Alan Freed

For other uses, see Alan Freed (disambiguation).

Alan Freed (December 15, 1922January 20, 1965) was an American disc-jockey (DJ), who became internationally known for promoting African-American Rhythm and Blues (R&B) music on the radio in the United States and Europe under the name of Rock and Roll. Many of the top African American performers of the first generation of rock and roll (such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry), salute Alan Freed for his de facto pioneering attitude in breaking down racial barriers among the youth of 1950s America. Partly in response to his non-racist attitude, his career was destroyed by example during the payola scandal in which other djs such as Dick Clark managed to survive.


"Father of Rock and Roll"

While Alan Freed called himself the "father of rock and roll", he was not the first to use the term nor the first to play it on the airwaves. He was a promoter and he was very successful at what he did, until his own personal failings became exploited by others. They built their own careers upon the legacy created by Freed, while Freed's personal career was obliterated.

Pioneer of racial harmony

Many of the top African American performers of the 1950s have given public credit to Alan Freed for pioneering racial integration among the youth of America at a time when the adults were still promoting racial strife. Little Richard has appeared in several programs about that era, to give the credit to Alan Freed that others have denied him. An example of Freed's non-racist attitude is preserved in motion pictures in which he personally played a part as himself with many of the leading African-American acts of that day. His influence and the music that he promoted crossed artificial racial barriers that were in place during the 1950s.

"The Moondog"

While working as a disc jockey at a Cleveland, Ohio radio station, he organized the first rock and roll concert called "The Moondog Coronation Ball" on March 21, 1952. The event, attended mainly by African Americans, proved a huge drawing card — the first event had to be ended early due to overcrowding.

1010 WINS New York

Following his success on the air in Cleveland, Alan Freed moved to New York City where he turned WINS into a rock and roll radio station.

Radio Luxembourg

Building upon his successful introduction in Europe by film, Alan Freed was then booked onto Radio Luxembourg where his prerecorded shows enhanced his reputation as the "father of rock and roll" music. Due to the tremendous power that the signal of Radio Luxembourg enjoyed throughout much of Western Europe, his choice of music encouraged imitation by many domestic groups. The record companies also bought time on Luxembourg to further promote the music of Little Richard, Chuck Berry and other African American artists. These sounds were heard in places such as Liverpool, England where the individuals who later became famous as The Beatles were also listening and attempting to copy the music they heard.


Alan Freed also appeared in a number of major and historical 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 television screen. One side effect of these movies shown before mass audiences was that they sometimes presented an excuse for thugs to turn a fun event into a riot, in which cinemas in both West Germany and the United Kingdom were trashed.

Alan Freed appeared in several motion pictures that presented many of the big musical acts of his day:

Rock Around the Clock featuring Alan Freed, Bill Haley and His Comets, The Platters, Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys.
Rock, Rock, Rock featuring Alan Freed, Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Johnny Burnette, La Vern Baker, The Flamingos, The Moonglows.
The Girl Can't Help It featuring Alan Freed, Julie London, Ray Anthony, Fats Domino, The Platters, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, The Treniers, Eddie Cochran, Jayne Mansfield.


It was at the height of Freed's career at the beginning of his new television series that various individuals decided to use Alan Freed as a scapegoat for all that was wrong with the recorded music industry and his show was suddenly cancelled. Into the void that had been created by the absence of Freed on TV, the career of Dick Clark began to take off.


The career of Alan Freed ended when accusations were made that he had accepted payola – that is, taken bribes to play specific records. Although his problems were not unique to him, he was singled out for attention. In 1960 payola was made illegal, although this by no means stopped the practice which continues in various forms to this day. However, in 1962 Alan Freed pleaded guilty to two charges of commercial bribery for which he received a fine and a suspended sentence.

Destruction and death

Although the punishment handed down to Alan Freed was not severe, the side effects of negative publicity were such that no one of note would employ him. He died in a Palm Springs, California hospital in 1965 suffering from uraemia and cirrhosis of the liver. He was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.


One of the reasons why Alan Freed was targeted for attack and destruction was due to his early belief in de facto integration and harmony and unanimity among the races. The 1950s were the age of extreme bigotry and race hate in the United States where Alan Freed promoted a sound for the youth of white America that had its origins not in Europe, but in Africa. American teens loved it and racist religious and political leaders reacted with alarm. Freed became a threat to their own message and therefore Freed had to be destroyed like a devil. To his fans worldwide Alan Freed is still remembered and appreciated to this day as being the "father of rock and roll". In the end his message became the norm, while the message of hate is now under attack.

In 1978 a motion picture entitled American Hot Wax was released which is based on Freed's contribution to the rock and roll scene, leading up to a concert that was held in New York City in 1959. Several notable personalities starred in the movie, who would later become well-known celebrities, including Jay Leno and Fran Drescher, and there was even a cameo appearance by Chuck Berry, performing in the concert segment.

In 1986, he was part of the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, built in Cleveland because of him. In 1988, he was also posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.


  • Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll, by Jackson, John A. - Schirmer Books, 1991. ISBN 0-02-871155-6
  • The Pied Pipers of Rock 'N' Roll: Radio Deejays of the 50s and 60s, by Smith, Wes (Robert Weston). - Longstreet Press, 1989. ISBN 0-92-926469-X

External link

fr:Alan Freed sv:Alan Freed


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