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1950s

1950s

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Published by simonballemusic

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Published by: simonballemusic on Nov 08, 2011
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09/29/2014

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1950s
1
Chuck Berry
The history of modern pop music can easily be traced back to the mid 1950s, to
Rockand Roll.
“It seemed to burst on to the scene as if from nowhere, something new and exciting, galvanising a generation who immediately saw it as the start of a new pop music” 
Rock and Roll represented a great change in popular music and the explosion of creativity in the popular music of the 1960s can in large part be attributed to thisrevolutionary development. But Rock’n’Roll did not come from a vacuum so where didit come from?Examples of some popular songs from the early 50s throw some light on this questionnot because they sound like precursors to rock and roll but for the opposite reason – asong such as “Magic Moments” by Perry Como exemplifies the light entertainment styleof many saccharine and sentimental 50s pop records. This sort of musical escapismsuited those who had lived through World War II and perhaps the depression of thethirties but did not appeal to the young.It must be noted that he 1950s were a period of power and prosperity in the US andwith that prosperity came teenage affluence and the development of youth culture asdistinct from mainstream, adult society. This was a new cultural development and asyoung people sought to distinguish themselves from their parents music became animportant aspect of identity. Thus when rock’n’roll emerged with its energy, rhythmicpower and sexuality, it appealed to young people and offended the older generation inequal part.As a musical style Rock ’n’ Roll grew out of two important American musical traditions – 
Blues and Country 
. These styles of course already existed in the 1950s but werenot seen as pop music. Rather, they were styles of folk music – produced and consumedwithin their respective communities and each had its specialist radio stations and recordcompanies.The harmonic structure of rock and roll – based largely around chords I, IV and V andoften in 12 bar form – could be found in these two earlier styles and many records fromthe late 1940s by the likes of Hank Williams (country) and Fats Domino (blues) sound
 
1950s
2
like rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, “Rock ‘n’ Roll was not a new type of music at all but a newaudience for a type of music that had existed for some years.”
Blues in the 40s and early 50s
There were two main branches of blues in the 40sand early 50s - the earthier country blues style of southern musicians such as Muddy Waters andHowlin’ Wolf who had converged on northerncities and the City Blues from Kansas City and StLouis characterised by its greater emphasis onentertainment and dancing and. This City Blues, orRhythm and Blues as it came to be known, wasarguably the most important influence on rock ‘n’roll. R‘n’B performers such as Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan and Fats Domino played music with a strong backbeat, bass riffs and tenor saxsolos which had much more energy than the mainstream pop of tin pan alley and thusappealed greatly to white teenagers.A key recording is
 Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket ‘88”
an R&B hit from
1951
. Thegood time feel and celebration of the motor car became the stuff of 
Chuck Berry 
 songs, while the up-tempo swing rhythm bass riff (on a 12-bar pattern) and poundingpiano exemplify the stylistic link between this R&B and what was soon to becomerock’n’roll.
KEY R’n’B (also called jump blues) ARTISTS & RECORDINGS
 
ARTIST KEY RECORDINGS RECORDINGDATE
 Jackie Brenston Rocket 88 1951Louis Jordan Choo-Choo Ch Boogie 1946Big Joe Turner Shake Rattle & Roll 1954
R ‘n’ B and Country 
Bill Haley, a country singer incorporated these ingredientsinto his style arriving at the sound heard on his hits “Shake,Rattle and Roll” and “Rock Around the Clock”. The latterwas a seminal record in the history of rock and roll and itsuse in the film “Blackboard Jungle” did much to establishthe association between R’n’R and teenage rebellion.This R’n’B/Country combination can also be heard on theearly records of Elvis Presley – check out “That’s Alright”from 1954.So, really, Black R’n’R was, in essence Rhythm and Blues with a new white audience(Little Richard, Chuck Berry) and White R’n’R was a fusion of blues and country typifiedby the ‘Rockabilly” sound of Elvis, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Louis Jordan and bandBill Hailey & The Comets

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