Rock & Roll Beginnings…researched by richard lynn livesay

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on March 14, 2012 0 Comments

Rock & Roll Beginnings

Rocket 88” (originally written as Rocket “88”) is a rhythm and blues song that was first recorded at Sam Phillips‘ recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 March or 5 March 1951 (accounts differ). It has been claimed by Phillips and some music critics to be the “first rock and roll song“.

But I’m “the architect of rock and roll”, says Little Richard. More than any other performer – save, perhaps, Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll. He  shouted vocals on such classics as “Tutti Frutti“, “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly“which defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll.


The following video shows In 1945 Detroit’s Frank “Sugar Chile” Robinson lost a boogie woogie piano contest because he was too young to officially compete; he was six years old. By the age of eight he had performed with Lionel Hampton, played for President Truman at the White House, and appeared in the Hollywood movie “No Leave, No Love” with Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn. By the age of 12 he was one of the most famous entertainers in the country, regularly breaking box office records at theatres across the country and in Europe.

By the age of 15 Sugar Chile had all but disappeared and for the past 50 years music historians and boogie woogie affecionados have been asking, “Whatever happened to Sugar Chile?”

In 1952 , Bill Haley, formed the Comets, which can be considered the first rock’n’roll band. 1956 would welcome Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” which began airing from Philadelphia every weekday afternoon, and the year in which Alan Freed (now ore famous as “Moondog”) organized the first rock’n’roll concert, the “Moondog Coronation Ball”. And the year in which the first rock’n’roll song to enter the Billboard charts was Bill Haley’s Crazy Man Crazy in 1953. 

Utube, Bill Haley


The Orioles’ Crying in the Chapel (1953) was the first black hit to top the white pop charts. The following year saw the boom of a new kind of black vocal harmony, doo-wop, inaugurated by the Penguins’ Earth Angel (1954) and by the Platters’ Only You (1955).

Musically, the real event of 1955 was Chuck Berry‘s first recording session. His songs were the first ones to have the guitar as “the” lead instrument, and introduced the descending pentatonic double-stops (the essence of rock guitar). His music was the meeting point of the guitar technique of T Bone Walker, the vocal technique of the “shouters” and the rhythm of boogie-woogie (with help from his pianist Johnnie Johnson). The riffs of his three masterpieces, Roll Over Beethoven (1956), Rock And Roll Music (1957) and the mythological Johnny B. Goode (1958), electrified millions of kids. his songs were… “his”: Berry was the first major composer of rock’n’roll (not just an interpreter).

In the same city and in the same year, another black musician, Chuck Berry’s bassist Bo Diddley (born Otha Ellas Bates, raised Ellas McDaniel), invented the “hambone” rhythm (a syncopated boogie rhythm), that harked back to tribal Africa and gave songs such as I’m A Man (1955), the ominous Bo Diddley (1955) and Who Do You Love (1955) suspenseful, sinister and hypnotic  He also pioneered the blues-rock format with the four lengthy jams of Two Great Guitars (mar 1964 – jul 1964), a collaboration with Chuck Berry.

Sam Phillips’ dream came true when he met Elvis Presley. Sam Phillips had found his man, equipped him with a masterful rhythm section (Bill Black on bass and Scotty Moore on guitar), and proceeded to market him as the juvenile delinquent that he was not. In a segregated society like the USA of the time, Presley became the ultimate white robber of black hits: Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right Mama (1954), Roy Brown’s Good Rockin’ Tonight (1955), Junior Parker’s Mystery Train (1955). He began to move towards “whiter” material with Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes (1956), with Frederick “Shorty” Long on piano, Mae Axton’s Heartbreak Hotel (1956), perhaps his vocal masterpiece, Leiber & Stoller’s Hound Dog (1956), but his black soul still emerged in Otis Blackwell’s diptych Don’t Be Cruel (1956), his greatest hit, and All Shook Up (1957).

The combination of rock and roll, African rhythms and sactified guitar chord shouts was a true innovation and is often called a Bo Diddley Beat. Born in McComb, Mississippi, as Ellas Otha Bates,[4] he was adopted and raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed, becoming Ellas McDaniel. In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the largely black South Side area of Chicago, where the young man dropped the name Otha and became known as Ellas McDaniel, until his musical ambitions demanded that he take on a more catchy identity. In Chicago, he was an active member of his local Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he studied the trombone and the violin, becoming proficient enough on the latter for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra, with which he performed until the age of 18. He was more impressed, however, by the pulsating, rhythmic music he heard at a local Pentecostal Church, as well as an interest in the guitar. A “diddley bow” is a typically homemade American string instrument of African origin, probably developed from instruments found on the coast of west Africa

Bo DiddlyUtube

 An irreverent boogie style was among early white rockers, Jerry Lee Lewis and was was, by far, the most faithful to the wild style of black rockers. James “Roy” Hall’s Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (1957) and Otis Blackwell’s Great Balls Of Fire (1957) coined a style of psychotic singing that will make the history of rock music (unlike Presley’s, that will make the history of easy listening) and coined a manic style at the piano.


The 40’s & 50’s “Baby Boomer” generation living in a “Leave it to Beaver” household found its rebellious outlet with “Rebel Without a Cause” Rock & Roll. It was a nation-wide movement with combined influences from Country, Southern Gospel, Rhythm and Blues, mixed and matched into an original sound.

I’ll never forget, I was in the sixth grade, lying in bed listening to the radio and Elvis sang “Heartbreak Hotel” I was never the same…it was a calling…a life-long influence. Then in High School, we had Buddy Holley and the Crickets sing at one of our assemblies (he lived just a few blocks from us). It seemed like cars, girls and rock& roll was all there was. It still influences the music genre sixty-two years later.

Thanks to Google and Wickipedia

About the Author ()

RICHARD LYNN LIVESAY - Poet/Artist•Born 1943 Lubbock, Texas, lives in Greenville, SC• Education: U. of Ariz., Lubbock Christian College, Texas Tech U.• Careers: Art, Medical, Transportation, Entertainment• Curr

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