How the Term ‘Rock and Roll’ Came to Describe a Specific Genre of Music

Simon Whistler, host of the informative series “Today I Found Out” recounts the historic origins of the term “Rock and Roll”, noting its early religious and sexual connotations. Whistler also explains how a Cleveland, Ohio DJ named Alan “Moondog” Freed popularized the term to describe a specific genre of music.

…the phrase “rock and roll” was relatively well known among black Americans. …The term got its biggest global boost through a Cleveland, Ohio disk jockey named Alan Freed. Freed played early forms of rock and roll (mix of rhythm and blues and country music, primarily) on his radio show and called the mix “rock and roll”, a term he was previously familiar with from race records and songs such as “Rock and Rolling Mama” (1939) and “Rock and Roll” (there were three songs named this in the late 1940s). Freed was encouraged to call this mix of music “rock and roll” by his sponsor, record store owner Leo Mintz, who was trying to boost sales on race records by getting white shoppers to buy them.