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Alan Freed: The Radio DJ Who Named It Rock 'n Roll

Dateline: 07/06/04

By

Alan Freed
WABC
Yesterday, the 50th anniversary of “Rock ‘n Roll” was celebrated with a global salute to Elvis Presley and his tune “That’s All Right” - thought to be the song which began it all.

Presley recorded the song on July 5, 1954 and yesterday upwards to 1500 radio stations played the song simultaneously via a satellite feed.

But, as the world celebrates Rock ‘n Roll this week, we shouldn’t forget the man who is credited with coining the term, “Rock ‘n Roll” - DJ Alan Freed.

Freed's first radio job was at WKST, New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1942. From there he went to WKBN, Youngstown, Ohio where he worked as a sportscaster.

In 1945 he moved to WAKR, Akron, Ohio and became a disc-jockey - playing jazz and popular recordings. Then, in 1949, he was offered a TV position at WXEL, Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1951, Freed moved back on to the radio at WJW, Cleveland with a new DJ name: "Moondog". It was there he came up with the term, "Rock ‘n Roll" to describe the black R&B songs he was playing on the air and getting so much response from.

Riding on his Cleveland success, Freed was lured to New York City in 1954 where he worked for WINS. It was in New York that Freed's live "Rock and Roll" shows drew incredible crowds and national publicity. Freed later moved to WABC, New York.

Unfortunately for Freed, the Radio payola scandal hit in 1959 and Freed, who was "on-the-take", was fired from his Radio and TV jobs. Afterwards, he worked briefly at KDAY, Los Angeles and WQAM, Miami.

In 1962, Freed pled guilty to commercial bribery charges and on January 20, 1965, he died from alcohol related diseases.

So, you can credit Elvis with the first Rock ‘n Roll song - but don’t forget the man who came up with the term years before that very recording - Alan Freed.

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