Monday, April 23, 2012

Moondog Vs. Moondog

You all know the name Allan Freed. You know his rise and his fall and about the payola scandal and the whole sordid story.  You might even know that he sometimes referred to himself as "moondog" or "the moondog" and to his listeners as "moondoggers."  His show was "The Moondog House" the "Moondog Houseparty" or even "the Moondog Rock and Roll Party." The Moondog thing began around July of 1951 while he was still in Cleveland on 850 WJW-AM.

The problem began in 1954 when he got hired by 1010 WINS-AM. Actually he did a concert in Newark, NJ in advance of his move win WINS, "The Moondog Coronation Ball." But in New York City the name Moondog was already in use by Louis T. Hardin, a blind eccentric street musician who dressed like a viking. Hardin was no crazy hobo. He attended the Memphis Conservatory of Music. Hardin was a professional musician who'd already done work with film scores. He picketed WINS, Freed sued to scare him off. It didn't work. Hardin filed his own claim to defend his brand name. It was ugly.  Even Igor Stravinsky came to his defense. (You can read the documentation here.)  In his complaint he stated that Freed was inspired by an instrumental recording named the "Moondog Symphony" that he had written. This may seem apocryphal but Freed all but cops to it in the court transcript. I had initially assumed this to be untrue sine Hardin had only recorded four sides on 78 rpm by the suit in 1954. [more here] How WJW got copies I can't venture to guess.
Freed contended that his on-air name was "Moondog House" and that WJW actually had the rights to the term. He further claimed that his show was the Alan Freed show. Even more interesting is that WJW in getting the rights to the name "Moondog" used them to enjoin Freed from using the name when he left. But that was all in Cleveland. Hardin had been using the name Moondog since 1947 in New York. Despite the archaic definition of moondog (a synonym for moonbow) Hardin actually just took the name from a howling dog.

Freed lost. He was enjoined from using the name Moondog and had to pay damages to Hardin. He re-named his show during the trial to"The Alan Freed Rock and Roll Party." Moodog continued to dress like a viking, and to write and record eccentric music of no popular consequence. Freed's answers to some money questions in deposition would come back to haunt him later. Moondog ended up out living Freed by 34 years, but Freeds's fame appears to be outliving them both.