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The Advent of Rock and Roll

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Todd Stalter

on 9 August 2017

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Transcript of The Advent of Rock and Roll

A musical and cultural viewpoint prior to The Beatles and the First British Invasion
The Beginning of Rock and Roll and Modern Pop Music in America
Rock and Roll music was created in a "perfect storm" of
musical
,
societal
, and
technological
events in post-war 1950's America.
It became, right or wrong, a visceral illustration of the difference between two generations of Americans, and would continue to do so for 50 years.
What is Rock ‘n’ Roll, and where did it come from?
As 1940's swing bands began to add more and more musicians and play in larger venues, the acoustic bass and guitar players in the rhythm section were not able to be heard over the expanded wind sections and drum kit.
Using microphones to amplify their sound did not work (feedback). Eventually, single coil magnetic "pickups" were attached to the instrument along with on board electronics.
Leo Fender mass produced the first solid-body electric guitar in 1950, the Telecaster. The famous Stratocaster followed in 1954.
Les Paul (genius musician and tech wiz) teamed up with the Gibson guitar company to produce their solid body guitars, appropriately named "Les Paul's" in 1952.
Rock and Roll was born through the availability of good quality electric instruments
With the mass availability of radios, and eventually televisions, 1950's American teenagers could see and hear on a regular basis what other teenagers in other parts of the country were doing, what they were wearing, interested in, etc.
For a nation unified by World War II, and now technology, Americans were "connected" to each other like no other time in the history of the country.
This produces the first true appearance of a "generational awareness" in America, meaning that
youth viewed life from their perspective as being culturally and necessarily different that their parents' generation.
Generational Awareness through Mass Media
GI's use the skills they acquired in the military and apply them to civilian life. Thus marketing, promotion, and distribution of goods become streamlined and much more efficient, and the recording industry benefited from this.
Americans in the 1950's purposely wanted a safer, better society for their children, and worked hard to achieve that (they grew up in the Depression, remember?)
They wanted to use
technology
to better their lives, because they see the tech explosion happening before their eyes.
And they wanted LEISURE time...because they felt they deserved it.
Post-war American Society
The 1950's launch the Golden Age of the advertising industry, and because of the rapid population growth there were far more opportunities to buy and sell goods and services.
Post-war American industrialization led to an economic boom, and there was money flowing into the middle class...and it needed to be spent!
The Concept of the Consumer Driven Economy takes hold
And you get this: a group of young people who, because of media access, see themselves as markedly different from their parents...
Who therefore don't necessarily want to do the things their parents did, to act the way they did when they were young, or pursue the same career and life paths...
Who see an almost limitless future for themselves in America...
Who have access to more money than ever before thanks to a thriving economy and parents who want to make their children's lives better than theirs was...
Who can see each other across the country and begin to develop a cohesive "identity"...
And what was the quickest and most obvious way to distinguish themselves from their parents?...it was through the MUSIC they listened to.
Add those together...
Early Rock styles grew from the popularity of 1940’s Swing Jazz (specifically the Shuffle), combined with traditional Blues 12-bar chord changes, at a faster tempo.
In the beginning, it was performed mainly by black musicians for black audiences, coming mainly from the Southern U.S.
Heavily influenced from Blues styles, which is why early examples of this music is often called "Rhythm & Blues."
Lyrical content was more "edgy" than that of the popular swing songs sung by the crooners of the Big Band era (Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby...the popular music that was still at the top of the charts).
Emphasis on a heavier "back beat" than swing music.
Very danceable, which appealed to teenagers.
This music was labeled "Rock and Roll" for the first time by Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed in 1951.
Early Roots of Rock ‘n Roll
As this music becomes more popular and widespread, a controversy begins within established American culture...there is real concern about these Rock and Roll musicians being black and creating "evil" and "savage" music which corrupts white youth.
Orioles 1953 hit “Cryin’ in the Chapel,” the first black group to hit as high as #11 on the pop chart.
Major record labels claim these Indie labels making "race records" are “stealing” profits that “rightly” belonged to the major labels.
So what's the big deal?
Song was derided as lewd for its suggestive lyrical content (by the standards of the time) and was banned from airplay in a number of cities. Cited by many as a seminal influence on early Rock and Roll.
Prominent use of electric guitar.
Very popular with teenagers…it was a different sound than what their parents listened to, and it hit #17 on the pop chart.
“Sixty Minute Man” (1951)
Billy Ward and his Dominoes
As the early 1950's roll on, Rhythm & Blues "covers" (a song recorded previously) performed by black musicians became more and more popular with white teenagers, major record companies decided it was high time to cash in on the fad.
By having white musicians play on their R & B records, it becomes less socially stigmatized to listen to R & B music.
R & B Covers
They began to cover black artists' R & B hits such as “Rocket 88,” “Crazy Man, Crazy” (which became the first white rock hit), and my personal favorite, “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
Bill Haley and his Comets
A poor family, the Presley’s lived just over the poverty line during Elvis’ entire childhood.
The Presley’s were very religious, attending Pentecostal services that always included singing, and encouraged body movement/gestures that enhanced and personalized the worship experience.
Elvis shows his talent early:
Won 2nd prize in a talent show in 5th grade.
Gets his first guitar and some lessons in 6th grade.
In spite of his obvious talent, he is a shy and reclusive youngster, preferring to keep to himself.
The Early Years
Small indie label created by Phillips to record local R & B and Country and Western artists.
Phillips genuinely loves this music and wants to support the black artists in Memphis.

As a business promotion, Phillips starts a deal where anyone can walk in a cut a record for $4.

Elvis visits Sun Records and sees this as a great birthday present for his mother, and records two songs.

Phillips notices something special about his voice, and keeps the demo record.
Sun Records
Payola…almost the death knell of Rock and Roll
"Lucille" (1957) by Little Richard
"Ain't That a Shame" (1955) by Fats Domino
"Maybellene" (1955) by Chuck Berry
Elvis' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show,
October 28, 1956
"Love Letters in the Sand" by Pat Boone
And, as more white teenagers were listening to Rock and Roll BECAUSE it was being played by white musicians (and listening to "Race Music" was fairly rebellious in that time), the older generation got down to the important business of blaming the music, black people, and the younger generation for contributing to their perceived downfall of American society.
To understand the power of Rock and Roll music and its impact on American culture, you have to learn a little bit about the zeitgeist of the 1950's...
Originally and primarily an instrumental style, groups like The Ventures and Dick Dale are prime examples of this genre, which featured guitar melodies and aggressive drumming.

Up until the Beach Boys, "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris was the most important hit record of this style.

Jan and Dean incorporated vocals into this music, which influenced the Beach Boys.
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesy with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it's ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
"Oh Boy" (1957) Buddy Holly and the Crickets
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