Once upon a time, back in the 1940s and 50s, the music industry was taken by storm when a new type of music hit the airways. It was a combination of primarily blues, jazz, and gospel music mixed with a little country and western swing. It had a beat that made people want to get up and shake it, even when shaking it was considered, “dirty” and the world could not get enough. It was an era in music history that shaped the musicians we have today and the world lovingly knows it as, “Rock ‘n roll”. However, most people do not realize exactly how much history and mystery surrounds these musical geniuses from back in the good ole days.
Rock ‘N Roll History
When people talk about rock and roll, they most likely are referring to some of the greatest music legends of all time. The Beatles, The Monkey’s, Chuck Berry and Elvis were all a part of the early rock and roll. However, the first true song that combined all elements of classic rock ‘n roll was released much earlier. It was a song that was performed by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, titled, “That’s All Right Mama” back in 1946.
The earliest type of rock ‘n roll used either a piano or a saxophone as the lead instrument, but these were replaced by a guitar during the 1950s. The beat most often was blues that was topped off with a backbeat that usually included a snare drum. If you look at classic rock, which came in the ‘50s, this is where you will begin to find electric guitars, string bass, and drum kits.
Most people do agree that true rock and roll music began in the southern states because of the strong African influences within rock ‘n roll. As the slavery era ended and Africans moved further north, they took their music and their beats with them.
Over time and as African Americans and whites mingled more, their music styles were heard together. White people learned that not all music must be what they had always heard and the amazing history of music took a new turn. It was a cultural collision that benefited the entire world. That is why most people still associate true rock and roll music with blues or jazz.
Why We Loved It
“Rocking and Rolling” was a term that was at first used by ships on the ocean. When the waves were rolling their ship and tossing it about, they were rocking and rolling. Then, in the early twentieth century, it became a term that was more closely associated with spiritual fervor, especially in African American church rituals. It was also a sexual analogy. The exciting beats made people want to move and it was during a time when even Elvis shaking his body on stage was considered sexual and “dirty”. However, the timing was also right for this “sexual” aspect because of the beginning of sexual liberation, a social movement that challenged our traditional code of “proper behavior”.
Perhaps it was Bob Seger, who said it best back in 1978 when he released his record titled “Stranger in Town”. On this album he had a song that took a look back to when Rock and Roll began and claimed that he missed those days of old and how rock ‘n roll was the music that soothes the soul.
The Legends Were Born
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was, according to some, a decline in rock and roll’s popularity. It was not because of a lack of desire to listen to it, but because of a variety of “sad stories” that happened during this time. Some of the most popular artists of the time were either wrapped in controversy or dying off. Little Richard retired to become a preacher in 1957. In 1958, Elvis was drafted into the Army and Jerry Lee Lewis was wrapped in scandal over his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin. Chuck Berry was arrested and Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in 1959. Everything seemed to happen rapid fire and it took some of the biggest names in music at that time out of the limelight.
However, even before all the bad things happened in the late 50s, there are a lot of people who have researched how various things within rock and roll history are questionable. There are mysteries everywhere in the somewhat rocky beginnings. For instance, the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. A legend like that is born the same way legends like Steve jobs are born, they are not overnight successes like you think.
Johnson passed away in 1938 at 27-years-old and it is still a mystery as to why. All that people know for sure is that there are only two photographs of him in existence and his death involved a woman and a bottle of whisky that had been laced with strychnine. It is rumored that he was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad which was located near Dockery Plantation at midnight. He supposedly met up with the Devil who tuned his guitar making it truly amazing in exchange for his soul. He personally claimed that it was true and even performed songs titled “Me and the Devil” and “Cross Road Blues”.
The Beatles also had their fair share of mystery. Some believe that the real Paul McCartney died in a car crash during the peak of Beatles success, but that he was replaced by a man named William Campbell who looked like Paul. There are rumors that when the song Revolution 9 is played backward there is questionable content and that the Abbey Road album had a car on the cover with a tag that stated “28 IF”. “28 IF” is supposedly how old Paul would have been had he survived. The fact that he was the only barefoot Beatle on the cover was also a supposed indication of his corpse status.
There are a multitude of other mysteries and controversies surrounding the history of rock and roll and the people who set the music industry on its current path. In fact, there are books dedicated to all of the unusual things that have happened throughout rock and roll’s rocky beginnings. Even though we have all moved beyond that old fashioned rock and roll, it still impacts the things we love listening to now and it will be interesting to see what future changes will come to our music in the future.