An archived sample of Freed's introduction on the
Moondog Show was
used by Ian Hunter in the opening of the now-classic song "Cleveland
Rocks ", from Hunter's 1979 album You\'re Never Alone with a
The 1978 motion picture
American Hot Wax was inspired by Freed's
contribution to the rock and roll scene. Although director Floyd
Mutrux created a fictionalized account of Freed's last days in New
York radio by utilizing real-life elements outside of their actual
chronology, the film does accurately convey the fond relationship
between Freed, the musicians he promoted, and the audiences who
listened to them. The film starred
Tim McIntire as Freed and included
cameo appearances by
Chuck Berry , Screamin\' Jay Hawkins , Frankie
Jerry Lee Lewis , performing in the recording studio and
On January 23, 1986, Freed was part of the first group inducted into
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. In 1988, he was also
posthumously inducted into the
National Radio Hall of Fame . On
December 10, 1991, Freed was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of
Fame . The
Behind The Music produced an episode on Freed
Roger Steffens . In 1998 The Official Website of Alan Freed
went online with the jumpstart from
Brian Levant and Michael Ochs
archives as well as a home page biography written by
Ben Fong-Torres .
On February 26, 2002, Freed was honored at the
Grammy Awards with the
Freed was used as a character in
Stephen King 's short story, "You
Know They Got a Hell of a Band ", and was portrayed by Mitchell Butel
in its television adaptation for the Nightmares "> He was the subject
of a 1999 television movie, Mr. Rock 'n' Roll: The
Alan Freed Story,
Judd Nelson and directed by
Andy Wolk . The 1997 film
Telling Lies in America stars
Kevin Bacon as a disc jockey with a
loose resemblance to Freed. The
Cleveland Cavaliers ' mascot Moondog
is named in honor of Freed.
Freed is mentioned in
The Ramones ' song "Do You Remember Rock \'n\'
Roll Radio? " as one of the band's idols. Other songs that reference
Freed include "The King of Rock 'n Roll" by
Terry Cashman and Tommy
West , "Ballrooms of Mars" by
Marc Bolan , "They Used to Call it Dope"
by Public Enemy , "
Payola Blues" by
Neil Young , "Done Too Soon" by
Neil Diamond , and "The Ballad of Dick Clark" by
Skip Battin , a
member of the Byrds .
* ^ Obituary Variety , January 27, 1965, page 54.
* ^ Larkin, Colin. "Freed, Alan". Encyclopedia of Popular Music
* ^ James, p. 59.
* ^ Jude Sheerin (20 March 2012). "How the world\'s first rock
concert ended in chaos". BBC News.
* ^ A B "Encyclopedia of
Cleveland History, Rock\'n\'Roll".
Retrieved 6 November 2014.
* ^ Jackson, p. 35.
* ^ A B C D Miller, pp. 57-61.
* ^ Bordowitz, p. 63.
* ^ A B Sheerin, Jude (March 21, 2012). "How the world\'s first
rock concert ended in chaos". BBC News. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
* ^ Scotto, Robert Moondog, The Viking of 6th Avenue: The
Authorized Biography Process Music edition (22 November 2007) ISBN
0-9760822-8-4 ISBN 978-0-9760822-8-6 (Preface by Philip Glass)
* ^ Brooks & Marsh, p. 136.
* ^ Jackson, p. 168.
* ^ Guralnick, p. 235.
* ^ Curtis, p. 37.
* ^ Jackson, p. 214.
Los Angeles Radio People, Where are They Now? – F, retrieved
* ^ AlanFreed.Com: death certificate, retrieved 2012-03-06.
* ^ Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones,
Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN
* ^ Alan Duke, CNN (3 August 2014). "
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to
remove Alan Freed\'s ashes". CNN. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
* ^ Roger Friedman. "Rock Hall Gets Burned For Removing Famed DJ\'s
Ashes From Exhibit". Showbiz411. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
* ^ 19 Action News Digital Team (August 13, 2014). "
Alan Freed may
have left the Rock and Roll hall of Fame, but he\'s staying in
Cleveland for good". Cleveland, Ohio:
* ^ "
Alan Freed – 1986 – Category:Non-Performer". Rock & Roll
Hall of Fame. 2017. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
* ^ "Alan Freed". National Radio Hall Of Fame. 2017. Retrieved
January 5, 2017.
* ^ "Alan Freed". Walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
2017. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
* ^ A B C Danesi, p. 121.
* ^ Weinraub, Bernard (October 14, 1999). "The Man Who Knew It
Wasn\'t Only Rock \'n\' Roll". The New York Times. Retrieved January
* ^ Holden, Stephen (October 9, 1997). "60\'s
Payola Is His First
Taste of America". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
* Bordowitz, Hank (2004). Turning Points in Rock and Roll. New York,
New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0-8065-2631-7 .
* Brooks, Tim ; Marsh, Earle F. (2009). The Complete Directory to
Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present. Random House.
ISBN 0307483207 .
* Curtis, James M. (1987-06-15). Rock eras: interpretations of music
and society, 1954–1984. Popular Press. ISBN 978-0-87972-369-9 .
Retrieved 20 November 2011.
* Danesi, Marcel (2016). Concise Dictionary of Popular Culture.
Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 1442253126 .
* Guralnick, Peter (2005). Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke.
Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-37794-5 .
* Jackson, John A. (1991). Big Beat Heat:
Alan Freed and the Early
Years of Rock & Roll. Schirmer. ISBN 0-02-871155-6 .
* James, David E. (2015). Rock 'N' Film: Cinema's Dance With Popular
Music. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199387621 .
* Miller, James (1999). Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and
Roll, 1947–1977. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80873-0 .
* Wolff, Carlo (2006).
Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories. Cleveland:
Gray border:solid #aaa 1px">
* Biography portal
* Official website
* DVD review of Mr. Rock \'n Roll
Alan Freed at
Find a Grave
Find a Grave – regarding the original burial
Alan Freed at
Find a Grave
Find a Grave – regarding a re-burial and present
location of Freed's ashes
Alan Freed Tribute Page