Rock & Roll

Rock & Roll

The biggest musical phenomenon of the 20th-century.

Cultural Origin

1950s in various locations

Prominent Artists

Ivory Joe Hunter, Big Joe Turner, Ike Turner, Chuck Willis

Influenced By

Blues, Jazz, Swing,  Rhythm & Blues, Electric Blues

Later Influenced

Rock, Hard Rock,  Heavy Metal, Hip Hop, Pop

Chuck Berry doing his famous duck walk.
Chuck Berry doing his famous duck walk.

About The Genre

The bastard child of a dozen mothers and countless fathers, rock & roll was a phenomenon unlike the world had ever seen or has seen since. America's prosperity after WWII led to the rise of youth culture, which soon became the dominant force in music.

The term "rock" was often used in Black music to describe spiritual ecstasy (see Sister Rosetta Tharpe's version of "Rock Me"), "rock and roll" was used in Black music to describe an ecstasy of a more physical nature (see Trixie Smith's "My Man Rocks Me With One Steady Roll").

Today, rock and roll is considered white folk's music, but the genre was largely born and influenced by rhythm and blues. In fact, up until the mid-1950s, the terms were used interchangeably. Labelling rock & roll as white also ignores the fact that most of its earliest stars, such as Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, were Black, and that white artists like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis were trying to infuse rhythm and blues into the country and rockabilly styles.

Elvis gave credit to the Black artists that paved the way for him. Once, while in Las Vegas, a reporter referred to him by his well-known moniker "the king." Elvis pointed to Fats Domino, who was also present, and said, "No, that’s the real king of rock and roll."

Trivia/Famous Lyrics

DId you know...

Well long, tall Sally
She's built for speed, she got
Everything that Uncle John need, oh, baby
Yeah, baby, woo, baby
Havin' me some fun tonight, yeah

"Long Tall Sally" by Little Richard


Maybellene, why can't you be true
Oh Maybellene, why can't you be true
You've started back doin' the things you used to do

"Maybellene" by Chuck Berry

Artists from this genre

Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Screamin' Jay Hawkins

"The Gothfather": pioneer of theatrical shock rock.

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

The Father of Rock and Roll.

Fats Domino

Fats Domino

The most popular Black rock and roll artist of the 1950s.

Frankie Lymon

Frankie Lymon

The singer-songwriter of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."

Little Richard

Little Richard

A flamboyant and electrifying musician and vocalist.

MORE Genres from this era

Rhythm & Blues

Rhythm & Blues

The big bands get smaller and grittier.

BeBop

BeBop

Jazz music moves off the dance floor.

Electric Blues

Electric Blues

The blues plugs in.

Doo-Wop

Doo-Wop

Rich vocal harmonies combined with teen romance.