the beginnings of rock and roll






late 1940s > rock and roll


rock and roll (rock & roll or rock ‘n’ roll):

stylistic origins: blues / rhythm and blues / gospel / boogie-woogie / country / electric blues / jump blues / chicago blues / swing / folk / western swing
cultural origins: late 1940s, United States

The origins of rock and roll have been fiercely debated by commentators and historians of music. There is general agreement that it arose in the Southern United States – a region which would produce most of the major early rock and roll acts – through the meeting of various influences that embodied a merging of the African musical tradition with European instrumentation.
Because the development of rock and roll was an evolutionary process, no single record can be identified as unambiguously “the first” rock and roll record.

rock and roll subgenres: garage rock, rockabilly, surf rock

the beginnings of rock and roll

the-beginnings-of rock-and-roll

John Lee Hooker (1917 – 2001)

born: August 22, 1912; Tutwiler, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, U.S.
died: June 21, 2001.

genres: blues

John Lee Hooker was an American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He rose to prominence performing an electric guitar-style adaptation of Delta blues. Hooker often incorporated other elements, including talking blues and early North Mississippi Hill country blues. He developed his own driving-rhythm boogie style, distinct from the 1930s–1940s piano-derived boogie-woogie.

It’s the primal sound, the African sound, with guitar driving the rhythm. It’s the guitar riff that launched a million songs. Without Hooker, you don’t have ZZ Top. The smash hit “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, which sold nearly three million records in 1970, also used Hooker’s “Boogie Chillum” riff in its introduction and instrumental interlude.

John Lee Hooker Boogie Chillen original 1948 version; ZZ Top – La Grange; Norman Greenbaum Spirit in the sky ( Rare Original 1970 ):

Van Morrison, recording with the group “Them,” covered a Hooker hit, “Baby Please Don’t Go,” which was originally recorded by Big Bill Broonzy.
The rock hit “Money, That’s What I Want,” originally by Barry Strong and later covered by The Beatles, appears to be based on Hooker’s earlier “I need some money” which begins with almost identical lyrics: “The best things in life are free/But you can give it to the birds an’ bees/I need some money.”

Big Bill Broonzy-Baby Please Don’t Go; John Lee Hooker – Baby, Please Don’t Go (1959); Baby Please Don’t Go, Van Morrison and Them 1964:

The rock hit “Money, That’s What I Want,” originally by Barrett Strong and later covered by The Beatles, appears to be based on Hooker’s earlier “I need some money” which begins with almost identical lyrics: “The best things in life are free/But you can give it to the birds an’ bees/I need some money.”

John Lee Hooker- I Need Some Money; Barrett Strong – Money (That’s What I Want); The Beatles Money (That’s What I Want):

White blues bands often covered his songs and copied his more memorable riffs, both vocal and guitar.


louis-jordan-photoLouis Thomas Jordan (1908 – 1975)

also known as “The King of the Jukebox”
born: July 8, 1908, Brinkley, Arkansas, United States
died: February 4, 1975

genres: swing, jump blues, jazz, blues, R&B, big band, comedy music

“The Father of Rhythm & Blues” and “The Grandfather of Rock ‘n’ Roll”

Is one of the most successful musicians of all time. Starting in 1942, Jordan began an 8 year streak, during which he scored 57 R&B chart hits including 18 number one hit records. During this amazing chart run, people began referring to Jordan as “The King of the Jukeboxes“.

He is one of a number of seminal black performers who are often credited with inventing rock and roll. If Bill Haley and Elvis Presley have to be dubbed the father and king of rock’n’roll, then Louis Jordan must be considered its godfather.
Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” has been called one of the first rock and roll records.
Chuck Berry was quoted as saying, “To my recollection, Louis Jordan was the first one that I hear play rock and roll.”This music is also really danceable. It has a great sense of fun in it. And in these lyrics, we hear that spirit of debauchery that’s so essential to rock and roll.
Ever wonder where Chuck Berry got his famous “Johnny B. Goode” riff? Listen to guitarist Carl Hogan’s intro on Jordan’s 1946 No. 1 hit, “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman.”

Louis Jordan – Saturday Night Fish Fry; Louis Jordan – Ain`t That Just Like A Woman; Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode;


“Rock the Joint” – First Rock’n roll song?!

“Rock the Joint”, also known as “We’re Gonna Rock This Joint Tonight”, is a boogie song recorded by various proto-rock and roll singers, notably Jimmy Preston and early rock and roll singers, most notably Bill Haley. Preston’s version has been cited as a contender for being “the first rock and roll record”, and Haley’s is widely considered the first rockabilly record.

This record has the prerequisite driving beat, boogie bass line, and blues-based melody, but what really sets it apart is the party atmosphere.
In the chorus of this song (“We’re gonna rock, we’re gonna rock”), you can clearly hear the inspiration for Bill Haley’s recording of “Rock Around The Clock”.

Rock The Joint – Jimmy Preston & His Prestonians 1949; Bill Haley & His Comets – Rock Around The Clock (1955):




There’s still one very important ingredient in rock and roll: a distorted guitar. And that’s why “Rocket 88” from 1951 should be considered the first rock and roll song.It was one of the first songs to use a distorted guitar, and it happened by accident.

In the studio, the band cut the song with sax player Jackie Brenston singing lead. The guitarist’s amplifier had a torn speaker, and producer Sam Phillips jerry-rigged it, stuffing some packing paper in the speaker cone. The unexpected result was a fuzzy sound that defined the song’s raw vibe and became a blueprint for the guitar tone of everyone from Chuck Berry to the Rolling Stones. Though Ike Turner claimed he wrote the song, it was credited to Jackie Brenston.

Rocket “88” – Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats:

The music also benefited from the development of new amplification and electronic recording techniques from the 1930s onwards, including the invention of the electric guitar, first recorded as a virtuoso instrument by Charlie Christian.


Charles Henry “Charlie” Christian (1916 – 1942)

born: July 29, 1916, Bonham, Texas, U.S.
died March 2, 1942
genres: jazz, swing

Christian was an important early performer on the electric guitar and a key figure in the development of bebop and cool jazz.
His single-string technique, combined with amplification, helped bring the guitar out of the rhythm section and into the forefront as a solo instrument.

Christian paved the way for the modern electric guitar sound that was followed by other pioneers, including T-Bone Walker, Eddie Cochran, Cliff Gallup, Scotty Moore, Franny Beecher, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix.

For this reason, Christian was inducted in 1990 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under the early influence category.

Stompin’ at The Savoy (1941) – Charlie Christian:

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