Well, many of you might think that the person who invented rock and roll was Elvis Presley. Although it is very likely to conclude that Elvis Presley was the one who created rock and roll, as this is the story that media houses are selling to lure you. But that’s not the truth; there is a deeper side to who invented rock and roll.
Not one person started this movement; many artists helped make rock music today. In this article, we’ll debunk this hyped-up story and find out who invented rock and roll. On the way, we’ll also dive into the beautiful history of rock and roll music and how the puzzle pieces came together while finding out who invented rock and roll.
1. What is Rock And Roll Music?
Rock and roll, now popularized as rock n roll, is a musical genre that gained mainstream popularity in the late 1940s and 1950s. Rock and roll originated and gradually became a popular music form in the United States. The fever of this kind of music was high on the young age population.
Britannica defines rock and roll, also known as rock’ n’ roll or rock & roll, as a style of popular music that originated in the United States in the mid-1950s and evolved by the mid-1960s into the more encompassing international style known as rock music. It is well-known that rock n roll found its way to life in the 21st century as rock music.
The phrase “rocking and rolling” was initially used to refer to the movement of ships at sea, to describe the spiritual hunger of several black church rituals, and as a sex analogy.
In the early rock and roll genres, the piano or saxophone was typically the main instrument. The guitar mostly replaced or supplemented these instruments in the mid- to late-1950s. The beat, which is basically a dancing rhythm with an emphasis backbeat, was typically produced by a snare drum.
In classic rock & roll, a double bass, usually called a string bass, plus one or two electric guitars are frequently employed. In the middle to late 1950s, electric bass guitars and drum sets were common in classic rock.
2. Origin of Rock n Roll
It is generally acknowledged that the Southern United States is where rock & roll began. Many slaves who had been emancipated relocated to cities including Memphis, St. Louis, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, and Cleveland with their offspring and grandkids.
As a result, there were more White people and Black people living nearby than there had been previously. They eventually started listening to each other’s music and even copying each other’s style. Rock & roll was created as a result of the blending of African musical culture with European instruments as a result of the clash of many influences. This explains why the majority of the first rock and roll musicians were from the Southern US.
Rock n roll was born in America. Early rock and roll music found its origin in the southern United States in the early 1950s. By the mid-1960s, it found international significance and was more familiarized as rock music.
Rock and roll music has a different beat when compared to other musical styles. It can be described as energetic, catchy, and powerful with upbeat tunes and electric bass guitars.
Rocket 88 was sung by Jackie Brenston, and Ike Turner wrote his Delta Cats. It was recorded at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1951 and is the first rock and roll record. Sam Phillips produced it, making it to the billboard charts.
The first rock and roll record reached number-one on the Billboard R&B chart. Being the firsts, these producers and songwriters should possibly be credited as the people who invented rock and roll.
2.1. The Influencing Rhythms
The feel of rock and roll music is nowhere close to the vibe of other different styles of music. The beauty of rock and roll is such that it is utterly brutal to describe the music, but when you listen to it, you will know what exactly you’re listening to. The reason is that rock n roll music is a blend of various other musical styles that were popular.
The point precisely is that it is an exceptional fusion of numerous acclaimed musical genres. It happened when black artists who made blues music, white musicians made pop music, and country music started mixing their sounds. And the outcome of it was known as rock and roll.
The direct roots of rock n roll lay in the rhythm and blues, which was then known as race music in combination with gospel music. On the West Coast, the evolution of guitar riffs and the development of jump blues and its eminent beats and popular lyrics eventually laid the path for numerous later products.
The truth be told, ancient musicians who built different musical genres were the ones who invented rock and roll. Doo-wop was a popular form of the 1950s rhythm and blues genre. It emphasized multiple-part harmonies, which became a defining style for rock and roll.
2.2. The Producing Geniuses Who Invented Rock and Roll
Rock and roll came when technological changes were evident soon after the development of the electric guitars, amplifiers and microphones, and the 45 rpm record. Changes in the record industries also fueled the popularity of rock and roll. The string bass guitar became popular, which was used to make classic rock.
New independent record labels like Atlantic and Sun Records in the 1950s made the music reach niche audiences, expanding its popularity at the peak time of its popularity. Not talked about often, but record producers also get a considerable footing when we ask who invented rock and roll.
2.3. The Popularizing Giants
2.3.1. Alan Freed
Alan Freed was an American radio disc jockey from Cleveland, Ohio, who popularized rock and roll on radio stations. He often played a rock and roll song on the radio and promoted the term rock n roll until it became word of mouth among the music listening generation in the 1950s. He is acclaimed for spreading the word of rock n roll across the United States.
The new tunes that hit the market were promoted to a young audience by radio disc jockeys like Alan Freed, and they soon became a significant part of the teen culture. Despite all of the other radio jockeys, Freed remained the most influential.
He ran a late-night radio show called “The Moondog Rock & Roll House Party,” where the then-new term rock and roll was popularized. He did not invent the rock and roll genre but sure did lend a hand in spreading the word. Freed started planning events in Cleveland. When the venue couldn’t accommodate everyone for the first such concert, there was a riot. Cleveland’s youth adored Freed’s program and the new music he was promoting.
The young age crowd that attended the concert was mesmerized by the show and the new music he had to present. Today, Cleveland serves as a home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
3. Did Elvis Presley Invent Rock and Roll?
Elvis Presley, according to a lot of people, started rock and roll in 1954. But you can’t give Elvis credit without also acknowledging the part that Sam Phillips, Elvis’ producer, played in seeing this up-and-coming musician in Memphis, Tennessee.
Elvis undoubtedly increased the popularity of rock and roll, but he never claimed to have created it. He was aware that it had deeper roots in the works of the figures who had affected him, including B.B. King, Ray Charles, and Ike Turner.
While Elvis Presley never claimed that he was the one who invented rock and roll, media history favors this. He maybe did invent the term Rockstar by popularizing rock and roll on a larger scale than any other performer back then.
He became the singing sensation of America, owing to which people misunderstood him to be the person who invented rock and roll.
You can not altogether credit him as the one who invented rock and roll; a share of his success is owned by his producer Sam Phillips who discovered him in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis sure lent a hand in popularizing early rock and roll, but he never insisted that he did all of it alone. He was, in turn, inspired by artists like B.B. King, Ray Charles, and Ike Turner.
4. Who Started Rock and Roll?
No single person invented rock and roll, but it was done by the likes of Ike Turner, Fats Domino, Lloyd Prince, Hank Williams, Ray Charles, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ivory Joe Hunter, Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley.
4.1. Elvis Presley
Presley recorded “That’s All Right” on 5th July 1954 at the Sun recording studio in Memphis. Fifty years into it, The Rolling Stones Magazine claimed it to be the first rock and roll record; however, it happened to be just a cover song initially recorded by Arthur Crudup in 1946.
This endorsement by Rolling Stone Magazine that he is the one who invented rock and roll happened to be an attempt at revisionist history. Their attempt to make money tainted the roots of the history of rock n roll.
Presley incorporated the music of African American musicians like Fats Domino, Arthur Crudup and BB King in his own songs, who happened to be great black influences. He also talked about being inspired by black gospel music himself.
4.2. Chuck Berry
In 1986, Berry was among the first artists to be honored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Chuck Berry, another early pioneer, is often credited by music historians as a musician who put all the essential pieces of rock and roll together and established it as a songwriter’s medium. He was signed under Chess Records, an American label company.
At a very young age, Chuck Berry was exposed to music at both church and school. He was raised in a middle-class family and was born in St. Louis in 1926, where he first developed an interest in music. While still in high school, he gave his debut performance before quitting to travel to California with two of his buddies.
He ultimately received a three-year prison term as a minor for armed robbery, but soon after his release, he resumed his musical career. He began producing singles in the 1950s, and in 1972, his song “My Ding-a-Ling” became his first number 1 hit.
By the 1960s, Berry had already made a name for himself as a major celebrity thanks to his numerous hit singles, nationwide tours that were swiftly selling out, and appearances in important movies. He would go on to establish himself as one of the most significant figures in the history of rock music because to his distinctive sounds and insightful lyrics.
Later, he built Berry’s Club Bandstand in his hometown, which was his own nightclub. Among his most well-known songs, “Maybellene,” “Sweet Little 16,” “Rock and Roll Music,” and “School Days” are just a few. Keith Richards presented that Chuck Berry developed his style of rock and roll by transposing the familiar two-note lead line of jump blues piano directly onto the electric guitar, creating what came to be recognized as a rock guitar.
He led the footsteps of the more accomplished guitarist T-Bone Walker to showcase his performance skills on solid body electric guitar and be inspired by electric blues.
Taking inspiration from the electric blues, Chuck Berry brought the aggressive guitar sound into rock and roll. This way, electric guitars became the centerpiece of rock and roll.
In 2017, Robert Christgau claimed that Chuck Berry did, in fact, invent rock ‘n’ roll, explaining that this rock and roll artist came the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together.
4.3. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Her combination of the distorted electric guitar along with gospel lyrics led her to be known as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll.” She single-handedly brought spiritual music into the mainstream with her 1939 hit “This Train”.
She released “Strange Things Happening Every Day” in 1944. Some consider it to be the first rock and roll record, and a year later it became the first gospel song to make it into the top 10 of Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade.
A year into it, it became the first-ever gospel song to reach Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade Top 10. It is acknowledged to be the first rock and roll record, owing to which many people refer to her as the person who invented rock and roll. Sister Rosetta was selected for induction on May 8th, 2018, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence.
4.4. Ike Turner
In March 1951, Ike Turner, a 19-year-old from Clarksdale, Mississippi, cut “Rocket 88”. Though at the moment, it wasn’t exceptionally accepted as a rock and roll song, it laid the seeds for the rock and roll musical genre. Despite it being a rhythm and blues song, it is considered as one of the reasons that rock and roll even ever existed.
The song, credited to Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (Turner’s saxophonist), has long been debated as the origin of rock and roll. The wailing tenor sax of Raymond Hill and one of the earliest instances of “fuzz” guitar, made possible by Willie Kizart’s malfunctioning amplifier, are primarily to blame for this. I don’t think “Rocket 88” is rock ‘n’ roll, Turner was later reported as stating. Although I believe “Rocket 88” to be R&B, I also believe it to be the reason rock and roll began.
4.5. Fats Domino
At the age of 14, Creole musician Fats Domino started performing in taverns in New Orleans. Using electric guitars, bass, saxophone, and classic R&B, talented pianist Fats created his own style of rock and roll. In his career, he had 35 Billboard Top 40 songs, including eleven in the Top 10. Fats is in the running since he had five million-selling records out before 1955.
Fats was an extraordinary pianist who mixed traditional rhythms and blues with electric guitar, saxophone and bass to accomplish his idea of rock and roll. He recorded the song “The Fat Man” in 1949 for the Imperial label. 2 years after its release, it sold a million copies, which made it the first-ever rock and roll song to do that.
4.6. Little Richard
Little Richard famously said that this is media history and not real history. Rolling Stone magazine started in 1967, so how can they say who invented rock and roll in 1954? He further mentioned that the true fact is that Fats Domino sold more records than Presley between 1953 and 1956. He went on to say that he loved Elvis, but it was a lie to say he invented anything.
While making this statement, Little Richard possibly forgot to mention his contribution to rock and roll. In 1955, his song “Tutti Frutti” went no two on the R&B charts, and his song “Long Tall Sally” took the top position a year later. Another notable fact is that Richard played shows that were the first to use spotlights and flicker lights to highlight the costumes performances.
4.7. Bo Diddley
“The Originator,” born Ellas McDaniel in McComb, Mississippi, was familiar with rock and roll. Bo Diddley, who moved to Chicago at age six, honed his trombone and violin skills. But he was drawn to the guitar by the throbbing music of the nearby Pentecostal Church and some John Lee Hooker inspiration.
His first record hit was “Bo Diddley,” whose success was backed by “I’m a Man” in 1955. He is also acclaimed for creating the “Bo Diddley beat,” which is a hambone rhythm that is the soul of rock and roll along with pop and hip-hop. It also serves as the foundation of pop, hip-hop, and rock and roll music
5. Rock and Roll Gaining Popularity
In 1953, the no. 2 record on charts was “Your Cheating Heart” by Hank Williams. The record on no. 3 record was “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton, and on the 4th spot was “Shake a Hand” by Faye Adams. “Shake a Hand” remained to be a song that Bruce Springsteen performed for several years.
In 1955, the no.1 record was “Tweedle Dee” by Lavern Baker. The record on third no was “I Got a Woman” by Ray Charles. The record on no. 6 record was “I’m a Man” by Bo Diddley, and on the number 10 record was “Baby, Let’s Play House” by Elvis Presley. This potentially was the year where rock and roll found its way into the teen culture.
In 1956 he had the fourth best-selling single called “Heartbreak Hotel,” it was behind the no. 2, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. The no. 11 song as well that very year was “Hound Dog” by Presley. It was his cover of the original sung by Big Mama Thornton.
6. Cultural Collision and Lasting Impact
Many migrated past slaves and their descendants moved to major urban cities like St. Louis, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo and Memphis. This essentially meant that black and white people were living together as a middle-class family in closer proximity than ever before.
As a result of which, they started listening to each other’s music and following their fashions. Radio giants that made both white and black forms of music available to both rock and roll band fans helped aid what is now known as a cultural collision.
Sensitive topics like sex that had a stigma to be talked about began to make appearances in rock and roll lyrics. This kind of new music tried to break the boundaries and helped express emotions that people always felt never expressed. There was an awakening in the American youth culture.
Rock and roll broke another cultural barrier when black musicians performed for white audiences, whereas white rock and roll artists sang African-American music to the black crowds. Times came when white racists reacted to the rising popularity of rock and roll in a not-so-respected manner. They started condemning its breaking down of racial barriers.
Whatever be said, the rock and roll movement was single-handedly able to break a century-old cultural barrier.
7. Rock N Roll in 2021
Rock and roll found a way to keep it self alive even after almost a century. Though the roll beside the rock is missing, it still has a significant cultural impact among teenagers as it did 70 years ago. Rock and roll was a fusion of multiple genres, and today it still can be found in many forms by mixing with alternative and pop genres.
Some people think that rock music and rock and roll are the same things, but it factually is not the same though similar. While today’s modern rock is upbeat and powerful without a beat drop and far away from the rhythms and blues and gospel, the century-old rock and roll had its heart in the rhythms and blues.
Rock or no rock, music remains to be a beautiful language that can tell tales that can’t be spoken. Arguing upon who invented rock and roll is as meaningless as fighting upon which soul invented music. The answer to who invented rock and roll is like the answer to the latter; it was collective human effort and not a single person.
8. So, Who Invented Rock and Roll?
By now, you might have got the answer to your question, who invented rock and roll? While history seems to account for Elvis Presley as the sole person who invented rock and roll, that story is just one side of the coin. The talent of many minds put together different musical styles that gave us rock and roll.
If Alan had not popularized the new music on his show, if Elvis hadn’t performed at concerts, if Chuck never mixed the blues with his electric guitar, if Richard had not at all set a benchmark, if Ike didn’t write Rocket 88, if Rosetta Tharpe didn’t fuse gospel lyrics with the guitar, if Fats Domino never sold a million copies and lastly if the Bo Diddley beat was never formed, we would have nothing called as rock and roll.
We wouldn’t even be listening to it, let alone asking who invented rock and roll.
So, whether you think Presley did it, or Charles did it, or still wonder who invented rock and roll, it came into existence after many different influences, both musical and cultural. With the fusion of blues, folks and gospel, rock and roll was born.
So, no wonder who you accredit to have invented rock n roll, someone would have done it if not Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry. One thing that stands out clearly in this article, rock n roll history says it is only due to the collective contributions of the artists that we know rock and roll how we know it.
Whether one believes that Ike Turner, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Charley Patton, Jim Jackson, or Trixie Smith were the pioneers of rock and roll, it appears that the majority of the musicians who had an impact on the genre were from the American South. Rock & roll was created by the creative musicians who emerged in and around the Mississippi River Delta from a fusion of blues, folk, and Gospel music.
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