Our World, February 1955 p. 64-66.
On one side is a blind musician, who says he's originator of the name.
For Radio listeners in New York and Cleveland who like their music hot and sweet, MOONDOC is the rage. That's one MOONDOG. However, there's another. Now the big question is which MOONDOG is which? Is it Allen Freed WINS up and coming disc jockey, or is it Louis Hardin, the blind musician-composer who claims he originated the name? The fireworks started when Hardin took the case to court. He sought an injunction to halt Freed and demanded damages in the amount of $ 100.000. Further complications came when outsiders started taking sides, adding more confusion to the muddle. To the uninitiated, it's all "Greek" but to bopsters, hep-cats, jazz hounds and the cool-ones, it's the most exciting thing since World War II. Here's what happened.
Long haired, bearded Louis Hardin claimed he wrote a piece of music called MOONDOG SYMPHONY. Through it, he became well known as MOONDOG. Hardin, who was blinded at 16 by an accident, says he studied at the Memphis Conservatory of Music. There he specialized in percussion instruments. He says he developed a novel style of music which was made into many records and albums. This, he calls "snake rhythm", which he says, "won acclaim from critics and artists such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and top drummer Louis Belson, all of whom have posed with me."
Weirdly dressed Hardin is a familiar sight on New York streets. He wears a self-made one-piece, hooded garment, fashioned from material resembling Army blanketing. This he wore to court. There, through his attorneys Hardin informed the judge that under the name of MOONDOG, he had conducted a radio program which featured his own original compositions on records and "mood music".
Target of Hardin's suit is Allen Freed, a newcomer to New York. He was once top disc jockey at WJW In Cleveland, appearing on a programm known as "The House of Moondoggers." All the while, this same program was tape recorded and aired on a New Jersey station. Last spring, Freed appeared in person at the Newark, N. J. Armory in a "Coronation Ball." The affair drew 11.000 howling fanatics. This was only one of many similar affairs at which Freed appeared.
Last fall, Freed joined WINS. His first broadcast was widely advertised as "King of the Moondoggers." Freed still used MOONDOG, and says the name was copyrighted by the Cleveland station, which in turn, gave him written permission to use it. Since then Freed has coined other names, MOONLADY, MRS. MOONDOG and MOONPUPPIES, among them.
According to Freed, he got the idea for the name MOONDOG through his interest in astronomy. He says amateur astronomers call each other "MOONDOGS". This Hardin says is not the case. But he doesn't explain where he got the name or idea.
When Hardin's lawyers demanded huge damages, Freed's lawyers howled he didn't earn that much. Hardin put Freed's WINS earnings at $ 75,000 annually, plus "other large sums" from theater appearances and dances.
Freed says he has a right to use the name. "Any radio entertainer is free to use the record MOONDOG SYMPHONY at any time, at any place or in any way he sees fit," he declared. "This record has been distributed nationally and was and is used on my radio shows as a 'sound effects' solely and has nothing to do with the name MOONDOG which I have given to my program for more than three years past."
Hardin denies this. The record MOONDOG SYMPHONY has never been licensed for broadcasting and bears a label which says, "Unauthorized public performance, broadcasting and copying of this record is prohibited."
Meanwhile, despite wide criticism, Freed's radio programs have gained and still show big inroads into other deejays' audiences. One group objects because "Freed plays dirty records" they say. Others disagree saying Freed is an enterprising fellow who introduces new ideas while other deejays stand pat. Freed plays blues and rhythm records. Of them he says, he has done more to popularize this style of music than any other deejay in the business. "In fact," he told OUR WORLD, "today, the future is much brighter and my program will help Negro musicians even further." Another deejay said major recording companies were having stars like Patti Page and Georgia Gibbs doing this popular style music now.
Another Freed partisan goes further. He says, "Wherever I go, whether in taxis or walking along the streets, my ears are bombarded with his program when he's on air. That's all I hear, and believe it or not, it's not just one group of folks listening."
But that's not all to this hassle. Station WINS too is getting blamed. Some radio folk grumble that WINS should have tried out a Negro disc jockey since there are many in New York who would jump at the chance to have time on that station. They know that popular deejays haul in important dough - once they are established. Further, they point out that Freed's time on the air is a direct challenge to the few Negro disc jockeys struggling to keep going. However, that is just part of the hassle. The main question still is what everybody wants to know, "Which one is MOONDOG."
While most of the deejay shows follow the same pattern, they differ according to the personality of the star. That's what made Freed popular, his different style. But even this is open to criticism. One deejay, analysing Freed's show says it's pressure salesmanship, drumming on the table, singing with the record and other gimmicks to attract attention. He says this is popular in the south. He did it years ago. But when he came north, he discarded it. Another deejay says, timing in responsible for popularity and listener response. For instance, morning programs when chief listeners are women doing household chores, get fewer letters than later shows. Freed's programs come on late. His recordings too, for the most part, are blues and rhythms. This makes it appear that the program is aimed at Negroes. The studio officials deny this emphatically. Freed's opposition is bitter and outspoken and one even goes so far as to say "It smacks of Amos and Andy. If it wasn't such a serious matter and a threat to other deejays who are trying to improve their programs, this MOONDOG hassle would he funny. People tune in for the music he plays. I don't think they are completely fooled by his masquerade - as I call it. To my way of thinking Freed is thirty years behind the times." In reply his sponsors point to program response (three to four hundred letters a day). And in the sponsors opinion, that's what counts. Day after day, more people write the deejay. And these letters are from people of all races, all ages in widely scattered parts of the metropolitan area. Contrast that with Tammy Smalls, who has more time than any other Negro disc jockey. Tommy, who says he's busy with his own program receives almost as much mail, coming from Long Island, some parts of Connecticut and surrounding areas in New York. But all Negro disc jockeys are not as fortunate as Smalls. Same are having it pretty rough since MOONDOG appeared on the scene and from reports, they are having a tough time holding on to the few assignments they now enjoy. There is no doubt about it, besides creating this hassle, Freed's program is a definite challenge. How the Negro deejays meet it will determine another hassle far more important.