Famed DJ and concert producer Alan Freed is widely credited with coining the phrase in 1951. Freed led an interesting life, bringing what we now call “rock and roll” to the masses. Unfortunately, he’s equally famous for his role in the payola scandal of the 1960s.
But, hey, let’s focus on the good times, huh? According to several sites, Freed got the term “rock and roll” from a group called “The Dominoes” who used it in their hit song, “Sixty Minute Man.” The song’s rather suggestive lyrics apparently spoke to Mr. Freed. He soon began referring to “rhythm and blues” as “rock and roll” on the air.
But why did Freed bother with a new phrase when “rhythm and blues” was the real deal? The reasons had to with race. In the early ’50s, it was considered taboo for white people to listen to R&B either in person or on the radio. In order to make it more acceptable, Freed gave what was essentially the same music a different name. More listeners meant more money. It’s as simple as that.