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Raised in Windber, Pennsylvania, Alan Freed was a disc jockey who came up with the term "Rock & Roll" in the 1950s. This term described the music he was broadcasting on his radio show which consisted of a Black, up-beat rhythm and blues tempo. The popularity of this term and the music he associated it with grew through these radio broadcasts. It resulted in the first Rock & Roll concert in the nation.

Alan Freed Historical Marker

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Alan Freed Historical Marker Location

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Alan Freed

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Alan James Freed was born on December 15, 1922, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was one of three children to his mother, Maude, and his father, Charles. At the age of 12 in 1933, the Freed family packed up their belongings in Johnstown and moved to the adjacent state of Ohio, where they resided in Salem. Freed attended Salem High School, and during his time there, he created a band called The Sultans of Swing where he played the trombone.

Upon graduating high school in 1940, Alan Freed attended the Ohio State University to study engineering, and this is where his radio interest had sparked. He then joined the United States Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time, he was assigned to ski patrol, but his serious ear infection later led to a discharge from his assignment. After finishing his master's degree in 1942, Freed was working as a government military inspector back in his home of Salem, Ohio. During this time, he met his first wife and got married.

After his interest in radio and broadcasting was sparked at the beginning of his college career, he decided to enroll in a night class to learn more about the subject of broadcasting in Youngstown, Ohio. This class earned him some jobs at a few small radio stations in Ohio: WKST (1942), WKBN (1942), and WAKR (1945). A few years later in 1949, he earned his first job in television at WXEL-TV in Cleveland, Ohio. A year later, Freed desired higher pay from the radio station he was working at, WAKR, but since he did not get the raise, he moved onto a new station in Akron, Ohio, WADC. He then moved back to Cleveland.

In July of 1951, Leo Mintz signed off on an offer for Alan Freed to play rhythm and blues records at the record store Record Rendezvous. Freed was the first to create these programs for a white teenage audience, and eighteen months later, it was the top radio show in Cleveland. Freed later decided to break the prejudice of the sexist terms of rhythm and blues in the Black community and change the name to "Rock and Roll". The phrase came about after a Black music group, The Dominoes, used it in their song "Sixty Minute Man", and the name stuck in Freed's head.

Alan Freed hosted a coronation ball in 1952 in Cleveland and named his show "Moondog's Rock 'n' Roll Party". The crowd of his show was predominantly white, but yet, multiple Black groups were of those performing. Freed then started his own record label called Champagne Records. The first group signed by Freed was Crazy Sounds (later called the Moonglows). In April of 1953, Freed got into a car crash as a result of falling asleep behind the wheel. His injuries were severe and was lucky to survive, but it only left him about 10 years to live if he stopped drinking, which he did not.

In 1957, Freed got his own show dedicated to his Rock and Roll music on ABC. Three years later, Freed was then charged with tax evasion by the IRS, and as a result of being broke, he relocated to multiple different cities until he ended up in Palm Springs, California. He was admitted to the hospital due to uremia, and at age 43 on January 20, 1965, Alan Freed died of cirrhosis. Freed was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Jackson, John A. Big Beat Head: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock and Roll. New York: Schirmer Books; Toronto: Collier Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1991.

"Alan Freed", History of Rock. Accessed December 13th 2021.

Fischer, Jr., William. Alan Freed Historical Marker, The Historical Marker Data Base. August 12th 2009. Accessed December 13th 2021.

Alan Freed, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Accessed December 13th 2021.

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