How It All Began - The 1950's
Let's Rock and Roll
Have you ever heard music that makes you want to just get up and dance?
Rock 'n Roll music can make people want to do just that! This popular type of music has its roots from way back. The roots of rock and roll music is a mix of blues, gospel, and country music and is responsible for changing attitudes of people, influencing the way the dressed, spoke, and even influenced behavior.
The Blues' Influence
The blues had a big impact on rock and roll music. The Delta blues started in the Southern states (like Texas) with black musicians who used a guitar and sang beautiful soulful melodies to entertain their friends. Musicians began to gather in a famous musical city, New Orleans in Louisiana. When the blues singers went to the bigger cities, they met other musicians who decided that their music would sound much better if they joined together to play their music. They formed bands and played music known as “Ragtime” or “Dixieland Swing”. In the 1930’s and 1940’s this music became known as the “Big Band Swing”. One of the most famous of these musicians was Louis Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong started something called improvisation when he invited people who played different instruments like the trombone, saxophone, or piano to come up and make up music as they would go along. This was just a stepping stone to the Rock 'n Roll music we know today. Around the time of World War II people wanted to dance and get their mind off of stressful events. The big bands that were popular were very expensive. It was difficult to travel from place to place with so many people in the band. Around this time, there was a new musical invention, the electric guitar. It changed the style and the sound of the music. The electric guitar amplified the sound and made it possible to have smaller bands.
Country Music's Influence
A new kind of music was being played by rural whites. It began as a more sophisticated sound than what was known then as "hillbilly music". It had sweet melodies and the music told a story, very different from the hard and driving rhythm of the black music. It was called country music. Country music was popular away from the big cities and rhythm and blues was popular in the big urban areas.
Rhythm & Blues + Country Music = Rock & Roll
At the time there that rhythm and blues was popular in the urban areas, country music was popular in the rural areas. This was during a time of legal segregation. There was legal separation of different racial groups in daily life. This included eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a rest room, attending school, going to the movies. This segregation carried over into the music of the whites and the blacks, too. Many white radio stations were not allowed to play black music. White and black musicians often could not meet in a club to play their music together.
However, music often breaks down the barriers between people. Young people in the cities began to listen to the popoular black R & B sounds and they like it. Radio stations looked for something to play to appeal to this young audience without breaking the racial barriers. "Shake, Rattle and Roll", sung by black artist, Big Joe Turner, began to be played on the white radio stations.
Then, in Memphis, Tennessee in the early 1950’s black rhythm and blues and white country music began to be blended into one sound. It was called “rockabilly”. Artists like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly first made this music popular. It was simple, catchy, fun, and fast. But, the person who made rock and roll best known was Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley brought a strong country background to the music and this combination of R&B and Country became Rock and Roll. Known as the “King of Rock and Roll”, he paved the way for the rock and roll sounds we hear today. It was fast and had a good beat that could be danced to very easily. Many adults were horrified by this new sound which made it even more appealing to most young people. For the first time, they had their own music, and it was known as “Rock and Roll”.
Language Of Rock
Language has always remained the most important instrument to express one’s views to others. Before the invention of language, human beings were savages. After that, humans became an extraordinarily intelligent creature developing loads of languages. One of them was the language of Rock, indeed, the language of impatience. This language consisted of abbreviations and some shortened form of the English language, which is still in existence and used in common life.
Language of the 50's
The language of the 50's:
1. baby - a cute girl
2. Big Daddy - an older person
3. Blast - a good time
4. Bug - bother me
5. Cool - out of the ordinary
6. Crazy - a good thing
7. Cut Out - leave
8. Flip Top - a convertible car
9. Go ape - get excited
10. Hip - cool
Young people were called "teens" for the first time in the 1950's. The teens fashion was influenced by the "Teen Idols" of the day like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and James Dean. During this time, the fashion trends was either "Preppy" or "Greasers". Teenagers suddenly had a say in the style of clothes and even haircuts.
Greasers wore black leather and denim jeans. Preppies clothing was neat and tidy. Girls wore circular skirts, many with large appliques. Pleated skirts were also popular. Preppy clothes for boys were suits, or dress pants worn with a sweater.