|Rock and roll|
|Cultural origins||Late 1940s –early 1950s, United States|
Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. [ page needed ] It originated from black American music such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, rhythm and blues, as well as country music. While rock and roll's formative elements can be heard in blues records from the 1920s and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.
According to journalist Greg Kot, "rock and roll" refers to a style of popular music originating in the United States in the 1950s. By the mid-1960s, rock and roll had developed into "the more encompassing international style known as rock music, though the latter also continued to be known in many circles as rock and roll."For the purpose of differentiation, this article deals with the first definition.
In the earliest rock and roll styles, either the piano or saxophone was typically the lead instrument. These instruments were generally replaced or supplemented by guitar in the middle to late 1950s.The beat is essentially a dance rhythm with an accentuated backbeat, almost always provided by a snare drum. Classic rock and roll is usually played with one or two electric guitars (one lead, one rhythm) and a double bass (string bass). After the mid-1950s, electric bass guitars ("Fender bass") and drum kits became popular in classic rock.
Rock and roll had a polarizing influence on lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language. It is often depicted in movies, fan magazines, and on television. Rock and roll is believed by some to have had a positive influence on the civil rights movement, because both Black American and White American teenagers enjoyed the music.
The term "rock and roll" is defined by Greg Kot in Encyclopædia Britannica as the music that originated in the mid-1950s and later developed "into the more encompassing international style known as rock music".The term is sometimes also used as synonymous with "rock music" and is defined as such in some dictionaries.
The phrase "rocking and rolling" originally described the movement of a ship on the ocean,but by the early 20th century was used both to describe the spiritual fervor of black church rituals and as a sexual analogy. A retired Welsh seaman named William Fender can be heard singing the phrase "rock and roll" when describing a sexual encounter in his performance of the traditional song "The Baffled Knight" to the folklorist James Madison Carpenter in the early 1930s, which he would have learned at sea in the 1800s; the recording can be heard on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website.
Various gospel, blues and swing recordings used the phrase before it became widely popular; it was used in 1940s recordings and reviews of what became known as "rhythm and blues" music aimed at a black audience.
In 1934, the song "Rock and Roll" by the Boswell Sisters appeared in the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round . In 1942, before the concept of rock and roll had been defined, Billboard magazine columnist Maurie Orodenker started to use the term to describe upbeat recordings such as "Rock Me" by Sister Rosetta Tharpe; her style on that recording was described as "rock-and-roll spiritual singing".By 1943, the "Rock and Roll Inn" in South Merchantville, New Jersey, was established as a music venue. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio, disc jockey Alan Freed began playing this music style, and referring to it as "rock and roll" on his mainstream radio program, which popularized the phrase.
Several sources suggest that Freed found the term, used as a synonym for sexual intercourse, on the record "Sixty Minute Man" by Billy Ward and his Dominoes.The lyrics include the line, "I rock 'em, roll 'em all night long". Freed did not acknowledge the suggestion about that source in interviews, and explained the term as follows: "Rock ’n roll is really swing with a modern name. It began on the levees and plantations, took in folk songs, and features blues and rhythm".
In discussing Alan Freed's contribution to the genre, two significant sources emphasized the importance of African-American rhythm and blues. Greg Harris, then the Executive Director of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, offered this comment to CNN: "Freed’s role in breaking down racial barriers in U.S. pop culture in the 1950s, by leading white and black kids to listen to the same music, put the radio personality 'at the vanguard' and made him 'a really important figure'".After Freed was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the organization's Web site offered this comment: "He became internationally known for promoting African-American rhythm and blues music on the radio in the United States and Europe under the name of rock and roll".
Not often acknowledged in the history of rock and roll, Todd Storz, the owner of radio station KOWH in Omaha, Nebraska, was the first to adopt the Top 40 format (in 1953), playing only the most popular records in rotation. His station, and the numerous others which adopted the concept, helped to promote the genre: by the mid 50s, the playlist included artists such as "Presley, Lewis, Haley, Berry and Domino".
The origins of rock and roll have been fiercely debated by commentators and historians of music.There is general agreement that it arose in the Southern United States – a region that would produce most of the major early rock and roll acts – through the meeting of various influences that embodied a merging of the African musical tradition with European instrumentation. The migration of many former slaves and their descendants to major urban centers such as St. Louis, Memphis, New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo meant that black and white residents were living in close proximity in larger numbers than ever before, and as a result heard each other's music and even began to emulate each other's fashions. Radio stations that made white and black forms of music available to both groups, the development and spread of the gramophone record, and African-American musical styles such as jazz and swing which were taken up by white musicians, aided this process of "cultural collision".
The immediate roots of rock and roll lay in the rhythm and blues, then called "race music",in combination with either Boogie-woogie and shouting gospel or with country music of the 1940s and 1950s. Particularly significant influences were jazz, blues, gospel, country, and folk. Commentators differ in their views of which of these forms were most important and the degree to which the new music was a re-branding of African-American rhythm and blues for a white market, or a new hybrid of black and white forms.
In the 1930s, jazz, and particularly swing, both in urban-based dance bands and blues-influenced country swing (Jimmie Rodgers, Moon Mullican and other similar singers), were among the first music to present African-American sounds for a predominantly white audience.One particularly noteworthy example of a jazz song with recognizably rock and roll elements is Big Joe Turner with pianist Pete Johnson's 1939 single Roll 'Em Pete , which is regarded as an important precursor of rock and roll. The 1940s saw the increased use of blaring horns (including saxophones), shouted lyrics and boogie woogie beats in jazz-based music. During and immediately after World War II, with shortages of fuel and limitations on audiences and available personnel, large jazz bands were less economical and tended to be replaced by smaller combos, using guitars, bass and drums. In the same period, particularly on the West Coast and in the Midwest, the development of jump blues, with its guitar riffs, prominent beats and shouted lyrics, prefigured many later developments. In the documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll , Keith Richards proposes that Chuck Berry developed his brand of rock and roll by transposing the familiar two-note lead line of jump blues piano directly to the electric guitar, creating what is instantly recognizable as rock guitar. This proposal by Richards neglects the black guitarists who did the same thing before Berry, such as Goree Carter, Gatemouth Brown, and the originator of the style, T-Bone Walker. Country boogie and Chicago electric blues supplied many of the elements that would be seen as characteristic of rock and roll. Inspired by electric blues, Chuck Berry introduced an aggressive guitar sound to rock and roll, and established the electric guitar as its centerpiece, adapting his rock band instrumentation from the basic blues band instrumentation of a lead guitar, second chord instrument, bass and drums. In 2017, Robert Christgau declared that "Chuck Berry did in fact invent rock 'n' roll", explaining that this artist "came the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together".
Rock and roll arrived at a time of considerable technological change, soon after the development of the electric guitar, amplifier and microphone, and the 45 rpm record.There were also changes in the record industry, with the rise of independent labels like Atlantic, Sun and Chess servicing niche audiences and a similar rise of radio stations that played their music. It was the realization that relatively affluent white teenagers were listening to this music that led to the development of what was to be defined as rock and roll as a distinct genre. Because the development of rock and roll was an evolutionary process, no single record can be identified as unambiguously "the first" rock and roll record. Contenders for the title of "first rock and roll record" include Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Strange Things Happening Every Day" (1944), "That's All Right" by Arthur Crudup (1946), "Move It On Over" by Hank Williams (1947), "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino (1949), Goree Carter's "Rock Awhile" (1949), Jimmy Preston's "Rock the Joint" (1949), which was later covered by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1952, "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (Ike Turner and his band The Kings of Rhythm), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in March 1951. In terms of its wide cultural impact across society in the US and elsewhere, Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock", recorded in April 1954 but not a commercial success until the following year, is generally recognized as an important milestone, but it was preceded by many recordings from earlier decades in which elements of rock and roll can be clearly discerned.
Other artists with early rock and roll hits included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent.Chuck Berry's 1955 classic "Maybellene" in particular features a distorted electric guitar solo with warm overtones created by his small valve amplifier. However, the use of distortion was predated by electric blues guitarists such as Joe Hill Louis, Guitar Slim, Willie Johnson of Howlin' Wolf's band, and Pat Hare; the latter two also made use of distorted power chords in the early 1950s. Also in 1955, Bo Diddley introduced the "Bo Diddley beat" and a unique electric guitar style, influenced by African and Afro-Cuban music and in turn influencing many later artists.
Rock and roll was strongly influenced by R&B, according to many sources, including an article in the Wall Street Journal in 1985 titled, "Rock! It's Still Rhythm and Blues". In fact, the author stated that the "two terms were used interchangeably", until about 1957. The other sources quoted in the article said that rock and roll combined R&B with pop and country music.
Fats Domino was one of the biggest stars of rock and roll in the early 1950s and he was not convinced that this was a new genre. In 1957, he said: "What they call rock 'n' roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans".According to Rolling Stone , "this is a valid statement ... all Fifties rockers, black and white, country born and city-bred, were fundamentally influenced by R&B, the black popular music of the late Forties and early Fifties". Further, Little Richard built his ground-breaking sound of the same era with an uptempo blend of boogie-woogie, New Orleans rhythm and blues, and the soul and fervor of gospel music vocalization.
"Rockabilly" usually (but not exclusively) refers to the type of rock and roll music which was played and recorded in the mid-1950s primarily by white singers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, who drew mainly on the country roots of the music.Presley was greatly influenced and incorporated his style of music with some of the greatest African American musicians like BB King, Arthur Crudup and Fats Domino. His style of music combined with black influences created controversy during a turbulent time in history. Many other popular rock and roll singers of the time, such as Fats Domino and Little Richard, came out of the black rhythm and blues tradition, making the music attractive to white audiences, and are not usually classed as "rockabilly".
Presley popularized rock and roll on a wider scale than any other single performer and by 1956, he had emerged as the singing sensation of the nation.
Bill Flagg who is a Connecticut resident, began referring to his mix of hillbilly and rock 'n' roll music as rockabilly around 1953.
In July 1954, Presley recorded the regional hit "That's All Right" at Sam Phillips' Sun Studio in Memphis.Three months earlier, on April 12, 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock". Although only a minor hit when first released, when used in the opening sequence of the movie Blackboard Jungle a year later, it set the rock and roll boom in motion. The song became one of the biggest hits in history, and frenzied teens flocked to see Haley and the Comets perform it, causing riots in some cities. "Rock Around the Clock" was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll music. If everything that came before laid the groundwork, "Rock Around the Clock" introduced the music to a global audience.
In 1956, the arrival of rockabilly was underlined by the success of songs like "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash, "Blue Suede Shoes" by Perkins and the No. 1 hit "Heartbreak Hotel" by Presley.For a few years it became the most commercially successful form of rock and roll. Later rockabilly acts, particularly performing songwriters like Buddy Holly, would be a major influence on British Invasion acts and particularly on the song writing of the Beatles and through them on the nature of later rock music.
Doo-wop was one of the most popular forms of 1950s rhythm and blues, often compared with rock and roll, with an emphasis on multi-part vocal harmonies and meaningless backing lyrics (from which the genre later gained its name), which were usually supported with light instrumentation.Its origins were in African-American vocal groups of the 1930s and 40s, such as the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, who had enjoyed considerable commercial success with arrangements based on close harmonies. They were followed by 1940s R&B vocal acts such as the Orioles, the Ravens and the Clovers, who injected a strong element of traditional gospel and, increasingly, the energy of jump blues. By 1954, as rock and roll was beginning to emerge, a number of similar acts began to cross over from the R&B charts to mainstream success, often with added honking brass and saxophone, with the Crows, the Penguins, the El Dorados and the Turbans all scoring major hits. Despite the subsequent explosion in records from doo wop acts in the later '50s, many failed to chart or were one-hit wonders. Exceptions included the Platters, with songs including "The Great Pretender" (1955) and the Coasters with humorous songs like "Yakety Yak" (1958), both of which ranked among the most successful rock and roll acts of the era. Towards the end of the decade there were increasing numbers of white, particularly Italian-American, singers taking up Doo Wop, creating all-white groups like the Mystics and Dion and the Belmonts and racially integrated groups like the Del-Vikings and the Impalas. Doo-wop would be a major influence on vocal surf music, soul and early Merseybeat, including the Beatles.
Many of the earliest white rock and roll hits were covers or partial re-writes of earlier black rhythm and blues or blues songs.Through the late 1940s and early 1950s, R&B music had been gaining a stronger beat and a wilder style, with artists such as Fats Domino and Johnny Otis speeding up the tempos and increasing the backbeat to great popularity on the juke joint circuit. Before the efforts of Freed and others, black music was taboo on many white-owned radio outlets, but artists and producers quickly recognized the potential of rock and roll. Some of Presley's early recordings were covers of black rhythm and blues or blues songs, such as "That's All Right" (a countrified arrangement of a blues number), "Baby Let's Play House", "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" and "Hound Dog". The racial lines, however, are rather more clouded by the fact that some of these R&B songs originally recorded by black artists had been written by white songwriters, such as the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Songwriting credits were often unreliable; many publishers, record executives, and even managers (both white and black) would insert their name as a composer in order to collect royalty checks.
Covers were customary in the music industry at the time; it was made particularly easy by the compulsory license provision of United States copyright law (still in effect).One of the first relevant successful covers was Wynonie Harris's transformation of Roy Brown's 1947 original jump blues hit "Good Rocking Tonight" into a more showy rocker and the Louis Prima rocker "Oh Babe" in 1950, as well as Amos Milburn's cover of what may have been the first white rock and roll record, Hardrock Gunter's "Birmingham Bounce" in 1949. The most notable trend, however, was white pop covers of black R&B numbers. The more familiar sound of these covers may have been more palatable to white audiences, there may have been an element of prejudice, but labels aimed at the white market also had much better distribution networks and were generally much more profitable. Famously, Pat Boone recorded sanitized versions of songs recorded by the likes of Fats Domino, Little Richard, the Flamingos and Ivory Joe Hunter. Later, as those songs became popular, the original artists' recordings received radio play as well.
The cover versions were not necessarily straightforward imitations. For example, Bill Haley's incompletely bowdlerized cover of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" transformed Big Joe Turner's humorous and racy tale of adult love into an energetic teen dance number,while Georgia Gibbs replaced Etta James's tough, sarcastic vocal in "Roll With Me, Henry" (covered as "Dance With Me, Henry") with a perkier vocal more appropriate for an audience unfamiliar with the song to which James's song was an answer, Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie". Presley's rock and roll version of "Hound Dog", taken mainly from a version recorded by the pop band Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, was very different from the blues shouter that Big Mama Thornton had recorded four years earlier. Other white artists who recorded cover versions of rhythm & blues songs included Gale Storm [Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knockin'"], the Diamonds [The Gladiolas' "Little Darlin'" and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"], the Crew Cuts [the Chords' "Sh-Boom" and Nappy Brown's "Don't Be Angry"], the Fountain Sisters [The Jewels' "Hearts of Stone"] and the Maguire Sisters [The Moonglows' "Sincerely"].
Some commentators have suggested a decline of rock and roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s.The retirement of Little Richard to become a preacher (October 1957), the departure of Presley for service in the United States Army (March 1958), the scandal surrounding Jerry Lee Lewis' marriage to his thirteen-year-old cousin (May 1958), the deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in a plane crash (February 1959), the breaking of the Payola scandal implicating major figures, including Alan Freed, in bribery and corruption in promoting individual acts or songs (November 1959), the arrest of Chuck Berry (December 1959), and the death of Eddie Cochran in a car crash (April 1960) gave a sense that the initial phase of rock and roll had come to an end.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the rawer sounds of Presley, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly were commercially superseded by a more polished, commercial style of rock and roll. Marketing frequently emphasized the physical looks of the artist rather than the music, contributing to the successful careers of Ricky Nelson, Tommy Sands, Bobby Vee and the Philadelphia trio of Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Del Shannon, who all became "teen idols."
Some music historians have also pointed to important and innovative developments that built on rock and roll in this period, including multitrack recording, developed by Les Paul, the electronic treatment of sound by such innovators as Joe Meek, and the "Wall of Sound" productions of Phil Spector,continued desegregation of the charts, the rise of surf music, garage rock and the Twist dance craze. Surf rock in particular, noted for the use of reverb-drenched guitars, became one of the most popular forms of American rock of the 1960s.
In the 1950s, Britain was well placed to receive American rock and roll music and culture.It shared a common language, had been exposed to American culture through the stationing of troops in the country, and shared many social developments, including the emergence of distinct youth sub-cultures, which in Britain included the Teddy Boys and the rockers. Trad jazz became popular in the UK, and many of its musicians were influenced by related American styles, including boogie woogie and the blues. The skiffle craze, led by Lonnie Donegan, utilised amateurish versions of American folk songs and encouraged many of the subsequent generation of rock and roll, folk, R&B and beat musicians to start performing. At the same time British audiences were beginning to encounter American rock and roll, initially through films including Blackboard Jungle (1955) and Rock Around the Clock (1956). Both movies featured the Bill Haley & His Comets hit "Rock Around the Clock", which first entered the British charts in early 1955 – four months before it reached the US pop charts – topped the British charts later that year and again in 1956, and helped identify rock and roll with teenage delinquency.
The initial response of the British music industry was to attempt to produce copies of American records, recorded with session musicians and often fronted by teen idols.More grassroots British rock and rollers soon began to appear, including Wee Willie Harris and Tommy Steele. During this period American Rock and Roll remained dominant; however, in 1958 Britain produced its first "authentic" rock and roll song and star, when Cliff Richard reached number 2 in the charts with "Move It". At the same time, TV shows such as Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! promoted the careers of British rock and rollers like Marty Wilde and Adam Faith. Cliff Richard and his backing band, the Shadows, were the most successful home grown rock and roll based acts of the era. Other leading acts included Billy Fury, Joe Brown, and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, whose 1960 hit song "Shakin' All Over" became a rock and roll standard.
As interest in rock and roll was beginning to subside in America in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was taken up by groups in major British urban centers like Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and London.About the same time, a British blues scene developed, initially led by purist blues followers such as Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies who were directly inspired by American musicians such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Many groups moved towards the beat music of rock and roll and rhythm and blues from skiffle, like the Quarrymen who became the Beatles, producing a form of rock and roll revivalism that carried them and many other groups to national success from about 1963 and to international success from 1964, known in America as the British Invasion. Groups that followed the Beatles included the beat-influenced Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark Five. Early British rhythm and blues groups with more blues influences include the Animals, the Rolling Stones, and the Yardbirds.
Rock and roll influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language.In addition, rock and roll may have contributed to the civil rights movement because both African-American and white American teens enjoyed the music.
Many early rock and roll songs dealt with issues of cars, school, dating, and clothing. The lyrics of rock and roll songs described events and conflicts that most listeners could relate to through personal experience. Topics such as sex that had generally been considered taboo began to appear in rock and roll lyrics. This new music tried to break boundaries and express emotions that people were actually feeling but had not talked about. An awakening began to take place in American youth culture.
In the crossover of African-American "race music" to a growing white youth audience, the popularization of rock and roll involved both black performers reaching a white audience and white musicians performing African-American music.Rock and roll appeared at a time when racial tensions in the United States were entering a new phase, with the beginnings of the civil rights movement for desegregation, leading to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that abolished the policy of "separate but equal" in 1954, but leaving a policy which would be extremely difficult to enforce in parts of the United States. The coming together of white youth audiences and black music in rock and roll inevitably provoked strong white racist reactions within the US, with many whites condemning its breaking down of barriers based on color. Many observers saw rock and roll as heralding the way for desegregation, in creating a new form of music that encouraged racial cooperation and shared experience. Many authors have argued that early rock and roll was instrumental in the way both white and black teenagers identified themselves.
Several rock historians have claimed that rock and roll was one of the first music genres to define an age group.It gave teenagers a sense of belonging, even when they were alone. Rock and roll is often identified with the emergence of teen culture among the first baby boomer generation, who had greater relative affluence and leisure time and adopted rock and roll as part of a distinct subculture. This involved not just music, absorbed via radio, record buying, jukeboxes and TV programs like American Bandstand , but also extended to film, clothes, hair, cars and motorbikes, and distinctive language. The youth culture exemplified by rock and roll was a recurring source of concern for older generations, who worried about juvenile delinquency and social rebellion, particularly because to a large extent rock and roll culture was shared by different racial and social groups.
In America, that concern was conveyed even in youth cultural artifacts such as comic books. In "There's No Romance in Rock and Roll" from True Life Romance (1956), a defiant teen dates a rock and roll-loving boy but drops him for one who likes traditional adult music—to her parents' relief.In Britain, where postwar prosperity was more limited, rock and roll culture became attached to the pre-existing Teddy Boy movement, largely working class in origin, and eventually to the rockers. Rock and roll has been seen as reorienting popular music toward a youth market, as in Dion and the Belmonts' "A Teenager in Love" (1960).
From its early 1950s beginnings through the early 1960s, rock and roll spawned new dance crazesincluding the twist. Teenagers found the syncopated backbeat rhythm especially suited to reviving Big Band-era jitterbug dancing. Sock hops, school and church gym dances, and home basement dance parties became the rage, and American teens watched Dick Clark's American Bandstand to keep up on the latest dance and fashion styles. From the mid-1960s on, as "rock and roll" was rebranded as "rock," later dance genres followed, leading to funk, disco, house, techno, and hip hop.
Alan Freed did not coin the phrase he popularized it and redefined it. Once slang for sex, it came to mean a new form of music. This music had been around for several years, but…
By the middle of the 20th century, the phrase "rocking and rolling" was slang for sex in the black community but Freed liked the sound of it and felt the words could be used differently.
in the mid- to late '50s with upstarts named Presley, Lewis, Haley, Berry and Domino
Of course similar musics would have sprung up without him. Elvis was Elvis before he’d ever heard of Chuck Berry. Charles’ proto-soul vocals and Brown’s everything-is-a-drum were innovations as profound as Berry’s. Bo Diddley was a more accomplished guitarist.
His first venture, the Phillips label, issued only one known release, and it was one of the loudest, most overdriven, and distorted guitar stomps ever recorded, "Boogie in the Park" by Memphis one-man-band Joe Hill Louis, who cranked his guitar while sitting and banging at a rudimentary drum kit.
by Lawrence N. Redd
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B or R'n'B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.
Charles Edward Anderson Berry was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist who pioneered rock and roll. Nicknamed the "Father of Rock and Roll", he refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive with songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958). Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Doo-wop is a genre of rhythm and blues music that originated among African-American youth in the 1950s, mainly in the large cities of the United States, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Detroit, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. It features vocal group harmony that carries an engaging melodic line to a simple beat with little or no instrumentation. Lyrics are simple, usually about love, sung by a lead vocal over background vocals, and often featuring, in the bridge, a melodramatically heartfelt recitative addressed to the beloved. Harmonic singing of nonsense syllables is a common characteristic of these songs. Gaining popularity in the 1950s, doo-wop was "artistically and commercially viable" until the early 1960s, but continued to influence performers in other genres.
Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western musical styles such as country with that of rhythm and blues, leading to what is considered "classic" rock and roll. Some have also described it as a blend of bluegrass with rock and roll. The term "rockabilly" itself is a portmanteau of "rock" and "hillbilly", the latter a reference to the country music that contributed strongly to the style. Other important influences on rockabilly include western swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues, and electric blues.
New Orleans rhythm and blues is a style of rhythm and blues that originated in New Orleans. It was a direct precursor to rock and roll and strongly influenced ska. Instrumentation typically includes drums, bass, piano, horns, electric guitar, and vocals. The style is characterized by syncopated "second line" rhythms, a strong backbeat, and soulful vocals. Artists such as Roy Brown, Dave Bartholomew, and Fats Domino are representative of the New Orleans R&B sound.
Lyricist Jerome Leiber and composer Michael Stoller were American songwriting and record producing partners. They found success as the writers of such crossover hit songs as "Hound Dog" (1952) and "Kansas City" (1952). Later in the 1950s, particularly through their work with The Coasters, they created a string of ground-breaking hits—including "Young Blood" (1957), "Searchin'" (1957), and "Yakety Yak" (1958)—that used the humorous vernacular of teenagers sung in a style that was openly theatrical rather than personal.
African-American music is an umbrella term covering a diverse range of music and musical genres largely developed by African Americans. Their origins are in musical forms that arose out of the historical condition of slavery that characterized the lives of African Americans prior to the American Civil War. Some of the most popular music types today, such as rock and roll, country, rock, funk, jazz, blues, rhythm, and rhythm and blues was created and influenced by African-American artists. "Every genre that is born from America has black roots."
Many musical styles flourished and combined in the 1940s and 1950s, most likely because of the influence the radio had in creating a mass market for music. World War II caused great social upheaval, and the music of this period shows the effects of that upheaval.
Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat is a popular music genre, influenced by rock and roll, skiffle, and traditional pop music, that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s.
"Hound Dog" is a twelve-bar blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Recorded originally by Big Mama Thornton on August 13, 1952, in Los Angeles and released by Peacock Records in late February 1953, "Hound Dog" was Thornton's only hit record, selling over 500,000 copies, spending 14 weeks in the R&B charts, including seven weeks at number one. Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll", and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in February 2013.
The origins of rock and roll are complex. Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in the United States in the early to mid-1950s. It derived most directly from the rhythm and blues music of the 1940s, which itself developed from earlier blues, the beat-heavy jump blues, boogie woogie, up-tempo jazz, and swing music. It was also influenced by gospel, country and western, and traditional folk music. Rock and roll in turn provided the main basis for the music that, since the mid-1960s, has been generally known simply as rock music.
"Mystery Train" is a song written and recorded by American blues musician Junior Parker in 1953. Originally performed in the style of a Memphis blues or rhythm and blues tune, it was inspired by earlier songs and later became a popular rockabilly song, as first covered by Elvis Presley, then numerous others.
"That's All Right Mama" is a song written and originally performed by blues singer Arthur Crudup and recorded in 1946. It "stands as a convincing front-runner for rock ‘n’ roll’s ground zero", according to one source. It is best known as the debut single recorded and released by Elvis Presley. Presley's version was recorded on July 5, 1954, and released on July 19, 1954, with "Blue Moon of Kentucky" as the B-side. It was ranked number 113 on the 2010 Rolling Stone magazine list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
"Maybellene" is a rock and roll song. It was written and recorded in 1955 by Chuck Berry, adapted in part from the Western swing fiddle tune "Ida Red". Berry's song told the story of a hot rod race and a broken romance, the lyrics describing a man driving a V8 Ford and chasing his unfaithful girlfriend in her Cadillac Coupe DeVille. It was released in July 1955 as a single by Chess Records, of Chicago, Illinois. Berry's first hit, "Maybellene" is considered a pioneering rock and roll song. Rolling Stone magazine wrote of it, "Rock & roll guitar starts here." The record was an early instance of the complete rock and roll package: youthful subject matter; a small, guitar-driven combo; clear diction; and an atmosphere of unrelenting excitement.
American popular music has had a profound effect on music across the world. The country has seen the rise of popular styles that have had a significant influence on global culture, including ragtime, blues, jazz, swing, rock, bluegrass, country, R&B, doo wop, gospel, soul, funk, punk, disco, house, techno, salsa, grunge and hip hop. In addition, the American music industry is quite diverse, supporting a number of regional styles such as zydeco, klezmer and slack-key.
"Tutti Frutti" is a song written by Little Richard and Dorothy LaBostrie that was first recorded in 1955, becoming Little Richard's first major hit record. With its energetic refrain, often transcribed as "A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom!", and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also a model for rock and roll itself. The song introduced several of rock music's most characteristic musical features, including its loud volume, powerful vocal style, and distinctive beat and rhythm.
Dewey Phillips was one of rock and roll's pioneering American disc jockeys, along the lines of Cleveland's Alan Freed, before Freed came along.
"Good Rocking Tonight" was originally a jump blues song released in 1947 by its writer, Roy Brown and was covered by many recording artists. The song includes the memorable refrain, "Well I heard the news, there's good rocking tonight!" The song anticipated elements of rock and roll music.
Since the beginning of his career, American singer Elvis Presley has had an extensive cultural impact. According to Rolling Stone, "it was Elvis who made rock 'n' roll the international language of pop." The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll describes Presley as "an American music giant of the 20th century who single-handedly changed the course of music and culture in the mid-1950s". His recordings, dance moves, attitude and clothing came to be seen as embodiments of rock and roll. His music was heavily influenced by African-American blues, Christian gospel, and Southern country. In a list of the greatest English language singers, as compiled by Q magazine, Presley was ranked first, and second in the list of greatest singers of 20th century by BBC Radio. Some people claim that Presley created a whole new style of music: "it wasn't black, wasn't white, wasn't pop or wasn't country—it was different." He gave teens music to grow up with and listen to, as most singers in his time created music geared for adults.
This article includes an overview of the major events and trends in popular music in the 1950s.