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For Alan Freed's 1957 "Go, Johnny Go" movie

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Payola: then & now, illegal & legal When the rock and roll format first hit radio in the mid 50's, disc jockeys had the privilege of programming, playing, their own choice of records. This set the climate for payola as record companies sent out promoters to visit radio stations, large and small. Money, drugs and sex were exchanged for plays, especially "frequent rotation."

When the feds (FBI, IRS) investigated and charged jocks, record company execs, and radio station suits with illicit payoffs and tax evasion, the "program director" bluff was set in place as. by the early 60's, music formats were moving over to the FM side. Even stations which killed rock & roll at the chasm of the busts discovered ratings going to the basement with the important demographics, kids 14-16, young adults 17-30. Now, the format was "top 40" in major markets such as New York, Chicago and LA. New records would have to "break out" in smaller markets...supposedly.

Law enforcement insisited it had quashed Payola. Freed was off the air on any significant radio station, save a 250 watter in Miami (most of us could sneeze further than their signal). Clark was questioned by the senate and found "clean." Radio stations and record companies purportedly learned their lesson...or have they?

Today, major radio station "chains" (Clear Channel, CBS, Radio One, Greater Media, et al) charge record companies and indie producers "audition fees" for the program director to listen to a new release. It's legal by the books, but is it ethical?

Noteworthy: The feds could find only one radio program director who was absolutely adverse to Payola. His name was Rick Sklar and he was P.D. for one of the largest audience radio stations in the world, WABC 770 (Musicradio77) in New York. When any record promoter hinted at a payoff, Sklar ordered him out of his office. If the dude was persistent, Sklar would have him bodily removed by security huskies. Even a female artist, whom we cannot name but who left a popular singing duo (no, not Cher, long before) entered Sklar's office in a slinky tiger dress with a thigh high slit (supposedly promoting a similar themed song). she was ejected by guards who were not impressed. Next: Alan's bio.

Alan Freed head shot About Alan Freed He was born Aldon James Freed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, December 15, the son of Charles Sydney Freed, a clothing store salesperson, a Jewish man who emigrated from Lithuania, and mother Maude Palmer Freed, who nicknamed her son 'Albert.'
When Aldon Freed was preteen, his family moved to Salem, Ohio. Young Aldon Freed loved music and played the trombone in high school. He formed The Sultans Of Swing band that played local gigs.

At Ohio State University he continued to lead the Sultans of Swing while majoring in mechanical engineering. Freed left ODU in September, 1940 to join the Army Signal Corps, where he served as a photographer. During his stint in the military he contracted a severe ear infection, which impaired his hearing and effectively ended his dream of becoming a major name bandleader ;ole Glenn Miller or Duke Ellington, whose music Freed loved. . Discharged from the military, Freed went looking for a job in radio broadcasting. He landed a job at WKST-AM in New Castle, a classical music station. Although Freed later gained fame and be enamored to rock and roll, he also appreciated classical music and opera.. His post at WKST lasted only about four months, 'Alan Freed' moved on to WKBN-AM Radio in Youngstown, Ohio, a mixed format station.

In 1949 Freed started a television career on WXEL-TV in Cleveland to host a teenage dance show. The show was canceled after 26 weeks by new station management. Freed returned to radio, hosting again classical music program on WJW Radio in Cleveland. While in Cleveland, Freed became friends with Leo Mintz, a local record store owner who clued Freed to the growing popularity of R&B (then called 'Race Music' by industry establishment). White teenagers were flocking to Mintz's store to buy these so-called "race records," which had previously been sold almost exclusively in black ghetto areas. (If the songs moved up the R&B charts, labels like Dot records (the most nefarious for, owned by Lawrence Welk and son in-law Randy Wood), Coral (Theresa Brewer's label) and Camden, an RCA subsidiary, would release "white" (pop) versions; i.e. Pat Boone's awful covers of Ain't That A Shame, Tutti FruittiM The Crew Cuts cover of The Chord's Sh Boom and The McGuire Sister;s droning cover to Pookie Hudson & The Spaniels Goodnight, Sweetheart on and on. Mintz convinced Freed that it just made good sense to start playing the original R&B versions on the air.

In mid-1951, with Mintz's support, Freed launched a new program on WJW-AM, Moondog's Rock 'n' Roll Party. The course of rock and roll would be changed forever, to the dismay of bigots.. Freed was the first to use the term "rock 'n' roll" to describe the R&B-inspired music. (In the lyrics of "Sixty-Minute Man," by the Dominos, used the words rock and roll as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, as was the song's title.

The popularity of Moondog led to Freed staging live rock & roll concerts and presenting many r&b acts on stage, who previously never played to a predominantly white audience. This ired the "establishment" and some believe this was the reason Freed was gone after so vehemently in the Pay For Play music industry investigations.

"1010-wins," (WINS-AM) radio in New York City, first reluctant to hire Alan Freed, especially as Moondog, rethought their decision as they lost listeners to booming "Musicradio" WABC. . In 1954 Freed quadrupled the station's ratings with his, Alan Freed's Rock 'n' Roll Party weekday and Saturday nights. In only a few months the show was number one in its time slot. Capitalizing on the popularity of his show and the music it featured, Freed staged a number of live Rock & Toll shows at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater, so well re-created in the Freed biopix, American Hot Wax, He also appeared in movies including Don't Knock the Rock, Rock Around the Clock, Rock, Rock, Rock.

Freed shared writing credits on a number of records, including Chuck Berry's big hit "Maybelline" and the Moonglows' "Sincerely," but it's suspected he contributed little or nothing to the songs and that the credits were given to ensure airplay. This made Alan Freed a prime suspect in the federal payola investigation (see second article below) In 1957, the ABC outlet in New York (WABC-TV ch7) gave Alan his show, Rock 'n' Roll Party, which, like Phillie WPHL-TV's American Bandstand went network, unlike Dick Clark's legendary success, Freed's show only lasted for less than a full season. The network suits popped buttons over the Freed airing when Frankie Lymon danced on camera with a white girl.

Alan Freed and Channel 5 in New York Freed went to Metromedia owned WNEW-TV (formerly the flagship WABD Dumont Metwork station). In the local metro New York ratings, Alan's Saturday night show on WNEW-TV, channel 5, 1958-59, (which is now WNYW Fox5) at times got higher numbers than Dick Clark's show, on the ABC network, seen locally on WABC-TV channel 7. Clark's Beech Nut Party aired 7:30 to 8:00PM, Freed's show 8:00 to 9:00PM. Remarkably, Clark didn't have to compete with prime time programming, Alan did and yet on some weeks got more ratings points. That wasn't good enough for Metromedia, who owned WNEW at the time. When Alan Freed refused to sign an FBI document acknowledging payola in the rock and roll music business, channel 5 axed his weekday and Saturday night shows. Alan was also fired from radio. Ironically, in top 40 music today, payola is "justified" by radio station program directors as an "audition fee." As American Hot Wax, the movie bio of Alan Freed tells us at the closing credits, Alan Freed died penniless in Miami. He worked for non-union apprentice pay at a small station unheralded.

Another Version At the height of his rock and roll radio and concert promoting career in 1957, Alan Freed cut a deal with WNEW-TV, channel 5 in New York after it's Du Mont network affiliation ended. Taken over by Metromedia, Gotham's "Lively Channel 5" gave Alan the 5PM to 6PM slot Monday through Friday (the slot after Dick Clark's American Bandstand ended on the ABC network on the east coast) and 8PM to 9PM slot on Saturday nights (after Clark's Beech Nut Show also ended on ABC) to run his dance and guest star stints. Freed and Metromedia had their first feud two weeks after The Big Beat began locally on channel 5; the issues were Freed smoking on camera and girl dancer's dresses flying up a bit too high (cited: a camera leer of a swing up move during jitterbug to Elvis' I Need Your Love Tonight record, allegedly at the host's direction. Freed denied calling the shot and blamed it on director Vern Diamond). Freed stopped puffing Camels on air and the cameras became more discreetly angled, but the big brouhau came in 1959 with the federal Payola investigation. Among other allegations, Freed was cited for accepting a gold watch from singer Jackie Wilson which Freed had already admitted to on air. The FBI wanted a signed document and there was never other more lucrative inducements from any recording artist or label. When Freed refused to co-operate with the feds, Metromedia dropped him as host of The Big Beat and replaced him (after trying out several hosts) with an Irish tenor, Richard Hayes. Hayes drew favorably with teen parents, but not with teens, especially when the show swung from rock and roll to jazz show tunes. Metromedia dropped the show, Sandy Becker's kiddie cartoon show was expanded from 6 to 6:30 to 5 until 6:30 until Al Hodges decided to dust off his Captain Video suit. Alan Freed had also been dropped by his radio stations and had to spend the remainder of his life working for a pittance at a low power AMer in Miami. As noted in American Hot Wax, Freed died penniless and heartbroken. Critics say he did it to himself. Fans say it was an FBI/IRS and media vendetta.


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1.27.2013 dickliberatore, Las Vegas, NV Alan Freed died in Palm Springs, CA and not Miami. Alan was my father-in-law having married his daughter, Alana in March 1964.

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