Sunday, August 3, 2014

Alan Freed, the Heart of Rock and Roll, Booted From the Building In Cleveland

"A dog bays.

"A chugga-chugga rhythm begins. The dog howls again. A liquid metronome begins ticking…From the near distance, a voice, casual, conversational, materializes. The volume increases as he asks, “All ready to rock? Atta boy. We’re gonna have a ball. Saturday night again…”

"Then, facing the microphone full-on, with the rhythm and the dog still going behind him, the announcer speaks, at a quickening clip:

“'Hello, everybody. How y’all? This is Alan Freed, the old King of the Moondoggers, and a hearty welcome to all our thousands of friends in northern Ohio, Ontario, Canada, western New York, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia. Along about eleven-thirty, we’ll be joining the Moondog network…Good old Erin Brew, formula ten-oh-two, northern Ohio’s largest-selling beer, makes it possible for us to be with you a whole extra half hour on Saturday nights. Pop the cap, have a good ball. Enjoy Erin brew, ten-oh-two, and the Moondog Show!'”

--Ben Fong-Torres, Biography of Alan Freed,

Alan Freed's ashes were first brought to Cleveland from the Ferncliff Memorial Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York, where they had been interred since his death at age 43 in 1965. Then, twelve years ago, the remains were moved to the Rock and Roll Hall. His cremains were originally buried inside a wall at the Hall, but later moved to their public but low-key display at the request of the family.

Lance Freed, Alan's son, said, "After a lot of discussion with my family about putting the ashes on display in 2002, we thought, 'this is appropriate, my dad would gave been happy and amused by this because he's a public figure.'"

At the time, then Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart told The Plain Dealer: "I'm sure some people will find it unusual and others might find it morbid. It's certainly appropriate in a rock 'n' roll sense to have his final resting place here."

But now, Lance Freed says his dad 
is no longer welcome in the Rock Hall. 

(Laura DeMarco. "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Evict Ashes of Alan Freed, DJ Who 
Gave Birth to Rock 'n' Roll, Son Says. The Plain Dealer. August 2, 2014)

Plain Dealer Arts and Entertainment Reporter Laura DeMarco relates the following:

"Lance Freed says he was told several months ago by Rock Hall President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Harris that he would have to 'immediately' remove his father's ashes, which had been on display since 2002, from the building.

"He said, 'look Lance, there's something strange, people walk past the exhibit and your dad's ashes and they scratch their heads and can't figure out what this thing is, and we'd like you to come pick up the ashes.'"

(Laura DeMarco. "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ousts DJ Alan Freed's Ashes, 
Adds Beyonce's Leotards." The Plain Dealer. August 02, 2014)

Harris said that museums today are leaning away from displaying items like ashes and other things, unless there is a medical context.

Of course, all good rock and roll historians understand that the main reason the Rock Hall was erected in Cleveland was that Alan Freed started playing R&B records on his Cleveland radio show in 1951, a time when stations that targeted white listeners ignored black artists. It was there he popularized the term "rock and roll" as a DJ in the 1950s and hosted what is considered the first rock 'n' roll concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, in 1952 at the Cleveland Arena.

It seems quite a controversy has developed about just how Freed's urn came to public light in the museum. Harris said that the original request to put the urn on view actually came from the Freed family.

"We planned on returning them all along,'' Harris said. 

Lance Freed says he was told by Harris that the Freed exhibit, minus the urn, would be moved to the lower level Ahmet Ertegun hall as part of a chronological history of rock 'n' roll.

"It's pushing him to the side," says Freed, "It's making him part of the passing parade, rather than a place where people can say 'hey this is the guy who helped start it all.'"

Freed said he believed his father's exhibit is being downsized and moved to another area of the museum, but Harris said it is not being changed beyond removal of the gold urn. For example, a pair of his iconic microphones will remain on display. Also, the museum will continue to carry the "Freed" name on its radio studio and display a Moondog Coronation Ball plaque.

(Laura DeMarco. "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Evict Ashes of Alan Freed, DJ Who Gave Birth to Rock 'n' Roll, Son Says. The Plain Dealer. August 2, 2014)

But Alan Freed is not leaving town again, says Lance.

The Freed family will spend the next several weeks deciding where in Cleveland to take the urn, his son said. They want to "create some sort of modest memorial where people who want to pay respect, or reflect," can visit, he said.

"We're looking for a Cleveland cemetery for his remains. Once we find one, then we'll have a public service. This is going to be my father's final resting place. I want to make sure in his death he gets the respect he deserves because he didn't in the last years of his life. I want to protect his legacy and memory."

Freed was part of the first class of Rock Hall inductees in 1986.
“Without his early pioneering efforts in the city of Cleveland and beyond, there would be no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or Museum here,” Lance Freed said. “Without being overly dramatic about it, my father literally died, heartbroken and penniless as a result of the persecution he suffered at the hands of the FBI, the IRS and other law enforcement agencies for his uncompromising dedication to and advocacy of the music.”

("Alan Freed to Leave the Rock Hall." WTAM 1100 Radio. August 3, 2014)

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