Today in 1965, disc jockey Alan Freed died in California

In 1965, disc jockey Alan Freed, who helped spread rock ‘n’ roll music by playing black rhythm-and-blues records on his shows in Cleveland and New York, died of uremia in a hospital in Palm Springs, Calif. He was only 42 and a borderline alcoholic — a broken man because of his involvement in the payola scandals. In December 1962, he was fined $300 and given a suspended sentence on two counts of commercial bribery — accepting money for playing records. Three years earlier, he was the top disc jockey in the U.S. on New York station WABC, which fired him when he refused to sign a statement saying he had accepted bribes. Freed was facing charges of tax evasion when he died. He was said to have coined the term Rock ‘n’ Roll from the words to Bill Haley’s 1952 recording of “Rock A’Beatin’ Boogie.”

If you haven’t seen the American Hot Wax movie, loosely based on the beginning of rock and roll and Freed’s part, seek it out. Along with a spooky ending of a pre-fame “Little Richard” playing the garbage cans on the street, it’s one of my favourite movies of all time. While not a huge commercial success, seeing it in theatres as an 8-year-old, it was akin to some wide-eyed adults talk about watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. The inside of a radio station, the live gigs, the recordings, every element is here, and opened up a new world to me. Almost 25 years later, I end up working with Jerry Lee Lewis for his past few albums. That’s another tale: