Race music and 1940’s country music were the direct roots of Rock n’ Roll. It’s commonly agreed that Rock n’ Roll first arose in the southern part of the United States and there were also some influences of folk, country, gospel, blues and jazz.
After World War 2, the development of blues in the Midwest and on the West Coast was characterised by prominent beats, shouted lyrics, and guitar riffs.
Considerable technological changes in the late 1940’s like the electric guitar, better microphones, 45rpm vinyl music, and the amplifier, significantly influenced the development of Rock n’ Roll and in early 1950’s, which was widely recognised as a distinct genre in the history of rock music.
Because Rock n’ Roll underwent an evolutionary process, it’s not easy to define the first record of the genre. Strange Things Happening Every Day by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and That’s All Right by Arthur Crudup were probably the first songs with early Rock n’ Roll elements.
Rock N Roll’s Commercial Success
Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley was the first Rock n’ Roll song that enjoyed huge commercial success. The song was an important milestone, bringing Rock n’ Roll into wide public acceptance. Other popular Rock n’ Roll artists in the 1950’s were Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, and Bo Diddley. Chuck Berry added distorted electric guitar solo to Maybellene with warm overtones, which set a new standard in Rock n’ Roll music. Guitar distortions in Rock n’ Roll were influenced by blues guitarists, such as Guitar Slim, Joe Hill Louis, Pat Hare and Willie Johnson.
A sub-genre of Rock n’ Roll, called Rockabilly, appeared in the mid-1950’s with prominent singers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. This sub-genre has a distinct country root. Elvis Presley incorporated the music styles of BB King, Fats Domino, and Chuck Berry into his works.
The inclusion of blues and black rhythm made Rockabilly an attractive sub-genre to white audiences. In fact, many popular Rockabilly hits among white audience were partial re-writes or covers of earlier black blues or rhythm songs.
Often, these songs were written by black artists and performed by white artists. Another sub-genre called Doo-wop also appeared in the 1950’s with more prominent rhythm and blues components.
Rock N’ Roll Changes
The death of Buddy Holly, the arrest of Chuck Berry, Elvis’ military career and other events led to a change in the Rock n’ Roll industry. The rawer sounds of 1950’s Rock n’ Roll gradually evolved into a more polished style in early 1960’s. Tommy Sands, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vee, Del Shannon, Fabian and Frankie Avalon were popular artists of Rock n’ Roll of that decade. Rock n’ Roll experienced a sharp decline in late 1960’s, but it inspired the emergence of new genres, such as garage rock, psychedelic rock and 70’s hard rock.
As pop and new wave began to take over in the 80’s, rock music still held onto its following with many bands, including Queen, incorporating a pop music sound into their vinyl albums. And, since we just brought up Queen, we should also mention that the band, with new lead singer Adam Lambert, has a new album LIVE AROUND THE WORLD, out now. Click this link to purchase.
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