FREED, ALAN (15 Dec. 1922 - 20 Jan. 1965) played a critical role in the popularization of ROCK 'N' ROLL. He was born to Charles and Maud Freed in Johnstown, PA. The family moved to Salem, OH, in 1924 where Alan graduated from Salem High School. Freed attended Ohio State University for two quarters and then enlisted in the army in 1941.

After attending broadcasting classes at Youngstown's WKBN-AM he worked as a news and sports announcer at WKST-AM in New Castle. In Jan. 1945, he moved to WAKR-AM in Akron to become a play-by-play announcer for Akron University basketball games. He also worked there as a news reporter and later as an afternoon disc jockey. He left the station in Dec. 1949 to join WXEL-TV (Channel 9) in Cleveland as the afternoon movie show host.

In 1951 Freed was hired to host a classical music program on Cleveland’s WJW-Radio (SEE WRMR). Shortly thereafter, his friend Leo Mintz, owner of a music store on Prospect Ave., volunteered to sponsor a three-hour, late-night radio show with Freed spinning rhythm-and-blues records by black musicians. Much like Sam Phillips at Sun Records, Mintz had recognized the burgeoning appeal of “black (race) music” to young White consumers. Mintz and Freed called the music Rock 'n' Roll (believed to be an old blues reference to sex), and Freed branded himself “Moondog.” Accordingly, the new radio show was called The Moondog Rock & Roll House Party. Soon, Freed was organizing dances and concerts featuring the music he played on the radio.

Along with Mintz and promoter Lew Platt, Freed pulled together a five-act concert at the CLEVELAND ARENA on 21 Mar. 1952, calling it the Moondog Coronation Ball. The event was far from a success due to rowdyism, gate-crashing, and dangerous overcrowding caused principally by ticket-printing errors and counterfeiting. What is generally considered the world’s first rock 'n' roll concert was shut down in the middle and Freed was widely vilified in the media.

The debacle did not derail his reign as Cleveland’s “hit man.” His radio presence continued and several more Moondog-related events were held in 1952 and 1953. By the end of 1953 Freed's radio program was syndicated in 8 markets and on the Armed Forces Network in Europe. The next year he moved to WINS-AM in New York City. From there he expanded his radio empire, promoted more concerts, established his own record label (End Records), and produced (and appeared in) several cheesy rock and roll movies.

On 3 May 1958 Freed resigned from WINS after a riot at a dance in Boston featuring Jerry Lee Lewis. He immediately began work at rival WABC-AM from which he was fired on 21 Nov. 1959 when he refused to sign an FCC statement acknowledging that he never received funds or gifts for playing records on the air. Although he was only fined, the implied admission effectively ended his broadcasting career and his high profile made him the unwilling figurehead of the practice of Payola—a “pay-to-play” arrangement between promoters and DJs. Indictments, trials, and more fines (but no jail time) followed. Largely shunned, Freed left New York for Florida where he worked only sporadically. He died in January 1965 at the age of 43 of cirrhosis of the liver and was buried in Cleveland’s LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.

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