What is the place where “Rock and Roll” originated? “Rock and roll” has not always been part of the music world. The question is about when the origins of “Rock and roll” actually started and when it was able to become an integral part of music and culture across the globe. I’ll attempt to travel back in time and uncover the historical and the origins of “Rock and Roll”.
It’s been more than 50 years since the very first “Rock and Roll” record was made. But, thanks to the assistance of the archives from the past many of the information remains accessible and it’s likely to not take too long to discover the origins and history for “Rock and Roll”.
The first step is to have a fair definition of “Rock and Roll“. What is the best way to define the art of music from blues, jazz, country, opera, and “Rock and Roll”? According to one US Supreme Court justice, in trying to define pornography, “You just know it when you see it.” I hope that this discussion will be more precise, and after all is said and done, we’ll have a precise description of “Rock and Roll“, and also where Rock and Roll originated or changed.
For the most part, we’ll base our opinions on the background of “Rock and Roll” (hereafter “RR”) from the entries on Wikipedia (hereafter “WP”)). We have to read numerous articles about the topic. WP is as reliable as any other piece of information about the topic. In addition, WP appears to provide an exact and precise description of the original RR artist involved and the story of the origins and history of RR. (All the artists listed have their own page on WP to look over.)
It is widely known that the first mention of the word “Rock and Roll” in the public forum was initiated by Alan Freed, a Cleveland,Ohio disc jockey who later orchestrated and promoted the very early RR performances, which comprised of several earlier RR groups, in addition to other blues and rhythm groups from the 1950’s early years. (See A. Freed WP)
Many believe that the first RR song that was recorded was Big Joe Turner’s “Roll em Pete” which was an upbeat jazz track with a boogie keyboard. Some people consider an Ike Turner record, “Rocket 88” (1951) at Sam Phillip’s Sun Records. Some are even inclined to consider “the” (1954) record by Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock” a big-band version of rock, as it is the very original RR recording. Some also suggest that the Elvis Presley (1954) record of “That’s All Right Mama” was the first RR recorded track. You can’t ignore Little Richard’s boogie keyboard in the mid 1950’s.
We’ve included two of the The Rock and Roll Trio records (1953 “Your Undecided” and 1956 “Train Kept A Rollin”). The Rock and Roll Trio provide a great example of how a traditional country group started to adopt rockabilly music in the 1950’s. The songs of the trio have been covered by groups including The Yardbirds, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelen, The Straycats, Los Lobos, Rod Stewert and even the Beatles, just to name several.. Also, as an early rockabilly, my father shared with me numerous information and stories from the early times of RR that I think have provided me with a first-hand view of the topic.
In the 1950’s early years, in the vicinity of Memphis, Tennessee, The Rock and Roll Trio and other hillbilly bop groups were playing the local honkytonks on weekends. The early rockabilly musicians started to explore their new style while playing at The Saturday Night Jamboree in Memphis and the Goodwyn auditorium. At the Goodwyn auditorium and also during their Saturday shows in the early 1950’s, they invented the sound that became known as rockabilly. (See WP-Rockabilly)
The music of the South during the 1950’s was mostly country music that included country ballads, jazz and for the most part, blues tunes that were slow in their movement. The popular dance of the time that followed that of the large band World War II era was the Jitterbug. The jitterbug is a fast-moving dance that was typically performed to the beats of that era of big bands in the war, and continued until the 1950’s. The managers and owners of the honkytonks wished for the guests to stay all night long (obviously). The only way a small four-piece band could keep patrons moving was by playing blues, country and blues music with a more upbeat version of the songs they had heard. By doing this, they could let the jitterbug/bop be performed , and keep patrons and managers happy. The result was Rockabilly. It’s likely that Elvis was inspired by the early Memphis Rockabillers (as well as the gospel, blues, and country songs of the time). Early rockabillers regularly had jam sessions (including Elvis’ future band members Scotty Moore and Bill Black) in and around Humes high school, where Elvis was a student and within the basement at Lauderdale Courts Apts., where Elvis grew up in his early teens. (See Rock and Roll Trio-WP)
After studying the literature about the subject and listening to early rock records, it is evident that RR developed from all kinds of music accessible to the artist who was its founder, including jazz, country blues, gospel, blues and big rock swing music. The most common element is that it is an upbeat version of music that “Rocks“. RR will make people get up and move (in their chair rocking or dancing). To understand RR, you must first take a look at rock and roll within the context of the dancing of the day, from the dance of the jitterbug to disco. The principal goal was and remains to bring patrons onto the dance floor and also to facilitate the introduction of women and men into a social context.
The first uniformly presented version of a “Rock N’ Roll” group can be found in the various Rockabilly groups that were formed in the late and mid 1950’s. Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Burnette, and the Rock and Roll trio, Chuck Berry (1953-56), were followed by other artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Billy Lee Riley (1957-59), and many more.
In the latter half of the fifties, rockabilly was in its final years. One of the main issues with the genre was that parents had a strong objection to the provocative language of the new style and many radio stations were unable to play certain rockabilly artists’ work, although they are today considered RR classics.
We believe that the premature loss of Buddy Holly had a major impact on the decline of rockabilly. In the mid-fifties, it was clear that teenagers began to express their independence and resentment towards authority more than ever before. Watch “Rebel Without A Cause,” a James Dean classic movie, “Rebel Without A Cause.” In the Rockabilly era, teens wrote their own songs, and they had rebellion-inducing overtones that were prevalent throughout. The song Don McClean recorded in “American Pie”, which is poetic and insightful and refers to the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson during the tragedy of the plane crash in 1959, the day that is “the day the music died”.
Three young rockabilly superstars suddenly passed away in one go and there was bad press about a few of the rockabilly celebrities, I’m sure this slowed the new music that teen teens were embracing as a form of rebellion. A lot of adults had said that RR was the devil’s music , and with the loss of these rock stars, teenagers of the time probably took a step back in their newfound music and rebellion, at the very least until the time of the British invasion.
The rise of the teenage ballad in the 1960s saw the likes of Bobby Vinton and Paul Anka. Franky Avalon, Paul Anka, and Johnny Burnette (of the trio fame) created some iconic and highly popular teenage ballads with violins, backing singers, and big band orchestras that were familiar with the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Tony Bennet, and a plethora of early ballads.
In the early 1960’s, the garage music scene was taking the stage, particularly in England. Then, in the middle of the 1960’s, there was a British invasion, led by The Beatles. They were joined by numerous other British groups, including The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and many more.
The most interesting thing about British bands is that all of them, in the main, are rooted in Southern Rockabilly and Mississippi Delta Blues. They also found that these British rock bands modeled their music on the earlier blues and rockabilly sounds and lyrics from the 1950’s and 1940’s. (See WP for the artist that was mentioned) Evidently, since the British arrival in the 1960’s and from the mid 1960’s onwards, there have been hundreds of thousands of rock bands to enter the scene.
What attracted Rockabilly to 1960’s rockers was the fact that a small group of a rhythm guitarist as well as a bass player, lead electric instrument, and drummer could get an open garage to make music. There wasn’t any need for the lavish backing of violinists, singers, or an orchestra for a complete piece. They could produce catchy music that could be played at the local nightclub that would get people moving and even earn them some spending money.
In the end, what was the initial Rock and Roll song? If we had to decide on a song, I’d need to be in agreement with Rolling Stones Magazine and vote for “That’s All Right Mama” (1954) by Elvis. This single, more so than the other songs mentioned, had the biggest instant impact as well as influence over rock and roll. (However, every song that was mentioned had an influence). In the years prior to “That’s All Right Mama,” RR began to make its presence known in swing music for big bands, the blues, boogie, and hillbilly bop. But with the distinct and unique sounds of an Elvis recording in 1954 , a new style of music was born (Rock and Roll, a song to which you can dance, listen and delight).
Within one year after the Elvis 1954 release, everybody who had three guitar strings was in bands or changing the hairstyles of their members, particularly in the south, where the release of 1954 was a huge hit and where the majority of rockabillers were born. If rockabilly was performed prior to the year 1954, Elvis’ 1954 recording took it to a more advanced stage (Rock and roll). The rockabilly bands ( the first bands of rock) were formed by the hundreds to emulate the example Elvis had demonstrated to others about the possibilities of rockabilly . The rockabilly craze was created almost in a matter of minutes. In fact, as we’ve said, Rockabilly, over any other type of music, had the most profound influence on rock and roll artists that followed and continues to do so in the present. There are many who do not agree, but it is difficult to identify a single song that changed the direction of music in such a profound way and at such speed.
Naturally, after “That’s Alright Mama“, Elvis became a global phenomenon through “Hound Dog” in 1956, and everyone was eager to know more about Elvis as well as the new rockabilly stars who followed Elvis’ style. That early rock sound can be heard in the modern rock artists of today.
Perhaps, in the end, the best way to describe Rock and Roll is in the context of the garage band and the ability of four out of every five beginner teenagers to compose captivating songs that appeal to the youth of their audience and to have the opportunity to perform the songs in public at local clubs on weekends and dances… As they dance the night away.. and all the rest becomes history… the history of Rock & Roll.