History of Rock and Roll: the origins of Rock

History of Rock and Roll: the origins of Rock

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The term Rock & Roll to describe the nascent musical style, it was first used by Alan Freed to call your radio show «Moondog Rock’n’Roll Party«.

There are those who venture much more and associate the name Rock & Roll to nautical terms, used in the past by sailors to describe the movement of ships, "Rock", movement back and forth and "Roll", movement from side to side.

There is evidence of the use of these terms in English literature referring to 17th century navigation, but there is no evidence to tell us that truly Alan Freed has taken the words "Rock" and "Roll" from these nautical terms.

It should also be mentioned that at the end of the 19th century, the term Rock & Roll was used in spiritual music with a religious meaning.

Some attribute the first recording where Rock & Roll is mentioned, to a gospel recording of the label Little wonder called «The Camp Nou aka Garompero, Meeting Jubilee«, But there are two other recorded previous recordings, such as that of Columbia QuartetCamp Meeting Jubilee (1900) and the same theme "covered" by Indestructible Quartet in the year 1910.

Actually, more than a version, are chants of the Afro-American Christian-Evangelical Churches of the time and therefore it was sung in all the Churches, only that said "versions" were Recorded and evidence of it remained. These themes cannot be associated either with what decades later became known as a musical genre called "Rock & Roll".

The term Rock & Roll to identify Gender was proposed by Alan Freed, perhaps it was motivated by some songs by musicians that emerged as predecessors of Rock & Roll, such as "Big" Joe Turner, Carl Perkins or Joe Brown, but we'll talk about it later.

Alan FreedThrough a friend, Leo Mintz, who owned a small record store in Cleveland called "Records Reudezvous," he learned of the increase in record sales from Rhythm & Blues, a musical genre clearly performed by Afro-descendant artists, but which began to attract the attention of young whites for its powerful sound.

This motivates Alan, who had already been doing Radio for about 10 years, to On July 11, 1951, he air the first Rhythm & Blues program for a white audience, which he first called «Moondog«. The program was broadcast every Saturday from 11:30 pm to 02:30 am.

The program was a great success and the typical racist criticisms of the 50's were not long in coming. Alan started calling Rhythm & Blues records Rock & Roll trying to calm the controversy a bit, since Rhythm & Blues was a taboo subject among the white population and it hardly sounded on the radio since the genre was created (1947-1949).

Until the arrival of Alan Freed (1951), R&B was known mainly in the Afro-descendant neighborhoods, and even in 1948 there was a ban on record labels from making recordings of this genre, being forced the black musicians to record clandestinely between years 48 and 50.

When R&B became known, "RCA Victor" introduced a new recording format for records in 1949, the "45rpm", adopted by the other labels in the early 1950s.

Although many continued to manufacture "78rpm" until 1959, it should be noted that they did so for black audiences since most of them did not have enough income to buy new "45rpm" turntables and the transformation made by the manufacturing companies did not reach them. immediate.

Meanwhile, radio stations began to update your discography discarding most of them the old "78rpm" records. By 1951, record companies were sending promotional discs in the "45rpm" format and radio stations had already updated to the new technology, so all clandestine discs recorded between 1948 and 1950 that had been recorded in the previous format, they were hardly known.

The first Rock and Roll concert in history

At that moment, Alan Freed had to rename his radio show calling him «Moondog Rock & Roll Party«And although its success continued to rise, the racist pressure exerted on him leads him to think about ending the program.

Thus, he decided to carry out what became known as the first Rock & Roll concert in history, «Freed’s March 1952 Moondog Coronation Ball", Which was held at the" Cleveland Arena "with a capacity for 10,000 spectators.

The poster offered the best of the "R&B" of the moment: Paul Hucklebuck Willians, Verete Dillard, The Dominoes and Tiny Grimes.

Almost 70% of the attendees were white youth, while it is estimated that some 10,000 Afro-descendants (the capacity of the venue) were not allowed to enter and were left outside the venue.

During the Paul Hucklebuck Willians concert, the people who had been left outside knocked down the doors and a big fight broke out, which led to the cancellation of the concert.

This is how the term of this new genre that would change the Musical world took shape: «Rock & Roll».

The popularity of Rhythm & Blues in the white population was growing extremely fast and they were already beginning to call it as Alan Freed did in his Radio program.

In 1954, Alan Freed moved with his show to the WINS station in New York, starting the broadcast of his program nationwide and introducing the world to a new genre: «Rock & roll«.

Origin of the Rock and Roll genre

It is extremely complex to try to find the first Rock & Roll song. There are those who are inclined to seek him Rockabilly, a fusion of rhythm & blues and country music that for some experts it was the first form of Rock & Roll and that many attribute to Elvis, but in reality its creator was Carl Perkins, who composed the song «Blue Suede Shoes" for the Sun Records.

Perkins would suffer a fatal accident and it was Elvis who achieved success through the theme.

Prior to this, there are other Elvis songs that are credited with being the first Rock & Roll recording such as «That’s All Right (Mama)»For being Elvis's first single recorded for the Sun Records, although others are inclined towards «Heartbreak Hotel«, First song published by the RCA seal in single for Elvis.

There are also those who choose «Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets, which was the first rock & roll recording to reach number one.

There is also the theme «Crazy Man Crazy»Original theme of Bill Halley and His Comets, first rock & roll recording to appear on the Billboard magazine charts.

This is a mix of Blues, Boogie Woogie, and Jazz, which coincides with the year of recording of the Elvis Presley's first single and fuses very well the influential genres in the style like those mentioned, along with notable influences from American Folk, Country and Gospel,

But nevertheless, who lean towards Elvis Presley or Bill Halley as the first to do Rock & Roll, are simply based on the years of recording and are completely unaware that Little Richards and Chuck Berry were already making records in the early 50's, only that the prevailing racism at the time was in charge of making the "White Rockers" known first.

But the reality is that Rock & Roll already existed by 1954, only that for racist reasons he was still called Rhythm & Blues.

If we ignore any racist position and take into account that actually Rock & Roll was a term used by Alan Freed to introduce into the market the Rhythm & Blues that black musicians had been doing, in order to establish then who was the first and what was the first topic, we must go to Rhythm & Blues, where we will find the theme «Good rocking tonight«, Determining to be able analyze the transition from Rhythm & Blues sound to Rock & Roll.

«Good rocking tonight»Is a theme created by Roy brown in 1947, who merged the religious meaning of the term «rocking»Of gospel with the non-religious sense that made mention of dance and sex and although the context of the subject could be very close to being it, we cannot classify it as Rock & Roll.

But, Wynonie harris A few months later, he recorded his version of "Good Rocking Tonight", giving the Blues-Gospel melody more impetus than the lyrics themselves in a way that no one else had, pushing the idea of ​​"rocking" forward.

Initially the style was called "Race Records" (race recordings), so that in 1949 it became known as "Rhythm & Blues", beginning to appear on the scene other musicians who adopt the idea as Little Richard, Chuck Berry or Fats Domino.

"God Rocking Tonight" was versioned Later, when Rock & Roll was established, by Elvis Presley in a more modern way, like many other themes that had remained in that transition that we already explained from the 78rpm to 45rpm format.

Logically this version of Elvis is labeled as a "Rhythm & Blues" versioned to "Rock & Roll", as is the case with "Shake, Rattle and Roll", a 1951 Big Joe Turner song covered by Bill Haley and his Comets and also by Elvis Presley.

Halley's version existed even before of the success of "Rock Around the Clock", only that it was recorded after this, but it is that even the original Big Joe Turner song is obviously "Rock & Roll", like the "God Rocking Tonight" by Wynonie Harris.

Too Jackie Brenston that same year 1951 he brought out the theme «Rocket 88«, Another that would enter later in the supposed versions of« Rhythm & Blues »to« Rock & Roll ».

These are the themes that mark the emergence of Rock & Roll and give way to new interpreters such as Little richard Who already for 1951 wins a contest and is invited by RCA Records to record.

A total of eight singles were released that did not have a major push, so by 1953 he decided to form his own group which he called «The Upsetters»And in 1954 he recorded various songs with a new record label, the Peacock, also without obtaining the results he expected.

Little Richard faced two barriers, being black and being gay..

In 1955 he sent a demo to "Specialty Records", who granted him a recording session in New Orleans, demanding as a condition that he left his group to be accompanied by renowned musicians.

The first few sessions turned into more of the same, but in a hiatus from those sessions, Little Richard improvisedly begins to sing "Tutti Frutti", a song that he performed in his performances in bars with quite obscene content, but that shocked everyone present at that session

The record producer, Robert Bumps Blackwell, suggested changing the lyrics "Tutti Frutti, good, booty, If it don't fit, don't force it, You can grease it, make it easy" ("Tutti Frutti, good ass , if it does not fit, do not force it, you can grease it, to facilitate it ") to" Tutti frutti, all rooty, a-wop-bop-a-loon-bop-a-boom-bam-boom "to be able to edit it. Also, "Tutti-frutti" was used as a synonym for "gay," and that was enough.

Many of Little Richard's songs during that coming and going on record labels that did not quite give him a real boost at the beginning of his career, were plagiarized by radio networks "for whites", specifically through Pat boone,

In the future, that made Richard more popular, who was undoubtedly the first musician to dedicate himself exclusively to Rock & Roll.

Almost simultaneously Chuck Berry did the same, only that Berry had undoubtedly been playing "Blues" in Bars and nightclubs for Blacks until 1953, when he joined the band "Sir John's Trio" who performed in a club Saint Louis, well known at the time. Within months, the band would change its name to "Chuck Berry Combo."

In Saint Louis there was another very good band that competed with that of Chuck Berry, the "Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm", another great guitarist of the "so-called" Rhythm & Blues musicians who evidently played Rock & Roll before 1954 .

It is not difficult to identify Little Richard as the first, the difficult thing is in knowing who was the second, Chuck Berry or Ike Turner. Many lean towards Ike, a great guitarist who was one of the most marginalized due to his black status and his records were labeled Rhythm & Blues.

Even with both Rock & Roll and 45rpm as a format for discs, Ike kept coming up with the old obsolete 78rpm format.

Ike Turner has been marginalized even from the great books that talk about Rock & Roll, but if we take into account that Turner has recorded records of supposed "Rhythm & Blues" in 78rpm format since 1951; and that Chuck Berry was playing Blues until 1952, we must conclude that after Little Richard came Ike Turner, and further substantiating, we can establish that these were before Elvis Presley and Bill Halley (the White Boys).

First Little Richard, second Ike Turner, third Chuck Berry and fourth Fats Domino played Rock & Roll under the "pseudonym" Rhythm & Blues.

Fats Domino is the only one of them that is actually part of that Rhytm & Blues of the late 40's that later would transform their sound to Rock & Roll, achieving success in both facets of their career. Fats Domino is decisive to establish the difference between one genre and another.

Fats Domino managed to introduce in the «Top 40» the theme «The Fat Man»From 1949, important not only because it was the first of many Fats Domino hits, but also because it was easily identifiable as Rhythm & Blues. Years later, another of his successes introduces him to Rock & Roll: «Whole Lotta Loving«.

By comparing these two themes, we can appreciate the difference between Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll and perceive that many musicians were labeled as Rhythm & Blues, when in fact they performed Rock & Roll.

Influential themes and predecessors of Rock & Roll

There are many themes that during the first half of the 20th century were marking the way for what was finally would become the most important musical genre in history, we will try to summarize them in the most decisive:

Columbia Quartet - "Camp Meeting Jubilee" (1900)

This same theme presents other versions, one from "Indestructible Quartet" in 1910 and the other, a recording from the label "Little Wonder from 1916 with the name of" The Camp Nou alias Garompero, Meeting Jubilee.

But, as we said before, the word "version" must be written like this, in quotation marks, since they are simply chants of the Afro-American Christian-Evangelical Churches of the time and therefore it was sung in all the churches.

Those that we indicate here are where there was recorded evidence that it was in recordings of the Spiritual and later of the Gospel that the combination of the words «Rock" Y "Roll»To describe a Religious experience.

Trixie Smith - "My Daddy Rocks Me (with One Good Steady Roll)" (1922)

Is a Pretty slow and well known blues that no doubt everyone will recognize when listening to it, but that cannot be called "Rock and Roll" at all. The fact is, if you look at the name of the song, it includes "Rock" and "Roll." Alan Freed never mentioned this topic as inspiring of the term Rock & Roll, but the coincidence suggests that it probably was.

What is true, as investigated, is that without a doubt it is the first song where both words "Rock" and "Roll" appeared as part of the song title.

Jimmy O’Bryant - "Chicago Skifflers" (1925)

O'Bryant was a great Jazz musician in the early 20th century. The importance of this topic is the name, as it includes the term "Skifflers".

The Skiffle is a type of music American Folk fused with Blues and Jazz which was developed in New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th century (1900's), where its interpreters performed at parties using improvised instruments such as combs, papers and the kazoo, an instrument that modifies the voice and that Africans used to imitate sounds of Animals or to communicate at a distance.

At the end of these local festivals, they passed among the attendees with a hat so that everyone could collaborate in paying the group, an act that is highly represented in the old American movies inspired by life in the mountains.

Jimmy O'Bryant in 1925 he was the first musician to use the term in a recording.

The Skiffle became very popular in the UK and would play a major role in what is known as the 'British Invasion', as several English Skiffle groups emerged, including 'The Quarry Men»Who would later be called«the Beatles«.

"The Quarry Men" consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. The latter, the drummer, was replaced years later by Ringo starr, beginning to be called then »The Beatles» for a dream that John Lennon had.

Even Mick Jagger himself was an early member of a band called "The Barber-Coyler Skyffle Band". Although he himself assures that he does not like skiffle, the truth is that the popularity of this type of music among British young people prompted them to experiment with this musical style, resulting in that «boom»Known as«British Invasion" Y determining factor for the transition between «Rock & Roll» and «Rock».

The Washboard Rhythm Kings - "Tiger Rag" (1931)

This theme is very representative of those groups of the English skiffle, although its composers are American. The theme showed that rebellious and wild attitude of the original Rock & Roll: their interpretation seemed to be out of control where extremely high-pitched voices were heard and they added some elements such as the roar of a tiger or the sound that is produced when washing and scrubbing clothes aggressively.

The original theme itself is not from 1931, but there are editions of the theme «Tiger rag»Dating back to 1919 by«Dixieland Band Jazz«, Who may be the creators of the original version. The theme was modified a little with each version. Among others we find:

  • in 1920 the version "Whiteway Jazz Band"
  • in 1921 "Southern Rag A Jazz Band"
  • in 1922 "Husk O 'Hare" and also "Ethel Waters"
  • in 1923 "Abe Lyman and Weary Weazel" were the ones who added a series of sounds, among them, that strange roar of Tigre
  • in 1927 we found the version of the song by "Charles Dornberger" who injected speed into it,
  • in 1928 "Jan Garber" appears giving aggressiveness to speed
  • in 1929 it was the turn of a great musician admired by John Lennon, «Louis Armstrong«, Who makes the perfect preamble so that ...
  • in 1931 "The Washboard Rhythm Kings" presented its sung version, which you have surely heard in the old cartoons of "Looney Toones" and his "Animated Fantasies of Yesterday and Today."

Pete Johnson and Joe Turner - "Roll 'Em Pete" (1938)

This is a subject framed within what is known as «Boogie woogie"But that would be of great influence within what was known years later as the" Rhythm & Blues. "

Joe Turner, also known as "Big" Joe Turner, was one of those determining musicians like influences at the birth of both Rhythm & Blues, and Rock & Roll. In fact, he is the author of the song "Shake, Rattle and Roll" considered one of the songs that in 1954 became known as part of those songs "rescued" from anonymity, but in reality Turner played it for years.

Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra - "Flying Home" (1939)

First track to include a saxophone solo executed by Illinois Jacquet, and further refined by Will Arnett Cobb. The theme served as a model for the performance of the later characteristic solos of "Rock" music.

Roy Brown - "Good Rocking Tonight" (1947)

We have already talked about the importance of this subject framed within what was known as «Jump blues", a kind of Humorous Boogie Woogie which is essential for mark the birth of Rhythm & Blues.

The same in this, his original version, was a kind of parody towards the Gospel in whose lyrics he put church people of the time like the "Deacon" Jones and the "Elder" Brown to "Rock out" in a non-religious way.

Keep in mind that before 1947 the only people who spoke of "rocking" were black gospel singers. "Rocking" was the term they used to describe what they experienced in their religious events linked to characteristic rhythm of Gospel music performed during certain religious experiences.

"Good Rocking Tonight" was the first time that the gospel religious sense of "rockin" and the sense that related it to Dancing and Sex merged in the same song.

In that same year (1947), Wynonie Harris records a version of the song "Good Rocking Tonight", which is considered as one of the most important recordings in the history of music.

Harris took the original version of Roy Brown fusing Gospel and Blues in a way like never before. His version of the song was recorded in December 1947 and entered the charts in 1948 causing a true musical revolution.

Harris was not the first to sing Blues with Gospel since "Big" Joe Turner had been doing it a few years before, but it was Harris's record that prompted the idea of ​​"rocking" which gave rise to the Rhythm & Blues of the late 40s and where musicians such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

Fats Domino - "The Fat Man" (1949)

Fats includes a wah-wah-style trumpet on the first of his 35 Top 40 hits. Fats Domino is a determining musician in the transition between R&B and R&R, since he traveled both roads with great success.

Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats - "Rocket 88" (1951)

Versioned that same year by Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm and by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen, is another of the issues where obviously, from Brenston's version, you could already feel that R&B had become much more powerful music which was later called Rock & Roll

Big Joe Turner - "Shake, Rattle and Roll" (1951)

Theme versioned later by Bill Haley and his Comets in 1954 and also by Elvis Presley in 1956. Haley's version was the first rock and roll recording to become an international hit, predating the success of «Rock Around the Clock"For several months, only" Shake, Rattle and Roll "was recorded later. This is another song that was obviously already rock & Roll since the original version of Joe Turner.

Bill Haley and his Comets - "Crazy Man, Crazy" (1953)

Although the topic is officially listed as the first rock and roll recording in 1954 to appear on the Billboard magazine charts, Bill Halley always mentioned that it had existed since 1953. It was not a version, it was original and Haley also said that he had heard the phrase at a high school dance when his band was playing.

Bill Haley and his Comets - "Rock Around the Clock" (1954)

This was the first rock and roll recording to reach number 1. It's the song that is credited with being the oldest of Rock & Roll, and even meets the chronological requirements for it, but we have already analyzed that it is not the one that marks the birth of Rock & Roll. Anyway, we cannot deny that it possesses the correct rhythm, has the name of rock in its title and contains all the instruments associated with the genre.

Elvis Presley - "That’s All Right (Mama)" (1954)

This version of a song by Arthur Crudup was the Elvis first single and it is possibly the song most frequently cited as the first Rock and Roll recording. Although it meets almost all the requirements, to be truly Rock & Roll it lacks two very important points, the drums and piano, but without a doubt it was a very influential theme in the Rockabilly from the 50's.

Chuck Berry - "Maybellene" (1955)

A theme that perfectly combines Rythm & Blues and Country and Western. Unfortunately, it was recorded 12 months after all this "boom", because surely Chuck made people dance to this song long before.

Little Richard - "Tutty Frutty" (1956)

We have already talked about this issue when we told you that during a pause in a recording session, Little Richard, seeing that he did not finish «convincing», improvisedly begins to sing "Tutti Frutti", song he had been performing at his bar gigs with rather obscene content for quite some time.

The theme impacted everyone present in that session and there begins Little Richard's path to stardom, but without a doubt, said song is from a few years before 1956, only that is the year it was recorded.

There will surely be many other issues that were very important to the transition between R&B and Rock & Roll, here we have tried to refer to those that stand out because marked and laid foundations in their time and that with the passing of time have become immortal.

Cover Image: Stock Photos by Sergey Nivens on Shutterstock
Rest of images: Public Domain
Extracted from archive.org.

Video: The History of Rock n Roll. Good Rocking Tonight LEGENDADO