Rock and roll
Rock and roll (also known as rock 'n' roll) is a form of music that evolved in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Its roots lay mainly in blues, country, rhythm and blues, folk and gospel music. The style quickly spread to the rest of the world and developed further, leading ultimately to modern rock music.
The term "rock and roll" now covers at least two different meanings, both in common usage. The American Heritage Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary both define rock and roll as synonymous with rock music. Conversely, Allwords.com defines the term to refer specifically to the music of the 1950s. For the purpose of differentiation, this article uses the latter definition, while the broader musical genre is discussed in the rock music article.
Classic rock and roll is usually played with one or two electric guitars (one lead, one rhythm), a string bass or (after the mid-1950s) an electric bass guitar, and a drum kit. In the earliest rock and roll styles of the late 1940s and early 1950s, either the piano or saxophone was often the lead instrument, but these were generally replaced or supplemented by guitar in the middle to late 1950s. The beat is essentially a boogie woogie blues rhythm with an accentuated backbeat, the latter almost always provided by a snare drum.
The massive popularity and eventual worldwide view of rock and roll gave it a unique social impact. Far beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll, as seen in movies and in the new medium of television, influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language. It went on to spawn various sub-genres, often without the initially characteristic backbeat, that are now more commonly called simply "rock music" or "rock".
Origins of the style
Main article: Origins of rock and roll
The immediate origins of rock and roll lie in the late 1940s and early 1950s through a mixing together of various popular musical genres of the time. These included blues, country music, R&B, folk music, and gospel music.
However, elements of rock and roll can be heard in many "hillbilly" and "race" music records of the 1920s and 1930s. Often "black" music was usually relegated to "race music" outlets (music industry code for rhythm and blues stations) and was rarely heard by mainstream white audiences. A few black rhythm and blues musicians, notably Louis Jordan, the Mills Brothers, and The Ink Spots, achieved crossover success; in some cases (such as Jordan's "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie") this success was achieved with songs written by white songwriters. The Western swing genre in the 1930s, generally played by white musicians, also drew heavily on the blues and in turn directly influenced rockabilly and rock and roll, as can be heard, for example, on Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" (1957).
Going back even further, rock and roll can trace one lineage to the old Five Points, Manhattan district of mid-19th century New York City, the scene of the first fusion of heavily rhythmic African shuffles and sand dances with melody-driven European genres, particularly the Irish jig.
The following is a table underlining some (but not all) of the main influences on Rock and roll. What should be noted is that prior to rock and roll, music was categorized based on race, nationality, location, style, instrumentation, vocal techniques, and even religion. However, with the immense popularity and commercial success of Elvis Presley in 1956, Rock and roll became cornerstone of the music industry in America. No more was music defined and categorized as it had been. Rather, it became inclusive of almost every genre of music that had gained a certain amount of popularity.
Country Influences Rhythm & Blues Influences Others
• Western Swing
• Honky Tonk • Traditional Blues
• Boogie Woogie
• Negro Spirituals • Traditional Folk
• Pop Music
• Big Bands
Origins of the phrase
In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed began playing rhythm and blues and country music for a multi-racial audience. Freed is credited with first using the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the music he played. However, the term had already been introduced to US audiences, particularly in the lyrics of many rhythm and blues records. Three different songs with the title "Rock And Roll" were recorded in the late 1940s; one by Paul Bascomb in 1947, another by Wild Bill Moore in 1948, and yet another by Doles Dickens in 1949, and the phrase was in constant use in the lyrics of R&B songs of the time. One such record where the phrase was repeated throughout the song was "Rock And Roll Blues," recorded in 1949 by Erline "Rock And Roll" Harris. The phrase was also included in advertisements for the film Wabash Avenue, starring Betty Grable and Victor Mature. An ad for the movie that ran April 12, 1950 billed Ms. Grable as "...the first lady of rock and roll" and Wabash Avenue as "...the roaring street she rocked to fame".
Before then, the phrase "rocking and rolling", as secular black slang for dancing or sex, appeared on record for the first time in 1922 on Trixie Smith's "My Man Rocks Me With One Steady Roll". Even earlier, in 1916, the term "rocking and rolling" was used with a religious connotation, on the phonograph record "The Camp Meeting Jubilee" by an unnamed male "quartette". The word "rock" had a long history in the English language as a metaphor for "to shake up, to disturb or to incite". In 1937, Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald recorded "Rock It for Me," which included the lyric, "So won't you satisfy my soul with the rock and roll." "Rocking" was a term used by black gospel singers in the American South to mean something akin to spiritual rapture. By the 1940s, however, the term was used as a double entendre, ostensibly referring to dancing, but with the subtextual meaning of sex, as in Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight." The verb "roll" was a medieval metaphor which meant "having sex". Writers for hundreds of years have used the phrases "They had a roll in the hay" or "I rolled her in the clover". The terms were often used together ("rocking and rolling") to describe the motion of a ship at sea, for example as used in 1934 by the Boswell Sisters in their song "Rock and Roll", which was featured in the 1934 film "Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round", and in Buddy Jones' "Rockin' Rollin' Mama" (1939). Country singer Tommy Scott was referring to the motion of a railroad train in the 1951 "Rockin and Rollin'". .
An alternative claim is that the origins of "rocking and rolling" can be traced back to steel driving men working on the railroads in the Reconstruction South. These men would sing hammer songs to keep the pace of their hammer swings. At the end of each line in a song, the men would swing their hammers down to drill a hole into the rock. The shakers — the men who held the steel spikes that the hammer men drilled — would "rock" the spike back and forth to clear rock or "roll", twisting the spike to improve the "bite" of the drill.