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Rock n Roll

Rock n Roll

It is often said that music defines a generation as each one comes to age and finds its sound, often pushing back against the previous generation. In the 1950s, that music was Rock n Roll.

The 1950s saw an end to a catastrophic World War and then a subsequent economic boom and suburbanization. The younger generation that came of age during this time differed greatly from their parents. The younger generation wanted to rebel against their parents, and the new version of music from a mixture of country music and rhythm & blues became a perfect vehicle.

Rock n Roll Timeline

Date Event
1945 World War II ends, beginning a period of post-war economic boom
Early 1951Alan Freed uses the term "rock n roll" on the radio for the first time
March 21, 1952 The first rock n roll concert, Moondog Coronation Ball, is held in Cleveland, Ohio.
March 14, 1956Elvis Presley releases his first album
September 9, 1956Elvis Presley performs on the Ed Sullivan Show
May 5, 1958The Mayor of Boston bans rock n roll shows

Rock n Roll Facts

  • Rock' n Roll was formed from the merging of African American rhythm & blues music and country music.
  • Rock n Roll was valuably marketable to teenagers.
  • Rock n Roll began to emerge in the early 1950s.

Rock n Roll Origins

African American Influence

The origins of rock n Roll can be traced back to African American rhythm & blues and gospel music. However, it was rare for that type of music to be played on air. Much like society at the time, music was segregated in a way. Before the 1950s, music recordings recorded explicitly for and by African Americans were known as race music.

race music

music that was explicitly marketed toward African Americans

Rock n Roll The first generation of rock n roll stars included Fats Domino, a star of the New Orleans rhythm & blues scene StudySmarter

Fig. 1 The first generation of rock n roll stars included Fats Domino, a star of the New Orleans rhythm & blues scene.

With the emergence of white performers singing rock n roll music, it became more widespread and played on the radio. However, as this new type of music grew in popularity, it was also a common phenomenon for white performers to cover songs by African Americans without giving due credit to its original writer and performer, often profiting.

The song "Hound Dog," made famous by Elvis Presley, was initially written and performed by "Big Mama" Thornton, an African American singer.

Rock n Roll History

Music before the 1950s was dominated by the sounds of big bands and singers such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. These sounds got the previous generation through the war as they sought out houses in suburban America and leaned into the idea of conformity.

Post-War Era

The teenagers and young adults of America came of age during the economic boom and the stability that came with it. The generation was also more significant than those in the recent past. They had the time, ability, and, most importantly, the money to spend on things like music records and phonographs. Teenagers were being marketed explicitly to. There were television shows, like the Ed Sullivan Television Show and Bandstand, that highlighted artists.

Advertisers took note of the extra spending money lining teenagers' pockets and targeted them as profitable consumers. The decade also saw a significant boom in commercialization, contributing heavily to television and radio.

commercialization

the producing, distributing, and marketing of goods to increase revenue

Radios became smaller and more portable, and records became more accessible and less expensive, meaning that teenagers could take their allowance to purchase records, leading the music industry to grow exponentially during this decade.

Disk Jockeys

While radio and television weren't exactly new to the American people, they became much more affordable and common in the 1950s. Hosts of music radio shows, called disk jockeys, became celebrities in their own right, and the spread of the popularity of rock n roll music is indebted to many disk jockeys that cropped up all over the country.

Disk jockeys

Hosts of music radio shows

The term rock n Roll came from Alan Freed, a disk jockey from Cleveland, Ohio, who hosted a rhythm-and-blues radio show. Freed's show "The Moondog House" was top-rated and one of the first to play R&B records on air. Freed also hosted the first rock concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, in Cleveland on March 21, 1952. The show lasted only 45 minutes and was oversold, causing a fittingly chaotic scene for the first rock n roll concert.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was chosen to be in Cleveland, Ohio, because of the city's role in the early days of Rock n Roll.

Controversy

The previous generation balked at the rhythmic and beat-heavy sounds of rock n Roll - and the accompanying dance moves. Many parents, government officials, and school officials regarded the music style as a bad influence - some going as far as to call rock n roll "devil's music."

Rock n roll held messages that encouraged the youth to rebel and question authority - something that went very much against the conformity of their parent's generation.

The impact of Rock n Roll has been well-studied by historians, many of whom see Rock n Roll as both a cause and effect of various changes America experienced in the second half of the twentieth century. To many, Rock n Roll represents America's complex relationship between race and class. It was more than a new genre of music- it laid the foundation for the youth counter-culture of the sixties.

Rock n Roll can also be explored from an economic point of view. The combination of the post-war economic boom combined marketing strategies with the younger generation of consumers created the perfect storm for the beginnings of the multi-billion dollar music industry we know today.

Rock n Roll artists

There were many artists who significantly contributed to the rock n roll genre.

Elvis Presley

Rock n roll Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on September 1956 StudySmarterFig 2. Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on September 1956. Elvis Presley was eighteen when he walked into the famous Sun Studios recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee. He met the studio owner and recording legend who worked with Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, Sam Phillips, who immediately saw the potential for star quality in Presley. Combined with his natural talent and some marketing magic, Elvis Presley became one of the most well-known rock n roll artists seemingly overnight.

His music exemplified the 50s Rock n Roll sound, combining his gospel roots with rhythm & blues.


Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry grew up listening, playing, and singing gospel music in church, which he took into his career as a musician. His music was trendy and marketable and peaked after the release of his hit "Johnny B. Goode" in 1958. Berry often played for integrated audiences, with African American and white audiences coming together over music.

Rock n Roll Chuck Berry became known as the "father of Rock n Roll." StudySmarterFig 3. Chuck Berry became known as the "father of Rock n Roll."

On the surface, it may seem like Rock n Roll is male-dominated. Indeed, many marketable rock n roll stars were men, but behind them were many women who did not get the recognition they deserved.

One such musician was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who became known as the "Godmother of Rock n Roll" and an inspiration for many future rock n roll artists. Tharpe's iconic sound came from a combination of her gospel roots with an electric guitar's pure rock n roll sound.

Rock n roll Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1938 StudySmarterFig 4. Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1938.

Rock N' Roll Significance

Rock n roll transcended as a form of music and began to affect other areas of life. In addition to changing the audio landscape of music, it began to influence other areas of pop culture, including movies and television shows. The music of the 1950s exemplifies a crucial transitional period in post-war America. For the first time, music was seen as a way of expression and primed the country for future movements in the 60s, such as the Civil Rights Movement.

Rock n Roll - Key takeaways

  • The emergence of Rock n Roll can be traced back to the 1950s.
  • The Rock n Roll genre dominated the teen marketplace and was the first time that a specific type of music was made explicitly for teens.
  • Rock n Roll originates from a combination of country music and rhythm & blues.
  • Rock n Roll owes much of its sound to African American artists.


References

  1. Yamasaki, Mitch. “Using Rock ‘N’ Roll to Teach the History of Post-World War II America.” The History Teacher 29, no. 2 (1996): 179–93. https://doi.org/10.2307/494739.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rock n Roll

Rock n Roll originated from country music and African American rhythm & blues music.

Rock and roll began in the 50s, and then music moved towards different sounds in the 1960s.

Some of the most famous rock n roll artists are Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. 

Rock n roll emerged in the 1950s when artists began to combine country and rhythm and blues music into a new genre.

Rock n roll emerged in the 1950s, rock n roll is a combination of country and rhythm and blues music, rock n roll has roots in African American music.

Final Rock n Roll Quiz

Question

When did rock n roll emerge?

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Answer

Rock n roll emerged in the 1950s

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Question

True or false: Rock n roll was the first type of music to be marketed towards teens

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Answer

True

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Question

How did disk jockeys increase the popularity of rock n roll?

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Answer

Disk jockeys played rock n roll music on the radio, leading more people to listen to it

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Question

Rock n roll music is a combination of (select all that apply)

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Answer

rhythm & blues

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Question

What is race music?

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Answer

Music that was specifically recorded and distributed to African Americans

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Question

How did African Americans contribute to rock n roll?

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Answer

Rock n roll draws heavily upon rhythm & blues, which was created by African American artists

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Question

Who is considered the first disc jockey to play Rock n Roll on the radio?

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Answer

Alan Freed

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Question

What is commercialization?

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Answer

The marketing and distributing of goods with the sole purpose of increasing revenue 

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Question

Why was Rock n Roll considered controversial?

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Answer

Many people saw Rock n Roll as a bad influence as many songs encouraged youths to question authority

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Question

Who were two important Rock n Roll artists?

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Answer

Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry

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