Where do we get the term rock and roll? Well, different people will tell you different things, but if they know what they’re talking about, they’ll probably mention two names – Alan Freed, and David C Rockola.
Now, for one of those names, the connection is pretty obvious. When he first started out, Mr. Rockola found that people constantly got his name wrong. They’d often place the stress on the first syllable to make it rhyme with holler, whereas it actually (half) rhymes with Coca Cola. That’s why he started using the hyphen, and people learned it soon enough! He quickly became such an influential force in the jukebox scene that his name became synonymous with a certain kind of music.
And so, the story goes, that’s part of how we got the term Rock and Roll. But we’ve also got another guy to thank for it – one Alan Freed, a man whose story entwines with ours in some quite interesting ways.
Sometimes referred to as the father of rock and roll, Alan Freed was a hugely popular Disc Jockey based in Cleveland, but beloved across America. He was the man first credited with using the term rock and roll to describe the emerging music phenomenon in the early 1950s. He used his platform as a local radio star and concert promoter to introduce R&B to wider audiences, helping to bridge racial divides in a time of widespread segregation in the States. (He had that in common with Elvis.) What’s more, it was Freed who put on the first-ever rock and roll concert in Cleveland Ohio. Alan Freed left a lasting legacy in his wake, and it’s one that we’ve been proud to help honor through the efforts of his son, Lance.
Lance Freed walked into our factory a few years ago with a unique request – he wanted to build a special headstone for his father’s grave. Our president Glenn Streeter was only too happy to help and supplied him with line drawings of a Bubbler jukebox. Lance used these as references to have a full-size jukebox etched in granite, complete with the Rock-Ola name. The result is truly something to see – Alan’s headstone proudly stands 5’ tall on a 1’ base, instantly recognizable even from a distance thanks to its distinctive rounded top. The backside features an image of our very own Rock-Ola Bubbler jukebox, while on the front an image of Alan himself grins out at onlookers, a cluster of records in his hands.
It’s pretty unusual for a cemetery, and we think Mr Rockola would have been proud. People even leave coins on the base of the headstone! Maybe they’re hoping it will play a tune…
Alan Freed is interred at Lake View Cemetery (12316 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106, United States) – so if you’re curious enough to want to see his very special grave for yourself, you can! As for jukeboxes, we’ve got plenty we think you’ll love right here at Rock-Ola. With their distinctively hypnotic aesthetics and an effortlessly smooth sound, they’re manufactured on site by our own talented craftsmen. Each one is a true icon, a piece of pure Americana, and they’re waiting for you to explore…