mid twentieth century era photo
Secretary of War Robert Patterson with African American artillerymen.

Mid 20th Century

1946 – 1960

After World War II

The period between 1946 and 1960 saw Black music reach a wider audience. The center of the blues universe shifted from the Mississippi delta to Chicago, and artists like John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson began experimenting with amplification. The new format, electric blues, was perfected by the genius Muddy Waters.

This era also saw the birth of the most commercially and culturally dominant music genre of the 20th-century, rock & roll.

In 1951, Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm record "Rocket 88," often cited as the first rock & roll record. In 1955, Chess Records released Chuck Berry's "Maybellene," and lays down the foundation for rock & roll lead guitar. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and others who started their careers in swing bands created the new form of jazz known as bebop.

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.

Rock & Roll

Rock & Roll

The biggest musical phenomenon of the 20th-century.

Doo-Wop

Doo-Wop

Rich vocal harmonies combined with teen romance.

Notable Events

The Ink Spots on Ed Sullivan

The Ink Spots on Ed Sullivan

June 27, 1948

The Ink Spots, who were the first African Americans to appear on television in 1936, become the first Black performers to appear on the Ed Sullivan show.

Integration of The Armed Forces

Integration of The Armed Forces

July 26, 1948

Moved after learning of a brutal attack on a Black veteran, President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981 directing the military to end segregation.

The Suburbs Are Born

The Suburbs Are Born

1948 to 1951

The planned community of Levittown in Nassau County, New York is constructed. Blacks were restricted from purchasing homes under the original housing covenant.

The Birth of Rock & Roll

The Birth of Rock & Roll

April 1951

“Rocket 88,” considered to be the first rock & roll record, is released. It was recorded by Ike Turner and his Rhythm Kings despite the credit on the label.

Genre Map