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The original term for rock. You know, that really famous genre of music that incorporates electric guitars and percussion? Yeah.

Rock 'n' roll started in The Fifties in the US, and was created by black musicians. Rock is a fusion of...well, considering the millions of different subgenres it has, it's a fusion of whatever you want and whatever else you want. There's no concrete definition of the genre, aside from the inclusion of electric guitar and percussion (and even that is debatable).

Elvis Presley brought rock 'n' roll into the mainstream. Then, towards the end of The Fifties, rock 'n' roll died, Elvis got reduced to starring in some really bad movies, and it took the Brits, previously alien towards rock, to revive it and totally change its form. One of these bands, rather obviously, was/were The Beatles.

Notable Artists

The better known artist of the 1950s, alongside with older artists considered major influences and/or pioneers of the genre.

  • Albert Ammons
  • The Andrews Sisters. They had major hits in the jump blues genre which has been argued to be proto-rock.
  • Lil Hardin Armstrong
  • Louis Armstrong. A 1930 recording of Armstrong with Jimmie Rodgers is considered an early example and/or key influence to rock.
  • Hank Ballard
  • Count Basie
  • Chuck Berry
  • The Big Bopper
  • Billy Ward and His Dominoes
  • Will Bradley
  • Jackie Brenston
  • Joe Washington Brown
  • Roy Brown
  • Teddy Bunn
  • Johnny Cash. Yes, you read that right. Even though Cash is considered a Country Legend, he was also a pioneer of Rock and Roll. He earned his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was only in his later life he settled into country music full-time, but even then some of his last works before his death are rock and roll songs.
  • Sidney "Sid" Catlett
  • Ray Charles
  • Nat King Cole
  • Austin Coleman
  • The Crows
  • Arthur Crudup
  • The Delmore Brothers
  • Bo Diddley
  • Fats Domino
  • Thomas A. Dorsey
  • Eddie Durham
  • Benny Goodman
  • Blind Roosevelt Graves. A 1929 recording with his brother Uaroy has been considered an early example of rock.
  • Uaroy Graves. A 1929 recording with his brother Roosevelt. has been considered as an early example of rock.
  • Freddie Green
  • Bill Haley
  • Lionel Hampton
  • The Harlem Hamfats. 1930s band with songs displaying early examples of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.
  • Wynonie Harris
  • J. C. Higginbotham
  • Buddy Holly
  • Jim Jackson
  • Blind Lemon Jefferson
  • Pete Johnson
  • Robert Johnson. At least four of his known songs are considered to contain all major elements of 1950s rock. Despite the fact of his death in 1938.
  • Jo Jones
  • Louis Jordan
  • Gene Krupa
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Joe Liggins
  • Uncle Dave Macon
  • Walter Page
  • Little Richard
  • Ray McKinley
  • Jack McVea
  • Wild Bill Moore
  • Ella Mae Morse
  • William Frank "Frankie" Newton
  • Elvis Presley
  • Jimmy Preston
  • Johnnie Ray
  • Don Raye
  • Jimmie Rodgers
  • Eldon Shamblin. One of the first significant players of electric guitar in the 1930s.
  • Arkie Shibley
  • Freddie Slack
  • Arthur Smith. Nicknamed "Guitar Boogie", the name of his greatest hit.
  • Pinetop Smith
  • Trixie Smith
  • Tampa Red
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe
  • Big Mama Thornton
  • Big Joe Turner
  • Ike Turner
  • Ritchie Valens
  • T-Bone Walker
  • The Washboard Rhythm Kings. A 1930s band, their 1932 "out of control", "wild", and "energetic" performance of an older song is considered an early example of rock.
  • Hank Williams
  • Johnny Williams
  • Sonny Boy Williamson (I).
  • Bob Wills

Notable Songs

The following songs are considered important examples and/or precursors of the genre. In chronological order.

  • My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll) (1922) by Trixie Smith. A Blues recording. While the phrases "rock and roll" were commonplace in church songs, this is the earliest recording which uses them in a purely secular context.
  • That Black Snake Moan (1926) by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Jefferson was the founder of the Texas Blues sub-genre and is noted for his pioneering use of guitar, instead of the traditional banjo. This particular song introduced the lyrics That's all right mama / That's all right for you / Mama, that's all right / Most any old way you do, which resurfaced in several later songs. Including the very first hit by Elvis Presley.
  • Sail Away Ladies and Rock About My Saro Jane (both 1927) by Uncle Dave Macon and his Fruit Jar Drinkers. Macon was a Vaudeville performer known primarily for his lively and energetic singing performances. He adopted and fused elements from various 19th styles, and is currently regarded as the "Grandfather" of Country Music. Sail Away Ladies is a square dance number, but the refrain of Don't she rock, daddy-o is one of the earliest uses of "rock" in a musical sense. "Rock About" has a theme of playing music aboard a ship, reportedly taught to Macon by "black stevedores". It went on to receive covers in several genres.
  • Kansas City Blues (1927) by Jim Jackson, also known as Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues. An early commercial hit in the Blues genre. Inspired Answer Songs, and variations. Parts of its lyrics (including It takes a rocking chair to rock, a rubber ball to roll...) and melody resurfaced in many later songs. It is considered an influence on Rock Around the Clock, mainly through latter-day variations.
  • It's Tight Like That (1928) by Tampa Red (singer, guitar) and Thomas A. Dorsey (piano). A hit in the Hokum Blues genre, which emphasized humorous lyrics full of sexual innuendo. Red was among the first notable players of the resonator guitar, the loudest string instrument commercially available at the time. His style is considered a precursor to guitar solos in both blues and rock.
  • Pine Top's Boogie Woogie (1928) by Pinetop Smith. The first commercial hit in the boogie-woogie genre, containing playful, flirting lyrics. Both the style and the lyrics would prove influential. The song itself had music elements similar to those found in the works of Jimmy Blythe (Jimmy's Blues) and Meade Lux Lewis (Honky Tonk Train Blues), recorded a couple of years earlier. But it seems to have gained greater appeal and popularized the style.
  • Crazy About My Baby (1929) by Blind Roosevelt Graves and his brother Uaroy Graves. A Blues recording, but music researchers have noted the presence of the same rhythmic elements as proto-rock. Citing it as an early example or influence. Later works from the Graves brothers point to the evolution of their style to a rock-like direction,
  • Blue Yodel No. 9 (1930) by Jimmie Rodgers (singer), Louis Armstrong (trumpet), and Lil Hardin Armstrong (piano). Also known as Standing on the Corner. While considered a major star of Country Music, Rodgers incorporated elements of Jazz and Blues in his work. The collaboration in this work is considered groundbreaking in several ways. One of the earliest known collaborations between "white" and "black" artists, an early fusion of elements, and successful with audiences of varying racial backgrounds. It has been regarded as one of the songs which "shaped rock".
  • Tiger Rag (1931/1932) by The Washboard Rhythm Kings. This song was originally a 1917 hit by the Original Dixieland Jass Band. It went on to become part of the repertoire of virtually every Jazz band, with covers adapting it to various sub-genres. The Washboard Rhythm version has been noted for its highly energetic, "out -of-control" delivery, and its prominent use of a guitar. At the time guitars were just starting to become prominent parts of musical ensembles. The performance style and guitar use have been cited as either precursors or early examples of rock.
  • Good Lord (1934) by Austin Coleman and Joe Washington Brown, better known as Run Old Jeremiah. One of the earliest recordings of a "ring shout", a traditional African-American church song. This performance included improvised, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, rhythmic singing, use of hand clapping and heel stamping to provide the beat. Along with repeated words, including "rock". Music historians have noted that it anticipated key elements of rock.
  • Oh! Red (1936) by The Harlem Hamfats. First hit by the Hamfats, a group successfully combining disparate elements of Blues and Jazz. Their up-beat, dance music with irreverent lyrics is considered a significant influence on the jump blues of the 1940s. With elements surviving in R and B and Rock. Several of their later hits had themes of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll, such as The Weed Smoker's Dream.
  • Sweet Home Chicago (1936), Cross Road Blues (1936), Hellhound on My Trail (1937), and Love in Vain (1937) by Robert Johnson. Johnson is mainly regarded as a Delta Blues performer, though his surviving work includes elements from several musical genres. The storytelling elements of his lyrics, and distinctive style of guitar rhythm served as an inspiration to later performers. He is often cited as a major influence on 1960s rock.
  • Sing, Sing, Sing (1937) by Benny Goodman and his band, also known as Sing, Sing, Sing With a Swing. Originally a minor hit of 1936 by Louis Prima. The 1937 cover performance by Goodman in Carnegie Hall became a major hit in the Swing genre. The key element of the success was an energetic performance with tom-tom drums by Gene Krupa. The performance included the first recorded extended drum solos and helped popularize the drums as a key part of musical ensembles. Drums featured as a key part of rock bands in the following decades.
  • One O'Clock Jump (1937) by Count Basie and his band. Signature instrumental song for Basie and one of the greatest hits in the Swing genre. Dance-oriented music, featuring the distinctive rhythmic style of the band and performances by Basie (piano), Buck Clayton (trumpet), Herschel Evans and Lester Young (saxophone),Freddie Green (rhythmic guitar), Jo Jones (drums), and Walter Page (bass). Set the standard for popular music for a while. Other bands adapted the song, and younger musicians strived to emulate the individual performers.
  • Early in the Morning (1937) by Sonny Boy Williamson (I), also known as Bout the Break of Day. A Blues song. A 1940 re-recording of the song (by the same artist) is considered a key example of Chicago Blues. With urban lyrics and prominent use of instrument amplifiers, which would have an influence on both R and B and Rock.
  • Ida Red (1938) by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. The song itself was a traditional folk song. Wills wrote new dance-oriented music to it. The music incorporated the electric guitar sound, played by Eldon Shamblin. It was a major hit in the Western Swing genre, which combines elements of Country Music and Jazz. The song was later adapted to boogie-woogie, and its music inspired Maybellene. Having significant influence in 1950s dance-oriented rock.
  • Rock Me (1938) by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. First major hit by Tharpe. Originally a Gospel singer, Tharpe crossed-over to the secular Jazz genre. Singing in Gospel-style but with secular lyrics, ecstatic vocals and electric guitar. She helped introduce elements of Gospel music to secular audiences. Her distinctive performance style was cited as an influence by rock singers such as Little Richard and Elvis Presley.
  • Roll 'Em Pete (1938) by Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson. Combination of a Blues-style singer (Turner) with a boogie-woogie pianist (Johnson). The song was performed at Carnegie Hall and became a major hit of its time. It helped popularize the boogie-woogie style, leading to its mainstream popularity and influence in the 1940s. It was also one of the earliest known recordings of backbeat, a key element in later boogie-woogie compositions, jump blues, and rock.
  • Rocking The Blues (1939) by The Port of Harlem Jazz Men. The Jazz Men were a short-lived group consisting of otherwise well-known players Albert Ammons (piano), Teddy Bunn (guitar), Sidney "Sid" Catlett, J. C. Higginbotham (trombone),William Frank "Frankie" Newton (trumpet), and Johnny Williams (guitar). This music peace was an instrumental, but has been noted as one of the earliest pieces of music using the term "rocking" in the sense of performing or enjoying music.
  • Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar (1940) by Will Bradley and his band. The title and lyrics reference the "eight beats to the bar" characteristic of boogie-woogie, suitable for dancing. A major hit in the genre, covers by the Andrews Sisters were particularly popular. The song had an influence on later dance hits.
  • Down the Road a Piece (1940) by Will Bradley and his band. Another major hit in the boogie-woogie genre, received many covers in the 1940s and 1950s. A Chuck Berry cover added it to the classic rock repertoire.
  • Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (1941) by The Andrews Sisters. Major hit in the boogie-woogie genre , also considered an early example of jump blues and proto-rock.
  • Flying Home (1942) by Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra. Re-recording of a 1939 Jazz song. Featured the rhythmic recordings associated with Arthur Hampton, and a solo performance of tenor saxophone by Illinois Jacquet. Popularized the use of tenor saxophones in non-military music. The performance is considered to have had influence across several genres, rock included.
  • Mean Old World (1942) by T-Bone Walker. A Blues song, considered the first mature example of Walker's distinctive style. Featuring guitar solos on an electric guitar, and smoky, soulful vocal phrases. Walker is considered a major influence on Chuck Berry and other guitar players.
  • Rock Me Mamma (1944) by Arthur Crudup. A Blues song by a significant singer of the genre. The emotional lyrics performance and rhythmic guitar beat are thought influential to Rockabilly and some examples of early rock. Crudup often originated songs popularized by other artists, and was cited as a major influence on Elvis Presley.
  • Caldonia (1945) by Louis Jordan. A major hit in the Jump blues genre, featuring humorous lyrics. Like other examples of the genre, its up-tempo music and energetic performance have labeled it as proto-rock. It has been noted that a Billboard reviewer from the 1940s described the song as "right rhythmic rock and roll music".
  • The Honeydripper (1945) by Joe Liggins. The first major hit in the R and B genre. Its dance theme, and sexually-suggestive lyrics are thought to have influenced these elements of rock.
  • Guitar Boogie (1945) by Arthur Smith. An instrumental song, featuring an electric guitar solo. The original recording was hardly noticed. It was re-released in 1948 and became a major hit. Influenced later rock guitarists and helped popularize the use of electric guitars.
  • The House of Blue Lights (1946) by Freddie Slack and Ella Mae Morse. A precursor to rockabilly. The lyrics Included hepcat/hipster terms such as daddy-o, dig, and square. Morse is generally known for blending elements from different genres in her singing and for being among the first "white" singers to record in genres originating in African-American culture. This song is considered to have a greater influence on rock due to to receiving several covers and Shout Outs in the 1950s.
  • Route 66 (1946) by Nat King Cole. A major hit of its time, it has since received popular covers in several genres. Became associated with rock and roll following Chuck Berry's own cover of the song.
  • Hillbilly Boogie, Freight Train Boogie, and Boogie Woogie Baby (all 1946) by The Delmore Brothers. All three were examples of Country Music incorporating the then-popular boogie-woogie style. However, their incorporation of guitar solos and the use of electric guitars by their back-up players (such as Jethro Burns, Roy Lanham, and Zeke Turner) were new elements which they helped popularize. These elements would turn up in later rock and roll songs.
  • Open the Door, Richard (1946) by Jack McVea. A novelty song based on an old Vaudeville act. One or more drunken men return home. But the only key to their current residence belongs to a roommate who stayed home that night. Repeated attempts to alert him and get him to open the door go unanswered. Leaving the man/men wondering what Richard is doing. The song received several popular covers in 1947, coined a catchphrase, and inspired Answer Songs. It went on to have an influence on early rock and become a catchphrase of the Civil Rights Movement, applied to desegregation.
  • Move It On Over (1947) by Hank Williams. A Country Music hit, and the first major hit for the singer. Considered particularly influential on Bill Haley, and has many similarities to Rock Around the Clock.
  • Good Rocking Tonight (1947) by Roy Brown. A jump blues song parodying church music and lyrics. The "Rocking" was meant as a Double Entendre, meaning both dancing and sex. In 1948, a cover version by Wynonie Harris incorporated elements of gospel music, some improvised lyrics, and an uptempo beat. Popularizing both the song and the term "rocking" in that sense. Which started appearing in an increasing number of late 1940s songs.
  • Rock and Roll (1948) by Wild Bill Moore. One of several songs using "rock and rol"l as part of its lyrics, the title and the verses "We're going to rock and roll, we're going to roll and rock" and "Look out mamma, going to do the rock and roll" helped name the emerging genre.
  • Rock the Joint (1949) by Jimmy Preston, also known as We're Gonna Rock This Joint Tonight. Originally marketed as an example of boogie, currently considered the first recognizable Rockabilly hit. With Rockabilly itself being one of the earliest forms of rock.
  • The Fat Man (1949) by Fats Domino. First major hit for the singer, helped popularize the use of drums for backbeat. Which would become a defining element of Rock And Roll. Previous songs either lacked backbeat or used hand-clapping and/or tambourines for that purpose.
  • Hot Rod Race (1950) by Arkie Shibley and the Mountain Dew Boys. Variously considered an example of Western Swing, Rockabilly or early rock. Its theme concerning fast cars and speed proved popular in youth culture and influenced several later songs.
  • Sixty Minute Man (1950) by Billy Ward and His Dominoes. A major hit of 1951, containing explicit sexual references. Gained popularity in both white and black audiences, particularly in the youth culture of the time.
  • Rocket 88 (1951) by Jackie Brenston, accompanied by Ike Turner and his band. On the surface a hymn to a fast car, actually contained lyrics with sexual implications. Received a popular cover by Bill Haley. Both versions are considered early examples of 1950s rock and highly influential.
  • Cry (1951) by Johnnie Ray, First major R and B chart hit by a "white" artist, A prime example of music crossing racial barriers on both ways, the vocal delivery is thought influential to later rock songs.
  • Hound Dog (1952) by Big Mama Thornton. A R and B hit, received significant covers by both Country Music and Rock artists throughout the 1950s. With the Elvis Presley version considered among his signature songs.
  • Gee (1953) by The Crows. A doo-wop song with a dance beat, originally unsuccessful. Became a major sales hit in 1954 and is considered a prime example of 1950s rock.
  • Crazy Man, Crazy (1953) by Bill Haley and His Comets. First recognizable rock song to make it to the charts and receive television airings.
  • Mess Around (1953) by Ray Charles. A dance hit, gaining mainstream popularity for Charles. Considered to have had influence on both Rock and Soul
  • Work with Me, Annie (1954) by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. One of the first hits to gain popularity in both black and white audiences. Inspired many Answer Songs and imitations.
  • Shake, Rattle and Roll (1954) by Big Joe Turner. Received popular covers by both Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, becoming a major hit of the genre. Though the early version included more sexual references than the covers.
  • Rock Around the Clock (1954) by Bill Haley and His Comets. An early hit of the genre, became identified with 1950s youth culture. Considered among the first rock songs to gain mainstream popularity.
  • That's All Right (1954) by Elvis Presley. Cover of an older song by a new artist. Debut hit by Elvis, and one of the first hits of the genre.
  • Maybellene (1955) by Chuck Berry. A song concerning fast cars and speed, it became the first hit by Berry and one of the first major hits of the genre.