Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Alan Freed - The Man Who Gave the World Rock and Roll

     While it was the various artists who wrote the songs and entertained the masses, it was Alan Freed who gave these artists the forum to bring their art to the fans of rock and roll.
     Albert James Freed was born in Pennsylvania on December 15, 1951. When he was twelve his family moved to Salem, Ohio. Freed always had a keen interest in music. Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw were among the artists he enjoyed. While in high school, Freed played trombone in a band he formed, called the Sultans of Swing.
     When Freed finished high school he had given up on a career in music. He enrolled at Ohio State University to study mechanical engineering. While at Ohio State, he was exposed to their radio station, and fell in love with radio. He left Ohio State and embarked on a career which would change the world.
     Freed began his radio career at a small station in Pennsylvania. Next, he returned to Ohio to do some sportscasting for a Youngstown station. In 1945 he landed a job at WAKR in Akron, where he played jazz and pop music. He soon became a local celebrity due to his unique style and obvious love for his fans and their music. Freed became wildly poular with the teenagers in Akron. He garnered an amazing 60 percent share of the local radio market. Freed played his show in front of a live studio audience of about 70 dancing teenagers. He played jazz and big band swing as well as pioneers of rhythm and blues such as Louis Jordan. Freed was an active participant in his shows. He didn't just announce the record and play it, he would sometimes sing along with the record, or bang on a phone book with his hands keping time with the rhythm. He hired a local 17-year-old piano player, Erich Schrader, who played in a boogie woogie style. Freed and Schrader would both play along with some records, with Freed on his trombone. Freed would often say to Schrader, "are you ready to rock and roll," or "let's rock," just before they started jammin' with the record. This was in 1946, and it was the first time the term rock and roll was used in association with the new music which was becoming all the rage.
     However, this was not the first time the term was used. I will talk about this in my next blog. Meanwhile, drop me a line and tell me about your experiences with rock and roll, and how it has influenced your life. Who is your favorite rock artist, and when did you first hear them?

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