Song Of The Day 1/29/2016: Alan Freed & His Rock and Roll Band – “Rock & Roll Boogie”

When DJs Sing (or Speak Over Musical Accompaniment) – Alan Freed did not invent rock and roll. Depending on the time of day and the moon cycle I'll claim rock and roll was invented by Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, Stephen Foster or Franz Listz. I believe after one night of misdirected dieting I made a case for the Order of Saint Benedict. While Freed did not invent the art form, he invented the term "rock and roll." Well... that's not really true, either. "Rock and roll" was already a slang term for sex in certain areas. But Freed abducted the phrase and applied it to music, with which it's forever connected, and we now refer to sex with the more dignified phrase "the Florida Strip Sear."

Freed was a DJ who brought rock and roll to the people, more precisely the teenagers, and helped accelerate the paranoia of drugs, alcohol, tardiness and Florida Strip Searing amongst a coalition of scared parents who never read about the Roman Empire. Some were particularly concerned that Freed was mixing the races at his shows, which should be of partial reassurance to those who think society has never been stupider than now. Since the game of rock and roll was so new, nobody was really sure what they were doing on the business end of the stick, which led to the big payola scandal of 1959. Technically payola wasn't illegal in New York where Freed worked (or in Pennsylvania), but everywhere else pop records were expected to become popular on the merits of its own artistry. Isn't that just adorable? Anyway, Freed got mixed up in all the court business, and although he was as honest about it to investigators as anybody in his position could be, he pled guilty and was fined $300. That was a lot of money back then. They were going to try him for tax evasion as well, but he got out of that by dying of cirrhosis on New Year's Day, 1965.

Forget that bum trip, though, let's go back to 1956 when Freed made a movie called Rock, Rock, Rock. It starred Tuesday Weld as a character in a film whose plot barely existed. Rock, Rock, Rock featured Freed, Chuck Berry, Teddy Randazzo, Lavern Baker, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and a bunch of other musicians who were the real focal point of the flick. As he must have felt was some sort of ordained duty, Freed assembled his own band with former Duke Ellington saxophonist "Big" Al Sears. They made a record called "Rock & Roll Boogie," which would have been a perfectly good instrumental had Freed not decided to sing lead on it. Freed's a bit awkward with his rhythm in this clip. He doesn't quite hit the downbeats as strongly as a good rock singer is supposed to. I'm not even sure Freed's singing is a voluntary act. It looks like he's just doing it because they didn't have the floor space for a dance troupe. His hand-clapping is relentless, though. As with all the other microphone coddlers we've featured this week, let's give him some credit.

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