Rhythm & Blues

Rhythm & Blues

The big bands get smaller and grittier.

Cultural Origin

1940s

Prominent Artists

Al Hibbler, Big Joe Turner, Roy Brown, Ruth Brown, Billy Wright, Wynonie Harris, Big Mama Thorton

Influenced By

Gospel, Swing, Jump Blues

Later Influenced

Rock & Roll, Doo Wop, Soul

Louis Jordan and his band.
Louis Jordan and his band.

About The Genre

In 1949, Billboard changes the name of its "Race Records" category to "Rhythm and Blues Records." Although the name changed, the meaning didn't. Rhythm and blues was music made by Black musicians for Black listeners.

Many, if not most, early rhythm and blues performers came out of the big band swing era. In addition to jazz, rhythm and blues was influenced by blues and gospel music, but it evolved into its own unique style in the post World War II era combining soulful singing and a powerful backbeat. In fact, the birth of rhythm and blues was the death knell for the big bands. The blues singer Gatemouth Moore said of Louis Jordan, "He was playing...with five pieces. That ruined the big bands ... He could play just as good and just as loud with five as 17. And it was cheaper." (Quote from The Chitlin' Circuit and the Road to Rock 'n' Roll, Preston Lauterbach, 2011)

Trivia/Famous Lyrics

DId you know...

Hey everybody, let's have some fun
You only live but once, and when you're dead you're done
So let the good times roll, let the good times roll
Don't care if you're young or old, get together let the good times roll

Let The Good Times Roll by Louis Jordan

See the girl with the diamond ring
She knows how to shake that thing
All right now now now, hey hey, hey hey

What'd I Say by Ray Charles

Artists from this genre

Etta James

Etta James

The powerful singer "At Last" and "Tell Mama."

LaVern Baker

LaVern Baker

She helped pave the way for rock and roll.

Louis Jordan

Louis Jordan

The King of The Jukebox.

Ray Charles

Ray Charles

Brother Ray.

MORE Genres from this era

BeBop

BeBop

Jazz music moves off the dance floor.

Electric Blues

Electric Blues

The blues plugs in.

Rock & Roll

Rock & Roll

The biggest musical phenomenon of the 20th-century.

Doo-Wop

Doo-Wop

Rich vocal harmonies combined with teen romance.