I was a few months away from my third birthday when Alan Freed died in 1965. I was somewhere in my 30s the first time I heard Alan Cross’s outstanding radio series, The Ongoing History of New Music.
Both Alans have been big influences on my show, The Rock and Roll Riot.
Freed coined the term rock and roll in the early ’50s. He realized that white kids were looking for an alternative to the pleasant, inoffensive music favoured by their parents. Bing Crosby. Perry Como. Freed introduced those kids to the rhythm and blues of Big Joe Turner, The Dominoes and The Robins. Created rock and roll tours that were racially mixed. Became “Mister Rock and Roll.”
Took money in exchange for airplay, as many radio deejays at the time did and, because he was the best known rock and roll radio personality, Alan Freed became the scapegoat for the payola scandal of the ’50s.
Freed’s career was ruined.
He became an alcoholic, and that led to his death of uremia at the age of 43.
I like to think of Alan Freed as the patron saint of my show. As much as I love Elvis Presley I realize the important contributions of the African American singers and musicians who influenced him, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
So Alan Freed, you were the pioneer. I owe you a lot.
Alan Cross’s Ongoing History of New Music made its debut in 1993 on CFNY in Toronto (now called 102.1 The Edge). It was not a station I listened to so I can’t recall how and when I first heard the show but when I did, I was hooked.
I distinctly remember one episode devoted to Nine Inch Nails. I knew a few of their songs but I was not overly familiar with Trent Reznor and his band. But I kept listening to the show and, at the end of the hour, I felt it had been time well spent.
Why was that?
Cross mixed a love of music with research to create great radio. It was music journalism over the airwaves.
I’m not on the same level of Alan Freed or Alan Cross, but they gave me the template for the Rock and Roll Riot and for that I will be eternally grateful.