Alan Freed (disk jockey, concert promoter; born December 15, 1921, died January 20, 1965)
Disk jockey Alan Freed is widely credited with coining the term “rock and roll” to describe the uptempo black R&B records he played as early as 1951 on Cleveland radio station WJW. Freed called himself “the Moondog” and billed his show as the “Moondog Rock ‘n’ Roll Party.” A tireless and enthusiastic advocate of the music he played, Freed kept time to his favorite records by beating his hands on a phone book. He called it rock and roll because “it seemed to suggest the rolling, surging beat of the music.” The Freed-sponsored 1952 Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland is believed to be the nation’s first rock and roll concert. After conquering Cleveland, he took his show to WINS New York. There, he further spread the gospel of rock and roll via TV, movies and the celebrated all-star shows he promoted at Brooklyn’s Paramount Theater. Those stage shows remain the essential rock and roll revues of the era.
Later, the tangled favors of this period would come back to haunt him in the payola scandals of the late Fifties. Amid the atmosphere of a witch hunt, Freed steadfastly maintained that he never played a record he didn’t like. Nonetheless, he was blackballed within the business and died a broken man in 1965.