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. Accrual added by James A. Kohler, Project Archivist. Completed September 7, 2011. Additional processing by Justin Seidler, Intern. Completed July 19, 2012.
[Identification of item], Alan Freed Collection, Library and Archives, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Alan Freed Collection spans the years 1918 to 2002, 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 to the recording and broadcasting industries in the 1950s and early 1960s, the resulting “Payola” scandal, and its long-lasting effects.
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.
Freed, Judith Fisher. Alan Freed. Accessed October 10, 2011. http://www.alanfreed.com.
Jackson, John A. Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll. New York: Schirmer Books, 1991.
Accruals to the collection are located in Series VII.
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.
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.
Related materials providing content on Alan Freed may be found in the following collections in this repository: Big Beat Heat Collection, Big Beat Scrapbook, Dr. Rosario Cambria Collection, Collection on Alan Freed, Collection on Alan Freed (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Collection), Terry Stewart Collection. Related materials may also be found in other collections that constitute a part of the Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives.
The Alan Freed Collection was received by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. as a permanent loan from Judith Fisher Freed on August 29, 2002. An accrual to the Alan Freed Collection was received by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. from Judith Fisher Freed on August 30, 2011.
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
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. Series VII: 2011 Accruals is CLOSED until a signed gift agreement can be secured from the donor. 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.
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