The Real History of Rock and Roll

The popular genre of music that is believed to have originated during the 1940s and 50s in the United States, Rock and Roll or rock ‘n roll is known to have evolved from musical styles like boogie woogie, jazz, jump blues, country music and gospel. The elements that turned into this music style could be heard in records dating to the 1920s but the genre did not get its recognition until the 50s. Let us learn something about the history of this music genre and try to understand who actually invented it.

What is Rock and Roll?

It is a style of music that originated in the 1950s in the United States before evolving into an international style named ‘rock music’ in the 1960s. The earliest form of this music style involved the use of saxophone or piano as the main instrument but they were later replaced by guitar in late 50s. The classic version of this music is played with one or two guitars and drum kit.

Rock and roll was more than just a music style as seen on television, magazines and movies and influenced language, fashion and lifestyle. It evolved into other genres and often used interchangeably with rock music. The phrase was originally used to describe a ship’s movement in the ocean. A lot of swing, blues and gospel recordings started using this term until it was used more commonly in the 1940s for recordings that aimed at black audience.

It was in 1934 that a song by Boswell Sisters was named ‘Rock and Roll’. A Billboard magazine columnist started using this term in 1942 to talk about upbeat recordings. Finally, ‘Rock and Roll Inn’ was established as a music venue in New Jersey in 1943. A disc jockey named Alan Freed began making this term popular by using it to describe a music style.

Origins of Rock and Roll

The origin of this music genre is a matter of debate for historians and commentators. However, it is agreed that it originated from the Southern part of the United States that produced a large number of rock and roll acts out of meetings held to merge the African music culture with European instrumentation. Adding to this were other factors like African-American music styles like swing and jazz adopted by whites, development and popularity of gramophone record and radio stations that shared different forms of music to both white and black.

The direct roots of this music genre lie in the country music and rhythm and blues of the 40s and 50s. A truck driver from Mississippi recorded a record ‘That’s All Right’ in 1954 in Memphis which is claimed to be the first rock and roll record. Another musician named Ike Turner recorded ‘Rocket 88’ in 1951 which has been known to be the first rock and roll record. According to some other sources, the Michigan born artist named Bill Haley holds the fame for giving the first rock and roll record ‘Crazy, Man Crazy’ that hit the billboards charts in 1953. Another artist Fats Domino started playing in the bars of New Orleans at the age of 14. He mixed the guitars, bass and saxophone to come up with his brand of rock and roll. He recorded ‘The Fat Man’ in 1949 that sold a million copies in 2 years making it the first to do so.

Impact of Rock and Roll

Though popular as a music style, rock and roll influenced attitudes, fashion, lifestyle and even languages. It is also known to have contributed to the civil rights movement as white Americans as well as African-American enjoyed this form of music. A number of early songs in this genre talked about clothing, dating, school and cars. The lyrics depicted events that most people could relate to their own experiences. Rock and roll songs also started talking about some taboo topics like sex. The music style began breaking the limitations and expressing feelings that people wanted to express but did not. It almost led to an awakening in the youth of America.

Rock and roll is known to be a music genre that defined the teenager group of age. It is associated with the emergence of teenage culture among the baby boomers who adopted this music as a part of their leisure and culture. Right from its beginning to the 60s, the music genre inspired new dance styles. Teens found that the rhythm suited the revival of the dance used at gym, home, parties and church. The youth started watching the dance television shows to stay on the top of the latest fashion and dance trends.