Alan Freed Collection
- Collection Number:
- Bulk, 1954-1965; Inclusive, 1921-1992, undated
- 12.63 Linear feet (6 Hollinger boxes, 3 half Hollinger boxes, 1 oversize box, 1 shared flat file drawer, tube)
- Collection is primarily in English; materials in French and Spanish are indicated at the item level.
[Identification of item], Alan Freed Collection, Library and Archives, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
- American disc jockey. Accounting records, Assistant District Attorney notes, cancelled checks, contracts, correspondence, indictments, invoices, memoranda, music clearance sheets, reports, State of New York Grand Jury exhibits, subpoenas, witness statements and summaries, and duplicate and annotated photocopies of documents regarding the Payola case against Freed; also lobby cards, magazine articles, movie posters, programs, audio and video recordings, sheet music, and yearbooks related to Freed's career and personal life.
- Finding Aid Permalink:
The Alan Freed Collection spans the years 1918 to 1992, with the bulk of the collection dating between 1954 and 1964. The collection consists primarily of financial and court documents relating to the commercial bribery case brought by the City of New York against Alan Freed, known as "Payola." These files contain accounting records, Assistant District Attorney notes, cancelled checks, contracts, correspondence, indictments, invoices, memoranda, music clearance sheets, reports, State of New York Grand Jury exhibits, subpoenas, witness statements and summaries, as well as many duplicate and annotated photocopies of documents. Other materials in the collection relate to Freed’s renowned career as a radio, television, and film personality and include lobby cards, magazine articles, movie posters, programs, audio and video recordings, sheet music, and yearbooks. The collection as a whole illustrates Freed's impact on the early history of rock and roll. Seen in a broader context, the collection provides insights into the recording and broadcasting industries in the 1950s and early 1960s, the resulting “Payola” scandal, and its long-lasting effects.
- 1921 December 15
- Albert James Freed is born in Johnston, Pa.
- The Freed family moves to Salem, Ohio.
- First broadcasting job by WKST in New Castle, Pa., as host of a nightly classical music program.
- Sportscaster at WKBN in Youngstown, Ohio.
- Disc jockey at WAKR-AM in Akron, Ohio, playing hot jazz and pop recordings.
- Hosts the afternoon movie at WXEL-TV in Cleveland, Ohio.
- 1951 July 11
- Convinced by Leo Mintz to emcee a rhythm and blues program on WJW-AM in Cleveland.
- 1952 March 21
- Organized with Mintz and Lew Platt, the Moondog Coronation Ball is held at the Cleveland Arena and is considered the country’s first rock and roll concert.
- 1954 September 8
- Hired as a disc jockey by WINS in New York, N.Y.
- Promotes the first of many live shows in New York City.
- Stars in Rock Around The Rock as himself, the first of five film appearances.
- Hired by ABC-TV to emcee a rock and roll dance show Alan Freed’s Big Beat; show is canceled months later after controversy over performer Frankie Lymon dancing with a white teenager.
- 1958 May 5
- Arrested and charged with inciting a riot at a Boston, Massachusetts concert he promoted; the charges are dropped.
- 1958 May 8
- Resigned WINS.
- 1958 May
- Hired by WABC in New York, N.Y.
- 1959 November 21
- Fired by WABC, given four weeks notice.
- 1960 February 26
- Indicted for commercial bribery in the state of New York.
- Hired as a disc jockey by KDAY in Los Angeles, California.
- Pleads guilty to two charges of commercial bribery.
- 1965 January 20
- Dies from gastrointestinal hemorrhaging in Palm Springs, Ca.
- 1986 January 23
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- Inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.
- 2002 March 22
- Ashes are interred at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
Alan Freed, the disc jockey who became famous for coining the term “rock and roll” to describe the rhythm and blues records he was broadcasting, began what would become a revolutionary radio career in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1942. By 1951 Freed was in Cleveland, Ohio and working in television. Record Rendezvous owner Leo Mintz urged Freed to host a radio program featuring black rhythm and blues, based on the increasing number of white teenagers buying “race records” at his store. On July 11, 1951 Freed began hosting what he called the "Moondog's Rock 'n' Roll Party," with Freed himself as the "Moondog." The popularity of the program quickly grew and, by March of 1952, Freed was promoting his own Moondog Coronation Ball concert, recognized by many as the first rock and roll concert ever held. The concert was oversold and between 15,000-20,000 teenagers attempted to fill the Cleveland venue with a seating capacity of only 12,500. The concert was quickly shutdown, and Freed’s notoriety grew, leading to a job offer from WINS in New York, which was changing its programming format to rock and roll.
Once in New York, Freed’s popularity and influence continued to grow. He engaged in the common practice of accepting payments or writing credits to get air time for certain records (as Freed did for Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene”). This would become known as “payola” and was Freed’s ultimate downfall. But, at WINS from 1954-1958, Freed enjoyed a success that few disc jockeys ever achieved. He promoted live shows, was interviewed in print and on television, starred in films, and hosted a television dance show and his own radio show. Then in 1959 he was fired by WABC for refusing to sign a “practices in the selection of music for broadcast affidavit,” stating that he never accepted incentives for playing records. In early 1960, he was indicted on 26 counts of commercial bribery in the State of New York. He would ultimately plead guilty to two counts, receive a suspended sentence, and pay a $300 fine.
Freed never again enjoyed the success or influence he had in the 1950s, moving from radio station to radio station in California and Florida, and eventually died due to complications from alcoholism. Regardless, his reputation as a pioneer in the history of radio, and rock and roll in particular, remains intact. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 1986 and into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988. Finally in 2002, as part of an exhibit dedicated to the “Architects of Rock and Roll,” Alan Freed’s ashes were interred at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Alan Freed Biography." Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Accessed June 1, 2010. http://rockhall.com/inductees/alan-freed/bio/.
Fong-Torres, Ben. “Alan Freed Biography.” Accessed June 1, 2010. http://www.alanfreed.com/biography.html
“Freed, Alan.” eNotes. Accessed June 21, 2010. http://www.enotes.com/contemporary-musicians/freed-alan-biography.
The Alan Freed Collection was received by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. as a gift from Judith Fisher Freed on August 29, 2002.
Commercial recordings and publications have been transferred to the library collection. Please search for the "Alan Freed Collection" in the library catalog for a list of donated titles. If you are unable to find what you are looking for, consult the Library and Archives staff to ensure these materials are available. Some items are on exhibit. These items are noted at the item level. Consult the Library and Archives staff in advance of your visit for additional information.
Processed by James A. Kohler, Project Archivist. Completed February 2, 2011. Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS and local processing manual. Additional processing by Justin Seidler, Intern. Completed July 19, 2012.
Collection is open for research. Patrons must sign the Acknowledgment of Legal Responsibility and Privacy Rights statement on the Researcher Registration form before using this collection. Some of the materials in the collection are confidential and, therefore, are RESTRICTED. Redacted access copies of the confidential documents are available in the collection. Some of the audiovisual materials in the collection are on defunct media formats and, therefore, are RESTRICTED. Access copies of these materials may have to be created prior to use. Some of the materials in the collection are RESTRICTED due to their size and storage. Contact the staff of the Library and Archives prior to scheduling an appointment to ensure access to these materials can be provided.
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
Click on the links below to see more items in the catalog on these topics.
Freed, Judith Fisher
Haley, Bill, 1925-1981
Library and Archives
Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives
- Disc jockeys
Music trade--United States
Rock music--To 1961
Rock music--United States
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