Mr. Rock ‘N Roll: The Alan Freed Story
Originally airing on NBC Television in 1999, this made for TV movie tells the story about the famous radio DJ Alan Freed who is credited as being the man who coined the phrase “Rock & Roll”. Back in 1951, the radio was king and the music scene was growing rapidly in the Rhythm & Blues genre but the times found it being seperated from the stations primarily listened to by a white audience and not getting any airplay whatsoever. The film takes some clear liberties in how Freed actually started his adventuring into the Rock & Roll sound I am sure, but the film is entertaining enough to make it something enjoyable to watch. Played by Judd Nelson, the film shows Freed as someone very genuine about the music he was helping to grow. They show him rising to great notoriety rather quickly but this is probably based on the constraints of this being a television film. We see Freed meet his sweetheart Jackie McCoy who becomes his wife and mother of his children. She is played by the lovely Madchen Amick who is apparently now a star of the current cable show “Californication”.
We watch as initially Freed’s efforts were met with considerable hesitation, and after all this was based on the white audience considering the Rhythm and Blues sound as something only the colored people listened to. Fortunately for everyone involved he didn’t let that stop him and as he observed the kids from his area buying up the new sound he kept on promoting it. We see him setting up area shows to showcase the talent and eventually taking his act to the big and small screen. I liked some of the premise on how he worked his angle and telling people that if he liked it he would play it, and if he didn’t that he would not. Clearly the radio DJ back in this time ruled the roost and were pivotal in some acts rising to amazing heights while others faded into obscurity. The film also stars singer Paula Abdul and gives us a decent representation of a number of the times biggest acts. Among the bands we get to enjoy music from are Frankie Lymon, Jackie Wilson, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley & The Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and Little Richard. I liked getting to see the “live concert” settings as they were reenacted since the players seemed to be pretty good at bringing those legends to life for the small screen.
I had to say that while this didn’t seem to be the most historically accurate film that it was still a lot of fun to watch and the characters are played well enough to be considered convincing. A clear downside is the editing where the commercials were originally placed as the viewer can see where each one was based on how the film cuts back and forth. If you are a Judd Nelson fan or someone who is interested in the Alan Freed story then this is a worthwhile purchase or rental for you to look into.
Learn more about the legendary Alan Freed via his Wikipedia entry: HERE