Drunk History (2013) s02e03 Episode Script

American Music

He creates this whole persona.
He's like, hey, how y'all doing today? It's Alan Freed, King of the Moondoggers! - Oh, yeah.
- Yeah.
Oh, my God.
And Kristofferson said, how can I get my song to Johnny Cash and make an impact? Johnny said, some fool's landing in our yard with a helicopter.
If there's any doubt, Derek Waters is really drinking with me.
Sylvia Robinson wanted to name the band the Sugarhill Gang after this artistic community in Harlem.
I'm really drunk now.
Too drunk.
Music's the soundtrack of life.
You put on a little Metallica to get pumped.
You put on whatever.
Rock and roll, country, and rap.
Music does a lot of things.
Sometimes music makes me split my pants, because I'm, like, dropping it so hard on the floor.
I like music.
American the American stuff is pretty good.
What is American music to you? Like jazz or blues and, uh I know that something's about you know what I'm saying? - Whoa! - Thank you.
All right, and my hands are clean.
Oh, I trust you.
'Cause I took a shower a few hours ago.
Now, why do you use that for yours? You don't trust your own fingers.
'Cause I want these to be clean.
Hello, my name is David Wain.
I have a dirty martini, and today we're gonna talk about Alan Freed and the birth of rock and roll, which is a great story about fun, race, and music.
Alan Freed was a DJ on W.
in Akron, Ohio, and he's like, you know, hey, I'm playing regular music.
He was playing jazz and pop and pre-rock and roll music.
Meanwhile, there was this guy named Leo Mintz.
Leo Mintz was a record-store owner in Cleveland, Ohio, and Leo Mintz was seeing that these white kids are having a good time, and they're dancing.
But at the time, it wasn't accepted for white people to buy black music, or what they called race music.
And he became aware of this DJ, Alan Freed, and he's like, come over to Cleveland, and you can go on the air on WJW, which was a big radio station, was a white radio station, but I'm going to get you to play these rhythm-and-blues records that I'm trying to sell.
And Alan Freed said, thank you.
I'll do it.
It was a time when racial boundaries were just slowly being bended, but nobody knew.
- Nobody knew.
- Nobody knew.
Nobody knew.
Leo Mintz would come over to the radio station, and he's like, you know, what are we gonna call this thing? 'Cause if we call it rhythm and blues, then the white audience won't accept it, 'cause that's a race-music term.
And they were like, well, you know, we're rocking and rolling.
It's [Bleep] great.
He was like, that's what it is.
It's rock and roll.
And he creates this whole persona.
He's like, hey, how y'all doing today? It's Alan Freed, King of the Moondoggers! The Moondog Show in Northeast Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Cleveland Browns' Art Modell! Okay, so, now And that's good.
- Cheers.
- Rock and roll.
Once again, and here we are.
- This is number two.
- Number two.
So then he's like, okay, what do we do to, like, up the ante here? And so Alan Freed's like, let's make a big [Bleep] show.
So then they set up this big show at the Cleveland Arena, the Moondog Coronation Ball.
It was, you know, considered the first rock and roll concert that there ever was.
So 20,000 people come to it, a venue that could only fit 10,000.
They're shoving in.
It becomes a [Bleep] fiasco.
There's riots.
The Cleveland Fire Department shut the whole thing down.
Well, of course, the next day, it's like, rock and roll music is hurting teenagers, making them bad, um I think when you drink, you lose a little bit of vocabulary, but anyway, that's fine.
But he went on the air the next day Look, it didn't work out, but we move forward.
Are you with me? We'll know if by your phone calls, your letters.
And the teenagers were into it, and they just came out in throngs.
He was eventually wooed by the big town, and I'm talking about Mr.
New, Mr.
York, and hello, city.
I'm talking about New York City.
Jesus Christ.
He packs up his [Bleep], and he goes from Cleveland to New York, and he's like, let me tell you about Chuck Berry.
Let me tell you about Little Richard.
Let me tell you about Fats Domino.
And his show is piped to Europe.
It has been said it's the first time that the Beatles hear rock and roll, is on Alan Freed's radio show.
Hey, there, Paul.
This is pretty good.
Maybe we should do this.
Next thing you know, it's, like, the Beatles.
He put together a show in Boston, and the kids are getting rowdy, and the cops in Boston, they're like, no, this is not okay.
So then Alan Freed gets onstage, and he's like, kids, it's gonna be fun.
We're gonna have a good time.
We're gonna rock and roll tonight.
Rock and roll, rock and roll, rock and roll! And then they're like, everyone, we're turning the lights on.
Alan Freed makes this offhand remark.
He's like, you know, I guess the Boston cops just don't want you guys to have any fun.
It becomes a total disaster, bad-news thing.
It's, like, almost a riot breaks out, and then they have to shut the thing down.
Outside the venue that night, there were some stabbings, and there was some violent [Bleep] that went down.
They accused him of inciting a riot, and he had to defend himself and say, you know, I didn't do I was just having a concert.
But his job, his bosses at W.
, were like, no, this is too controversial.
You know what? This guy is Can't got to go.
He went on the air, and he was like, look, I'm sorry.
I'm sad.
But I'm going off the air, so thanks for all these years, but my era is over.
And then he put on this record, So Long by Fats Domino.
It was really the end of his reign as the guy, and he left the station.
And when he goes down, at the bottom of the station, all these fans are down there, and they're like, oh, my God, you can't leave! What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do without you? And he was like, you know what? It's not about me.
It's about rock and roll.
And rock and roll will always be here, and nothing will stop that.
And so rock and roll will never die, and rock and roll has gone on.
Rock and roll is basically about, like, getting up there and being like, [Bleep] it, you know what I mean? Like, it's not enough to say, I don't give a [Bleep].
You have to [Bleep] show it.
- Rock and roll.
- Rock and roll.
Music breaks through because of just the incredible need to communicate something.
Try this.
See, it Off.
There you go.
- It's all context.
- Rest.
Oh! Let's do it.
Today we're talking about Kris Kristofferson.
Kris Kristofferson got incredible grades, and he was a Rhodes Scholar, and then he trained as an Army Ranger to fly helicopters.
His platoon commander knew someone in Nashville that worked for Johnny Cash.
He can get you in for free to a show at the Grand Ole Opry.
Yeah? I love it.
Let's do it.
So Kris takes a one-week leave and watches Johnny Cash.
He felt a power and an energy, 'cause that's what Johnny Cash did.
Kris felt transfixed.
My God, this is my hero.
And Kris said in that moment that he was thunderstruck.
And then Johnny Cash walked off, and Johnny Cash walked over and shook his hand.
Holy [Bleep]! This is my hero, and he just came up to me and connected with me.
So Kris says, you know what? I'm gonna quit this, and he quits the army.
And he moves to Nashville, Tennessee, with the idea of becoming a great singer-songwriter.
Finally, a job opens up of being a janitor at Columbia Records, and then his mother writes him a letter your hero, Johnny Cash, is a drug addict, and of course he sings at San Quentin and Folsom right now, because a jailbird sings with jailbirds, so we have now officially disowned you.
I hope somehow you come to your senses, 'cause you're not a songwriter.
Sorry, Kris.
You're done.
And he felt like a giant failure.
He's a [Bleep] janitor.
And then one day Johnny Cash comes in.
He's like, who in the world is in there right now changing the ashtrays with those brown with the incredible blue eyes? - Well, it's Kris.
- Who is he? His mom just disowned him because you're his hero.
And Kris was in there changing the ashtrays, and Johnny Cash comes in and says, well, it's always nice to get a letter from home, ain't it? And Kris can't believe it.
He's like, yeah.
But they bonded over it, because he was passionate and he had his dream.
I'm gonna quit all this, and I want to pursue an artist's life.
So he quit.
Kris is starving.
He has no money.
He's now writing these songs.
And then Kris, so frustrated, and he has one song.
It's about that feeling to be on a Sunday when the bars don't open, and it's called Sunday Morning Coming Down.
It's a that feeling, loneliness and nobody believing in you but you and wishing, lord, that I was stoned, 'cause there ain't nothing in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone.
Sunday Morning Coming Down was the song Kris knew was something special.
How can I get my song to Johnny Cash and make an impact? So, for Johnny, Kris landed a helicopter in his lawn to give him this song.
Some fool's landing in our yard with a helicopter right out of the sky.
He really listened to the song, and the song went to the next level for Johnny, because he understood it.
He understood the isolation and the loneliness and wishing, Lord, that he was stoned.
- Excuse me.
- You're fine.
So, at that time, Johnny Cash was recording his own variety show for ABC.
So Johnny said to Kris, hey, we're going to do Sunday Morning Coming Down right now and then went through a run-through of the song: On a Sunday morning sidewalk wishing, Lord, that I was stoned Well, he did it one time, and the ABC censors came up and said, uh, Johnny, uh great song, but we actually can't in any way put on the lyrics, "wishing, Lord, that I was stoned," 'cause it's clearly an allusion to marijuana.
And it's in the country tradition.
You can do something about alcohol, but marijuana is a no-go.
You have to change that.
"Wishing, Lord, I was home"? I wrote it "wishing, Lord, that I was stoned" 'cause I wished I was stoned.
So, when it comes time to record the song in that show, they put Kris way up in the rafters, 'cause he was he was on the fringes, man.
So the song starts, and he's like, "on a Sunday morning sidewalk," and then his gaze goes right up to Kris in the very back row, and he's like, "wishing, Lord, that I was stoned, "'cause there's something in the sidewalk, makes a body feel alone.
" And Kris said he felt his heart warm.
God bless, you know? My song's on TV, and it meant the world to Kris, 'cause his hero did right by him.
Once Johnny Cash says it's cool, well, everyone wants to record a Kristofferson song Waylon Jennings, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Janis Joplin.
Kris Kriskoff Kris Kristofferson became the biggest star in the world, truly.
In 1976, and it's been forgotten, he was the biggest star in the world at the time.
Kris was huge.
of a sleeping city sidewalk and Sunday morning coming down And then it's a good taste.
Man, they're a boy band.
The Sugarhill Gang was put together by a record label to sell a thing that was popular at the time.
Hip, hop, hippy to the hippity-hip-hip-hop you don't stop, rockin' to the bang, bang, boogie to up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogity beat - How you doing, buddy? - Hey, brother.
- Good to see you, man.
- Thanks for having me over.
Of course, man.
Thanks for coming over.
- I can't wait to learn.
- Come on in.
Yeah, yeah, come on in.
All right, thank you.
[Bleep] gonna get real.
My name's Colton, and tonight I'm gonna tell you about Rapper's Delight.
Drink up.
All right, so we're talking about late '70s.
Disco was everywhere.
But Silvia Robinson, who was a R&B R&B singer, she went to a party one night with her son in New York, and at the party, a rapper gets up, and he just starts rhyming over the beat, just for, like, hours and hours.
And she goes, this [Bleep] great.
I could record it and make it a hit.
So she went up to the MCs at the party.
She went up to Herc, and she goes, I want to make a rap album.
I think hip-hop could be cool.
You want to do it? But Herc was like, no.
I don't want to do it.
Hip-hop you can't put it on an album.
And so she goes to the other rappers.
They all say no to her, but she's tenacious about it, and she goes, you know what? This is going to happen.
I'm gonna make a hip-hop album no matter what.
Uh, where's my son at? She gets her son.
She goes, take me to anybody who can rap and rhyme over music.
Take me to them.
And he's like, uh Well, I know a rapping pizza guy.
Her son takes her son takes her to the Crispy Crust Pizza Shop where they have the rapping pizza guy.
Hey, this is Big Bank Hank, the rapping pizza guy.
She goes, hey, I hear you can rap.
Oh, yeah, I can rap.
Can you do a beatbox? No, come on.
Like "F.
" Like the letter "F.
" There you go.
Now, make it a beat.
Sometimes I wear a vest and I'll never stop rhyming 'cause I'll never stop timing all day I keep reminding all my friends of Look, I'm gonna make a rap album.
You should be on it.
Who else do you want to bring in? Big Bank Hank is like, uh, I'll try to you know, let me think of some guys, and he thinks of a couple guys who are, like, in the neighborhood.
He brought in wonder Mike and Master G, but he himself didn't have any raps, so he went to a guy named Grandmaster Caz.
And he goes, hey, Grandmaster Caz, can you hook me up with some rhymes? 'Cause I'm about to do an album.
Hey, of course.
Yeah, you do a rap on an album.
It makes everything great.
Here's some raps.
Here's, like, old [Bleep] that I did.
Big bank Hank is like, oh, these are great.
These are great rhymes.
So Silvia Robinson brings Big Bank Hank, Master G, and Wonder Mike to her mansion, but then she gets into it, you know, like dead poets society, like, trying to be inspirational.
She was like, okay, do your rap about the motels? He's like, motel, hotel great! Do your rap about Superman, like, orchestrating it.
She's like, hold up.
Let me put it in the order of a song.
You know, verse, bri chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, verse, chorus, which hadn't happened in hip-hop.
But I don't know if that makes any sense, what I said, 'cause I'm drunk, so I don't care.
But I understand.
They wanted to name the band the Sugarhill Gang after this artistic community in Harlem.
I'm a [Bleep] genius.
So, when they actually sat down to record it for the album, she was like, you have to get it down in one take.
And so they brought in a band, and they go, hey, man.
We just want you to play these 16 measures of the song over and over and over again.
You know, the song, you hear behind them while they're rapping is Good Times by Chic.
But what they were able to pull off was a 14-minute song, and yet at the end of the day, they recorded it in one take.
I have to pee.
- Put it in there.
- Yes, sir.
- Put it in there.
- Yes, sir.
That's me drinking a bottle of Jameson tonight.
- But, Colton - Look at that.
FYI I'm a [Bleep] monster, man.
You can't stop me.
'Cause here's the deal they put it out, it's a hit, and the song just took off all over the world.
But also, at the time when it came out, people like Herc and Grandmaster Caz, these people are livid because this is not hip-hop.
And once that song came out and Chic heard it, they were like, hey, that's our song.
They sued.
She's like, that [Bleep] sucks.
But regardless of whether or not it is made up of stolen raps or a ridiculous beat that was stolen from another band, it created a genre of music and blazed the path for all other hip-hop.
Yeah, he was a little - You need help? - I'm good.