The Struggle of Early Rock and Roll
By Mike Crum


Mr. Rock and Roll: The Alan Freed Story was directed by Andy Wolk and released in 1999. The film stars Judd Nelson as Alan Freed. The film tells the life of Cleveland, Ohio deejay Alan Freed and his impact to rock and roll music in the 1950’s. Mr. Rock and Roll provides a picture of the rock and roll music scene during the 1950’s in America. Some of the artists that were popular during this time period include Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. This film shows how rock and roll music began and how it became so popular in American culture. Rock and roll music began with Alan Freed’s radio program because it was the first time that rock and roll music had been played on the airwaves and heard by the public.

Mr. Rock and Roll: The Alan Freed Story gives viewers insight into the phenomenon of rock and roll music during its beginning years in the 1950’s. The film looks at all aspects of rock and roll music, from the artists who were making it, the record companies who were producing it, to the parents who were outraged by the sound and lyrics of rock and roll music. Mr. Rock and Roll explains how it was unknown if rock and roll music would be popular for a long time or if it was just a trend in American popular culture. The film clarifies Alan Freed’s influence on the beginning of rock and roll music and how he made rock and roll popular throughout the United States. By showing different sides of the early days of rock and roll music, Mr. Rock and Roll illuminates one stage of development in American popular music.

The music included in Mr. Rock and Roll: The Alan Freed Story reveals the originality of rock and roll music during the 1950’s. Throughout the film, music excerpts showcase the artists that helped rock and roll become popular. For example, during the film, Jerry Lee Lewis performs his song “Great Balls of Fire” live. Other artist like Little Richard and Buddy Holly are also shown performing songs live in the film. The footage of live performances allows the audience to see the madness surrounding these artists while they were performing their songs live.

The film also shows the racial tension in America during this time and how Alan Freed helped to bring people of African American and White race together. At the beginning of this film there is a scene where a concert is taking place and there is a side for White people and a side for African American people. After Alan Freed helped to promote some rock and roll shows, the audience was no longer segregated by race. Alan Freed brought people together through rock and roll music and wanted the audience at concerts to be integrated and enjoy a rock and roll performance.

The characters in Mr. Rock and Roll: The Alan Freed Story not only showed what was going on with rock and roll music, but also with 1950’s American culture. Judd Nelson, who played Alan Freed showed how determined Freed was to get rock and roll music out to the American people. The story also showed how much adversity Freed had to face from parents who did not appreciate his efforts to let their children listen to rock and roll music. The artist who helped make rock and roll music popular would have been better depicted in the film if the actual artist had appeared instead of actors playing their roles.
Mr. Rock and Roll: The Alan Freed Story illustrated how difficult it was to make rock and roll music popular, and how Alan Freed was able to get rock and roll music to the masses through his radio program. The film showed how rock and roll music helped to bring down racial barriers in America. Other films about rock and roll like Rock Around The Clock (1956) and Almost Famous (2000) focus more on the glamour of rock and roll and the crazy lifestyle that rock artist have. These films fail to spotlight the formation of rock and roll music as well as Mr. Rock and Roll.