Early rock  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
first rock and roll record

There is much debate as to what should be considered the first rock & roll record. One leading contender is "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (which was, in fact, Ike Turner and his band The Kings of Rhythm recording under a different name), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in 1951. Four years later, Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" (1955) became the first rock and roll song to top Billboard magazine's main sales and airplay charts, and opened the door worldwide for this new wave of popular culture. Rolling Stone magazine argued in 2004 that "That's All Right (Mama)" (1954), Elvis Presley's first single for Sun Records in Memphis, was the first rock and roll record. But, at the same time, Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll", later covered by Haley, was already at the top of the Billboard R&B charts.

Turner was one of many forerunners. His 1939 recording, "Roll 'Em Pete", is close to '50s rock and roll. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was also recording shouting, stomping music in the 1930s and 1940s that in some ways contained major elements of mid-1950s rock and roll. She scored hits on the pop charts as far back as 1938 with her gospel songs, such as "This Train" and "Rock Me", and in the 1940s with "Strange Things Happenin' Every Day", "Up Above My Head", and "Down by the Riverside." . Other significant records of the 1940s and early 1950s included Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight" and Hank Williams' "Move It On Over" and Amos Milburn's "Chicken Shack Boogie" (all 1947); Jimmy Preston's "Rock the Joint" and Fats Domino's "The Fat Man" and Big Joe Turner's "Ooo-Ouch-Stop" (all 1949); and Les Paul and Mary Ford's "How High the Moon" (1951).

Both rock and roll and boogie woogie have four beats (usually broken down into eight eighth-notes/quavers) to a bar, and follow twelve-bar blues chord progression. Rock and roll however has a greater emphasis on the backbeat than boogie woogie. Little Richard combined boogie-woogie piano with a heavy backbeat and over-the-top, shouted, gospel-influenced vocals that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says "blew the lid off the '50s." However, others before Little Richard were combining these elements, including Esquerita, Cecil Gant, Amos Milburn, Piano Red, and Harry Gibson. Little Richard's wild style, with shouts and "woo woos," had itself been used by female gospel singers, including the 1940s' Marion Williams. Roy Brown did a Little Richard style "yaaaaaaww" long before Richard in "Ain't No Rockin no More."

Bo Diddley's 1955 hit "Bo Diddley" backed with "I'm A Man" introduced a new, pounding beat, and unique guitar playing that inspired many artists. Other artists with early rock and roll hits were Chuck Berry and Little Richard, as well as many vocal doo-wop groups. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's website, "While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together." Within the decade crooners such as Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, and Patti Page, who had dominated the previous decade of popular music, found their access to the pop charts significantly curtailed.

Rockabilly

"Rockabilly" usually (but not exclusively) refers to the type of rock and roll music which was played and recorded in the mid 1950s by white singers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, who drew mainly on the Country roots of the music. Many other popular rock and roll singers of the time, such as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, came out of the black rhythm and blues tradition, making the music attractive to white audiences, and are not usually classed as "rockabilly".

In July 1954, Elvis Presley recorded the regional hit "That's All Right (Mama)" at Sam Phillips' Sun studios in Memphis. Two months earlier in May 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock". Although only a minor hit when first released, when used in the opening sequence of the movie Blackboard Jungle, a year later, it really set the rock and roll boom in motion. The song became one of the biggest hits in history, and frenzied teens flocked to see Haley and the Comets perform it, causing riots in some cities. "Rock Around the Clock" was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll music. If everything that came before laid the groundwork, "Clock" introduced the music to a global audience.

Cover versions

Many of the earliest white rock and roll hits were covers or partial re-writes of earlier rhythm and blues or blues songs. Through the late 1940s and early 1950s, R&B music had been gaining a stronger beat and a wilder style, with artists such as Fats Domino and Johnny Otis speeding up the tempos and increasing the backbeat to great popularity on the juke joint circuit. Before the efforts of Freed and others, black music was taboo on many white-owned radio outlets. However, savvy artists and producers quickly recognized the potential of rock, and raced to cash in with white versions of this black music. White musicians also fell in love with the music and played it everywhere they could. This, however, is somewhat unfair and a lot of the early rock hits were country based songs too. Many of Presley's early hits were covers, like "That's All Right" (a countryfied arrangement of a blues number, its flip side Blue Moon of Kentucky was also successful), "Baby, Let's Play House", "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" and "Hound Dog". "Heartbreak Hotel", the song that brought Presley to a worldwide audience (and his first ever release that was not a cover) was composed by country writers.

Covering was customary in the music industry at the time; it was made particularly easy by the compulsory license provision of United States copyright law (still in effect ). One of the first successful rock and roll covers was Wynonie Harris's transformation of Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight" from a jump blues to a showy rocker. The most notable trend, however, was white pop covers of black R&B numbers. Exceptions to this rule included Wynonie Harris covering the Louis Prima rocker "Oh Babe" in 1950, and Amos Milburn covering what may have been the first white rock and roll record, Hardrock Gunter's "Birmingham Bounce," in 1949.

Black performers saw their songs recorded by white performers, an important step in the dissemination of the music, but often at the cost of feeling and authenticity (not to mention revenue). Most famously, Pat Boone recorded sanitized versions of Little Richard songs, though Boone found "Long Tall Sally" so intense that he couldn't cover it. Later, as those songs became popular, the original artists' recordings received radio play as well. Little Richard once called Pat Boone from the audience and introduced him as "the man who made me a millionaire."

The cover versions were not necessarily straightforward imitations. For example, Bill Haley's incompletely bowdlerized cover of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" transformed Big Joe Turner's humorous and racy tale of adult love into an energetic teen dance number, while Georgia Gibbs replaced Etta James's tough, sarcastic vocal in "Roll With Me, Henry" (covered as "Dance With Me, Henry") with a perkier vocal more appropriate for an audience unfamiliar with the song to which James's song was an answer, Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie."

Blues would continue to inspire rock performers for decades. Delta blues artists such as Robert Johnson and Skip James also proved to be important inspirations for British blues-rockers such as The Yardbirds, Cream, and Led Zeppelin. The reverse, black artists making hits with covers of songs by white songwriters, although less common, did occur. Amos Milburn got a hit with Don Raye's "Down the Road a Piece," Maurice Rocco covered Raye's "Beat Me Daddy Eight To The Bar,", Chuck Berry's first hit single Maybellene was a rewritten version of Bob Wills' Ida Red, and Wynonie Harris covered "Don't Roll Your Bloodshot Eyes At Me" by Hank Penny and "Oh, Babe" by Louis Prima, for the R&B market.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Early rock" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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