As a popular music style Rock ‘n’ Roll was a form of music that started to develop in the United States right after World War II and it quickly became internationally popular. It’s true roots lay in rhythm and blues and then it incorporated some influence from country as well as gospel music. From the very beginning it was characterized with high energy beats and it had glamorous personal appeal of it’s stars that keep the listeners coming back for more.
Back in 1949 the rhythm and blues records were being called “race records” by magazines like Billboard. This is because this style of music seemed to attract more Black Americans than anyone else especially when it came to buying the records. But this all changed when the conditions changed with the outbreak of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It broke through with national popularity in the very early 1950’s when radio hosts and different concert promoters like Alan Freed and Dewey Phillips made the so called black music easily accessible to a young white audience of listeners. Even though it was not Alan Freed who coined the term “Rock ‘n’ Roll”, he was the one that made it popular as the label for this high energy rhythm and blues music that was hitting the music scene. It was during this decade that performers like Bill Haley and Elvis began recording their upbeat versions of popular rhythm and blues songs.
It’s hard to say which record was truly the first Rock ‘n’ Roll record, some say that Louis Jordan’s popular “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” which was a “jump blues” song recorded in 1946 should be the contender. While others claim it should be “Rocket 88” that was recorded by Ike Turner and his band in 1951. But then there are also those who helped produce Bill Haley’s huge hit “Rock Around the Clock”, claim that this song should be named the first true Rock ‘n’ Roll song. To this day, the issue of the first one ever has yet to be decided.
This style of music really had a breakthrough in 1954 when Bill Haley and his Comets had a huge success on the charts with their own version of a blues song called “Shake, Rattle and Roll” Then the following year he received international fame when his “Rock Around the Clock” was featured as the song for the movie “Blackboard Jungle.” With that song, Bill Haley became a huge phenomenon, and his concerts were always completely disrupted by all the screaming fans. However, it was Elvis who came around shortly after and would surpass Haley’s popularity beyond imagination. He made his first TV appearance in 1956 when he outraged audiences with his frenetic renditions of the blues songs “Hound Dog” and the rockabilly song of “Blue Suede Shoes”.
Other early stars to grace the Rock ‘n’ Roll scene in the early days were Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly. All of whom had country music roots that turned into Rock ‘n’ Roll. Then there was the rhythm and blues pianist Fats Domino who became a favorite as well. Soon after a lot of what was called “doo wop” groups came out like the Coasters and many more who adapted the sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll to fit their needs.
The true heyday of Rock ‘n’ Roll was not very long lived. By the time the Beatles arrived in 1963 and introduced their style of music, true Rock ‘n’ Roll was being left behind as the floodgates began to open up for a different kind of pop music that gave birth to a different style of pop and rock bands.