Albert James “Alan” Freed (December 15, 1921 – January 20, 1965) was an American disc jockey who produced and promoted large traveling concerts with ground-breaking acts, helping spread the importance of rock and roll music throughout North America and the world.
Albert James Freed is born on December 15 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, son of Charles Sidney Freed, a Russian Jewish immigrant and Maude Palmer Freed, from sturdy Welsh Protestant mining stock.
Freed is introduced to trombone at Salem High School. Freed organizes a band, Sultans of Swing, modeled after the Harlem orchestra, playing Blues or Dixieland at dance dates.
Freed enrolls in Ohio State to study journalism and engineering, but when he peers through the window of the campus radio station, “he was gone.”
Freed registers and is assigned to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, as a Signal Corps photographer on September 20, 1940. On army ski patrol, Freed comes down with double mastoiditis and is given Honorable Discharge on May 16, 1941
Freed lands his first big break with WKST New Castle, Pennsylvania, making $17 a week.
February 8: Alan Freed joins WKBN in Youngstown, Ohio, earning $42 a week. The station broadcasts overseas on Radio Luxembourg.
August 22: Freed marries Betty Lou Bean. They would go on to have two children, Alana and Lance.
INTRODUCING RHYTHM & BLUES
Freed becomes a sports announcer at WAKR Akron, Ohio. When the disk jockey scheduled for 11:15 p.m. music spot doesn’t show, Freed grabs a stack of records and covers the segment. The next day, the sponsor and station owner give Freed the show, which he names “Request Review.”
SUNDAY BAND STAND
Freed hosts premier of WAKR’s ‘Sunday Band Stand’ show.
December 2: Freed divorces Betty Lou.
February 11: Freed leaves WAKR for a better job, but a clause in his contract bans Freed from broadcasting within 75 miles of Akron for one year after leaving. After several Court appeals, Freed loses the legal contest.
August 12: Freed marries Jacqueline McCoy Hess in Toledo, Ohio. They would go on to have two children, Siegline and Alan Jr.
May: Forced to quit radio, Freed crosses over to WXEL-TV, then files a petition of bankruptcy to pay attorney’s fees.
MOONDOG CORONATION BALL
March 21: After returning to radio on WJW, Cleveland, Freed hosts the “Moondog Coronation Ball” at the Cleveland Arena. The venue’s 10,000 seat capacity is quickly exceeded, and a crushing mob of 25,000 breaks down doors and overwhelms the cops, prompting Freed to air a public apology the following day.
April 29: Freed survives an automobile crash into a tree, resulting in 200 facial stitches. For a brief time, Freed’s heart stopped.
NEW YORK DEBUT
August 10: After signing an agreement with WINS New York, at a yearly income of $75,000, Freed quits WJW, Cleveland and moves to the Big Apple.
LIVE STAGE SHOWS
Freed hosts a live stage show at the Brooklyn Paramount. Weekly earnings surpass $175,000.
Freed appears in the first of 5 motion picture movies: Rock, Rock, Rock!. Rock Around The Clock, Don’t Knock The Rock, Mister Rock And Roll, and Go, Johnny, Go! soon follow.
HIS OWN TV SHOW
Freed stars as host of ABC’s “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue,” premiering on April 10.
BOSTON ARENA RIOT
May 4: Freed hosts the post-show at the Boston Arena’s ‘Big Beat’ event. When Police refuse to dim the lights, Freed blurts: “I guess the police here in Boston don’t want you kids to have a good time,” and after fifteen persons are beaten and stabbed in the resulting chaos, all future appearances in other states are banned.
May 9: WINS Radio receives Freed’s resignation, stating, “I feel that you have failed to stand behind my policies and principles.”
May 16: Suffolk County Grand Jury indicts Freed “for unlawfully, wickedly and maliciously inciting to riot,” to which he pleads innocent and is released on $2,500 bail.
June 2: Freed airs on WABC radio.
July 25: Jackie obtains a Mexican divorce.
August 13: Freed marries Inga Lil Boling.
DROPPED BY WNEW-TV
November 23: WNEW-TV “Big Beat” weekly dance show, drops Freed, who signs off with, “This is not goodbye. It’s just goodnight, and we’ll see you soon.”
February 26: Court of Special Session of The City Of New York People VS Freed, for his allegedly accepting gratuities.
April 25: Freed appears at the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, in an executive session on “Payola and related deceptive methods in broadcasting.”
May 6: The People of The State of New York launch a formal case against Freed for commercial bribery in connection with alleged payola totaling $30,650, and soon after, New York Police arrest Freed
May 19: Along with Mel Leeds, Peter Tripp, and 5 other defendants, Freed receives a misdemeanor charge of commercial bribery.
HIRED IN LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles radio station, KDAY, hires Freed on May 28. In hopes of returning to live stage shows, Freed reaches out to artist managers, but is ignored.
HIRED IN MIAMI
September 1: Freed joins STORZ Broadcasting Station WQAM in Miami.
December 17: Under Penal Law, Section 439; Commercial Bribery, Freed pleads guilty to two of 26 counts, paying a $300 fine and receiving a suspended six-month jail sentence.
On March 16, the Federal government returns a three-count indictment against Freed for evading income taxes of $37,920.
END OF A CAREER
A short stint at KNOB Radio in Long Beach, California, marks the end of Freed’s radio career.
Januray 20: Freed’s life ends at the Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, California, at age 43.