RockStory - The Roots: Rock'n'Roll
The Rock'n'Roll in the 50's: The Rock'n'Roll music began in the mid 50's..

The Rock Roots

By Claes Hassel at

The Rock'n'Roll Movement in USA

The Rock'n'Roll music began in the mid 50's, a melting pot of Blues(traditional), Country, R&B and Gospel. In the beginning it was R&B music(upbeat rhythm) played by black musicians, it soon showed that the music also was appealing to young white teenagers and white performers began to imitate, adapt and play the music.

One of the reasons was alternative radio programs such as Alan Freed's  'Moondog Rock'n'Roll Party' that in 1951 started to broadcast black Rhythm and Blues music to a wider white young audience. Another media was national television with programs like the 'Ed Sullivan Show'.

Independent record labels was another reason, such as Chess Records founded 1947 in Chicago by two brothers to record and promote rhythm and blues.

      Many of the originally Black R&B songs went popular when white performers began to play the music, it also 'helped' the black artists to hit the 'pop' charts.

The Rock'n'Roll helped to build a bridge between the black and white racial barriers among the teenagers. It was also the start of the 'Youth Revolution', to separate teenagers from the adults. 

The Record Market was quick to see the commercial possibilities with the music AND to see the teenagers as a separate 'EarnMoney' unit. 

'What was the first rock 'n' roll record?'.

I don't know, the word 'Rock' sometimes as slang for sex, had been used in the music long before the 50's.

Roy Brown
did a bluessong called 'Good Rockin' Tonight'  in 1947(also recorded by Wynonie Harris in 1948) but it could have been the R&B song 'Rock the Joint'(Jimmy Preston), released 1949, which inspired Bill Haley & the Comets to cover it  1952 or the  R&B song 'Rockin' At Midnight'(Roy Brown) or 'The Fat Man'(Fats Domino) all released 1949.

      Regarding to Sam Phillips(Sun Studios) it was Ike Turner and His Rhythm Kings song 'Rocket 88'  by Jackie Brenston and released 1951, a hymn to the Oldsmobile Rocket car with the engine Olds Rocket V8. The song features one of the first examples with fuzz guitar. Little Richard used the piano introduction on his record 'Lucille'(1958). 

Some important artists for the development of Rock'n'Roll:

Chuck Berry
Born : October, 1926.
Guitar/vocals and songwriting.
Active Years : 50's-00's.
The most important artist for the 'guitar'based rock, inventor of the rock'n'roll beats, famous for his guitar play, songwriting and live perfomances(duckwalk).
Together with his band, Willie Dixon(bas)/Johnny Johnson(piano) he recorded some of the most important early Rock 'n' Roll Anthems.
Note: Jeff Beck made an own version on the Berry song 'Guitar Boogie'(1958) and called it 'Jeff's Boogie' on the the Yardbirds album 'Roger the Engineer'(1966).
Some Songs: Versions by:
The first Rock 'n' Roll recording?
Amboy Dukes, Foghat, Elvis Presley, Pat Travers
'Too Much Monkey Business'(1956) Beatles, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Kinks, Elvis Presley
'Roll Over Beethoven' (1956) Beatles, Byrds, E.L.O., Jerry Lee Lewis, Mountain, Ten Years After
'You Can't Catch Me'(1956) Blues Project, Love Sculpture(Dave Edmunds), John Lennon, Rolling Stones
'Rock and Roll Music' (1957) Beach Boys, Beatles, Canned Heat
'Johnny B. Goode' (1958) Beach Boys, Beatles, Duan Eddy, Jimi Hendrix, Judas Priest, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mahogany Rush, Pink Fairies, Elvis Presley, Sex Pistols, Ten Years After, Johnny Winter
'Sweet Little Sixteen' (1958) Animals, Beatles, Buffalo, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ten Years
'Let It Rock'(1958) Animals, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, Savoy Brown, Yardbirds
Little Richard(Richard Wayne Penniman)
Born : December, 1935.
Vocals piano and songwriting.
Active Years : 50's-00's.
Little Richard one of the wildest rock'n'roll stars, merged the gospel with New Orleans R&B and played the piano as nobody else with his wild pounding, hammering style and together with his wild vocals it was pure Rock'n'Roll. He was (one of) the first to introduce the 4/4 rock & roll beat('Lucille '(1958)).
In only two years of time, 1957 and 1958, he released several of the bigges Rock 'n' Roll songs ever.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Tutti Frutti'(1957) Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, MC 5, Elvis Presley, Queen, Sting
'Long Tall Sally'(1957) Beatles, Birth Control,  Cactus, Jimi Hendrix, Kinks, Molly Hatchet, Elvis Presley, Scorpions, Twisted Sister
'Keep a Knockin'(1958) Deep Purple, Roger Chapman, Everly Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Mott the Hoople, Nine Below Zero, Suzi Quatro
'Lucille '(1958) Animals, Beatles, Deep Purple, John Entwistle, Ian Gillan, Pink Fairies, Status Quo, Johnny Winter
Bo Diddley(Otha Ellas Bates McDaniel)
Born : December, 1928.
Vocals, guitar/violin and songwriting.
Active Years : 50's-00's.
Playing mostly R&B, his trademark was his guitar with its rectangular shape, playing distorted, amplified with a speciell rhythm beat.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Bo Diddley'(1955) Animals, Guru Guru, Janis Joplin, Pugh Rogefeldt, Shadows
'I'm A Man'(1955) Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stooges(Iggy Pop), Yardbirds
'Who Do You Love?'(1956) Band, Chuck Berry, Ritchie Blackmore, Blues Project, Canned Heat, Eric Clapton, Doors, Golden Earring, Green Bullfrog, Peter Green, Juicy Lucy, Santana, UFO, Yardbirds
Eddie Cochran(Ray Edward Cochrane)
Born : October, 1938. Died : April, 1960.
Guitar, Vocals and songwriting.
Active Years : 50's.
He wrote and played his own material such as the the 'Summertime Blues' (with overdubbed guitar) about the hard teenage life(hopes and yearnings).

Tragicly, he died in a car crash at the age of 21 while touring in England.
Some Songs: Versions by:
'Twenty-Flight Rock'(1956)
from the film 'The Girl Can't Help It'
Robert Gordon, Montrose, Rolling Stones, Stray Cats
'Summertime Blues'(1957) Beach Boys, Blue Cheer, Dick Dale, Deviants, Motorhead, T. Rex, Van Halen, Who
'C'mon Everybody'(1959) Dave Edmunds, Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, UFO
'Somethin' Else'(1959) Ian Gillan, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard, Motorhead, New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Stray Cats, UFO

Other Rock'n'Rollers:


Elvis Presley for putting Rock 'n' Roll on the musical map to the Whole World. The way he mixed country, blues and gospel(ending up as rockabilly, white rockers Rock 'n' Roll ) and for the attitude and sexual stage perfomances made him one of the most popular artists ever. The first song 'recorded' by Elvis was 'My Happiness' an acetate demo recorded in 1953 in what to become the Sun Studios.
His first five singles, released on Sun Records, were blues songs and the first was :
'That's All Right'  recorded July the 5th 1954 on the Sun label, followed by 'Good Rockin' Tonight', 'Milk Cow Blues Boogie', 'Baby, Let's Play House' and 'Mystery Train'. His breakthrough was with the singel 'Heartbreak Hotel' released January 27, 1956 on the RCA label.

Carl Perkins, born 9 April 1932 and died 19 January 1998. Recorded 'Blue Suede Shoes' at Sun Records on 19 December 1955, the first and greatest Rockabilly song? A short while after the recording Carl was in a traffic accident and it took nearly a year before he was recovered so he was unable to promote the record. It was a number 1 in the Country Chart and number 2 in both R&B and the Pop charts. His guitar play made impression on such artists as George Harrison and Dave Edmunds.
Jerry Lee Lewis 'The 'Killer' was born September 29, 1935, his 'shouting' singing and piano-pounding style got him a place in the Rock History.
His first record at Sun Records(November 14 1956) was 'Crazy Arms'(Ray Price). On December 4 1956, Lewis did a piano session together with Johnny Cash for Carl Perkins when Elvis Presley walked in. The following jam session('the Million Dollar Quartet') was recorded and the rest is history.
In March 1, 1957 his second single is released on Sun Records, 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'(Roy Hall) and on Sunday, July 28th, 1957 he performed the song at the Steve Allen Show(national television). After that perfomance 'Whole Lot of Shakin' made it number one on all three charts : Pop, Country and Western and R&B.
All went well, in early November, 1957 Sun Records releases 'Great Balls of Fire'(Otis Blackwell) but in December 12, 1957 Lewis marries his 13-year-old cousin Myra and on tour in England(May 1958) a scandal over his marriage ends the tour.
Gene Vincent(Vincent Eugene Craddock), born February 11, 1935. on April 9 and died October 12, 1971.

Gene and the Blue Caps(great guitar play by Cliff Gallup) recorded 'Be-Bop-A-Lula'  and released it on June 2nd 1956 he also recorded 'Bluejean Bop' later in June, which became his third singel. He was in the same car crash that tragicly killed Eddie Cochran in April 1960 on tour in England.
Buddy Holly(Charles Hardin Holley) was born September 7, 1936 and he had only two years to prove that he was one of the greatest songwriter/perfomer in the Rock history. Together with his band the Crickets they recorded such hits as: 'That'll Be the Day' recorded at 25 of February 1957 and released in May 1957, 'Peggy Sue' with overdubbing vocals/guitar parts recorded 29 June 1957 and released 20 September 1957.
Sadly he died in a plane crasch in February 1959 along with Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and others.
  Duane Eddy who along with Chuck Berry helped to put the electric guitar on the music map. His guitar play(low riffs) had a hugh influence on coming guitar players with his instrumental rock like:
'Rebel Rouser'(1958), 'Cannonball'(1958), 'Peter Gunn'(1959),  'Yep!'(1959) and 'Shazam'(1960).
Link Wray invents the "fuzz-tone" guitar sound on the instrumental 'Rumble!'(1958). He was one of the reasons that, for example, Pete Townshend start to play guitar.