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American Hot Wax (1978)

The story of Alan Freed, the pioneering disc jockey who was instrumental in introducing and popularizing rock 'n' roll in the 1950s.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Carl Weaver ...
Member of The Chesterfields (as Carl Earl Weaver)
Member of The Chesterfields
Sam Harkness ...
Member of The Chesterfields
Arnold McCuller ...
Member of The Chesterfields
Lennie Richfield
Moosie Drier ...
Artie Moress
John Lehne ...
D.A. Coleman
Jack Edward Ellis ...
Richard Forbes ...
Stephen Pearlman ...
Peter Overmyer


This is the story loosely based on Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed, who introduced rock 'n' roll to teenage American radio audiences in the 1950s. Freed was a source of great controversy: criticized by conservatives for corrupting youth with the "devil's music"; hated by racists for promoting African American music for white consumption; persecuted by law enforcement officials and finally brought down by the "payola" scandals. Written by Martin Lewison <lewison+@pitt.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


1959. New York City. The battleground was Rock and Roll. It was the beginning of an era. You shoulda been there.


Drama | History | Music


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 March 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

American Hot Wax - kuumaa vahaa  »

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Did You Know?


First movie that featured the real-life character of radio disc jockey Alan Freed. Freed would appear in a number of rock 'n' roll history biopics and movies over the years including Cadillac Records (2008), Who Do You Love (2008), Ray (2004) [Ray Charles], La Bamba (1987) [Ritchie Valens], and Great Balls of Fire! (1989) [Jerry Lee Lewis]. See more »


TV newscasts were not regularly televised in color in 1959. See more »


Chuck Berry: You know, rock and roll has been pretty good to me. I think I'll dedicate this one to it.
See more »


Referenced in Grindhouse (2007) See more »


Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
Written by Frankie Lymon, Herman Santiago and Jimmy Merchant
Performed by The Chesterfields
See more »

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User Reviews

Rock & Roll is here to Stay it will never Die
13 May 2005 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

Looking more like a young and slimmed down Rush Limbaugh then the legendary pioneer Rock & Roll DJ the late Tim Mcintire, who ironically died in 1986 at almost the same age that Freed passed away some twenty years earlier. "American Hot Wax" is tragic as well as prophetic story about Alan Freed who more then anyone else put Rock & Roll on the map and made the saying,like the song says,"Rock & Roll is here to Stay" a reality.

Mcintire in the best performance of his career gives it all he's got as Alan Freed and comes across, despite his obvious non-resemblance to Alan Freed, as good as Freed ever was on the silver screen in a number of films that he stared in. The movie starts at the hight of Freed's popularity in 1959 as he's getting together a number of top Rock & Roll singers and groups to appear at the Brooklyn Paramount for his first anniversary Rock & Roll show.

The local authorities as well as the big wigs in the record industry have had in in for Freed since he came on the scene back in 1952 in Clevelend. It was then when Freed first coined the word Rock & Roll and, according to them and the blue noses of that time, corrupted the American youth with that wild and uncontrollable music.

The movie has the theater raided by the police because it was declared a fire hazard and Freed arrested and the entertainers dragged off the stage as the thousands of Rock & Roll fans go wild. The movie "American Hot Wax" briefly touched on the payola scandal of 1959-1960 that in reality was the real reason for Freed's downfall not the wild scene at the Brooklyn Paramount at the end of the movie.

Freed never played a record that he didn't like payola or not and took money to play the records that he liked unsolicited thinking that it was just part of being a DJ on the radio. The fact that Alan Freed wouldn't sign a statement that he never took payola, which was untrue, had him fired from the WABC radio station that he worked for in 1960. Later Freed, after having brief jobs as a DJ in L.A and Miami on stations KDAY & WQAM, was blackballed out of the music business altogether.

Hit with charges by the IRS in March 1964 for back taxes Alan Freed, who was already at that time both unemployed and unemployable, went into a tailspin as his drinking got out of hand and he died in a California hospital, broke and forgotten, of kidney failure on January 20, 1965, Freed was 43 years old.

There was one irony to Freed's life, and death, that really sticks out and makes you think if there's truly such a thing as fate and destiny. Exactly three months to the day that Alan Freed died on April 19, 1965 the radio station that Alan Freed made synonymous with himself and into the flagship radio station in playing the music that he loved and died for in the fabulous 1950's. Freed's old station 1010 WINS New York changed it's policy of playing Rock & Roll, or any other type of, music by becoming the first radio station in the nation to go all news all the time, an all-news network, which it still is today. April 19, 1965 was for all intents and purposes "The Day the Music Died" on 1010 WINS.

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