November 21, 1959: Alan Freed, Originator of the Term “Rock and Roll” is Fired from His Job as a DJ!

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A Brief History

On November 21, 1959, music DJ and rock and roll legend Alan Freed was fired by WABC in New York for refusing to sign a statement that he had never taken “payola,” bribes from record companies to play and promote certain records.

Digging Deeper

Freed is credited with being the man who popularized the term “rock and roll” while he worked as a DJ and song promoter in Cleveland.  In the 1950s, he appeared in movies that brought rock to the big screen, and he even had his own television show similar to what American Bandstand later became.  Sadly, his television show was cancelled after only 4 episodes because Frankie Lymon of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers could be seen dancing with a white girl in a crowd scene!

After his 1959 firing, he became a broken man, unable to get another high profile job.  In 1962, he was charged with bribery and was convicted of 2 counts, receiving a fine and suspended sentence.  Three years later, at age 43, he died of uremia and cirrhosis, probably from alcoholism.

Alan Freed is fondly remembered by the rock and roll community and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with the first group of inductees in 1986.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Wolk, Andy, dir.  Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Alan Freed Story.  Eagle Rock, 2009.  DVD.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.