Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cleveland Radio: Alan Freed Ashes Find Final Resting Place

Alan Freed
Rock 'n' roll is here to stay. And so now is Alan Freed, the disc jockey and showman who championed the music and popularized its name.

According to, on this Saturday, May 7, more than 51 years after his death, his ashes will get a final resting place and a granite monument will be unveiled to his memory in a 1 p.m. public ceremony at Lake View Cemetery.

"I think this is his homecoming," said his son Lance, who has spent months planning the event. "It's going to be the place where my father's finally going to come home and stop being the flying Dutchman.

"This isn't morbid — it's a celebration," he added. "I want people to enjoy it. The most important thing is that we have fun. It won't be his radio show, but it'll be as close to it as we can get."

Keynote speaker will be Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band, who suggested the still-undisclosed design of the granite memorial near the cemetery's Wade Chapel.

Singer Jimmy Clanton, who starred in the Freed-produced rock 'n' roll movie "Go Johnny Go," will speak and sing. He's probably best known for his hits "Just a Dream" and "Venus in Blue Jeans."

Also speaking will be Terry Stewart, former head of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and famed songwriter David Porter, whose Grammy-winning credits include Sam & Dave's "Soul Man," Mariah Carey's "Dreamlover" and Will Smith's "Get Jiggy Wit It."

The Drifters will perform, providing musical punctuation.

Alan Freed, who grew up in Salem, Ohio, and started his radio career in Akron, started playing rhythm and blues, then called race records, on Cleveland's WJW in 1951. His Moondog Coronation Ball, at the Cleveland Arena in 1952, is widely considered the first rock 'n' roll concert.

He moved in 1954 to New York, where he hosted a radio show that was syndicated nationally and a weekly TV show on ABC, was featured in four movies and mounted stage shows that toured dozens of cities.

But he was demonized for his embrace of music that was condemned as obscene or "an inciter of juvenile delinquency." Being caught up in the payola scandal of the early 1960s left him blackballed in New York.

He moved to the West Coast to revive his career, and he died at 43 in Palm Springs, California, on Jan. 20, 1965 — beginning another odyssey that will conclude at Lake View Cemetery.

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