The birth of Rock and Roll
Pop quiz people -Is “Rock and Roll”?:
a) An incarnation of rhythm and blues.
b) A mixture of country, gospel, folk, and blues.
c) A spin-off of boogie-woogie and jazz
d) A reference to the old mariners’ term ‘rock and roll'.
And the answer is.......all of the above!
Music Historian Robert Palmer (not the Robert Palmer with the dancing girls, addicted to love, sorry), best known for his book “Deep Blues”, 1981 wrote:
"Rock 'n' roll was an inevitable outgrowth of the social and musical interactions between blacks and whites in the South and Southwest. Its roots are a complex tangle. Bedrock black church music influenced blues, rural blues influenced white folk song and the black popular music of the Northern ghettos, blues and black pop influenced jazz, and so on. But the single most important process was the influence of black music on white."
A “Billboard’ magazine writer Maurie Orodenke first used the term “rock and roll” to describe a music style in 1947 Before that the term had been used in gospel, swing and more traditional songs. The song he was describing was Erskine Hawkin’s version of ‘Caladonia’, which he described as having “right rhythmic rock and roll music”.
Once the term ‘rock and roll' was coined, the question is: Was it created then by radio DJs spinning whatever they wanted in the 50’s?
Allan”Moondog” Freed, was a Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey. Some say rock and roll was born on the night of March 21st, 1952 when Allan hosted his “Moondog Coronation Ball”. As the Cleveland Press reported there was “a crushing mob of 25,000 hepcats, jamming every inch of the floor” at the Cleveland Arena where he held it. Thousands of ticket holders were still outside and doors were broken down and fights broke out in the predominately black audience. The local authorities and media were hell-bent to get rid of Freed after that night.
In 1954 Allan moved to New York and started his “Rock and Roll Party” – “rock and roll” being a term supposedly coined by Morris Levy his manager who even tired to trademark the term. In New York the show was now attracting a racially mixed crowd but still playing predominately ‘black’ music.
The terms ‘rhythm and blues’ and “rock and roll’ were used somewhat interchangeably by both “Billboard’ and ‘Variety’ magazines until the appearance of Elvis Presley. Then it began to be called almost exclusively “Rock and Roll”, with “Rhythm and Blues” meaning more like songs such as “Work with Me Annie” by Harold Ballard and “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes that Freed continued to play.
The initial reaction to “rock and roll” was damning. Most Cities did not want it on their radios or in their auditoriums and concert halls. It was kind of like the 'punk music' of the 50’s, only bigger. There were racial fights over it and religious fights over it. Even music critics didn’t really like it at first.
Freed ploughed ahead. His show was syndicated. His show could even be heard on ‘Radio Luxemburg” in Britain. He had done what no black artist or promoter could have done at the time: Essentially promoting what was initially a ‘black’ form of music, and then at some point it crossed color boundaries and became a form of music that was ‘colorless’ in its own right – a blend of many styles by many artists.
Unfortunately Freed was one of the victims of the intense government investigation into the practice of paying DJ s to play music, otherwise known as the ‘Payola’ scandal.(I will talk about this later in my blog I'm sure.)
So what are the songs that are considered to be the first 'Rock and Roll' song?
You decide. Here is a partial list of my suggestions to help you out:
1) “Rock Around the Clock”, Bill Haley and the Comets, 1954
2) “Rock and Roll”, Paul Bascomb, 1947, Wild Bill Moore, 1948.
3) “Rock the Joint”, Jimmy Preston, 1949, Bill Haley, 1952
4) “Rocket 88”, Jackie Brenston, 1952 (written by Ike Turner)
5) “Crazy Man Crazy”, Bill Haley and the Comets, 1953
6) “Hound Dog”, Big Mama Thornton, 1952, Elvis Presley, 1956
7) “Cry”, Johnny Ray, 1951
8) “That’s All Right”, Elvis Presley, 1954
9) “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean”, Ruth Brown, 1953
10) “The Fat Man”, Fats Domino, 1949
11) “Shake Rattle and Roll”, Big Joe Turner, 1954
12) “Blue Suede Shoes” ,Carl Perkins, 1955
13) “Tutti Fruiti” Little Richard, 1955
14) “Maybellene” Chuck Berry, 1955
15) "Good Rocking Tonight", Roy Brown, 1947, and Wynonie Harris, 1948
(Three videos from my list appear below)
(Three videos from my list appear below)