Who Invented Rock And Roll: The 50s Best-Selling Genre

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who invented rock and roll

Well, many of you might think that the person who invented rock and roll was Elvis Presley. And 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.

who invented rock and roll
Photo by Pien Muller on Unsplash Copyright 2021

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.

Rock n roll
By silene andrade Flickr Copyright 2021

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.

Origin of Rock n Roll

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.

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.

By photoreti Flickr Copyright 2021

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.

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.

By Melissa harper Flickr Copyright 2021

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.

The Popularizing Giants

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.

Sun Records
By Mike Flickr Copyright 2021

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 rock and roll but sure did lend a hand in spreading the word.

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.

Did Elvis Presley invent rock and roll?

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.

Elvis Presley
By brett jordan Flickr Copyright 2021

You can not altogether credit Elvis Presley 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.

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.

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 Stone 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.

Photo by JR Harris on Unsplash Copyright 2021

This endorsement by Rolling Stone Magazine that Elvis Presley 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.

Chuck Berry 

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.

Chuck Berry
By H. Michael Karshis Flickr Copyright 2021

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 artist came the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together.

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”.

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.

Ike Turner 

Ike Turner was the one who recorded the chart-topping “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 the reason rock and roll even ever existed.

Fats Domino 

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.

Little Richard 

Little Richard famously said that this is media history and not real history. Rolling Stone 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.

Little Richard
By xrayspx Flickr Copyright 2021

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.

Bo Diddley 

His first record hit was “Bo Diddley,” whose success was backed by “I’m a Man.” 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.

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.

Ray Charles
Image by Alan Light, Flickr/ Copyright 2021

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 Elvis Presley 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.

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 groups 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.

Black and White
Photo by Chris Ainsworth on Unsplash Copyright 2021

Rock and roll broke another cultural barrier when black musicians performed for white audiences, whereas white 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.

Rock n roll in 2021

Rock and roll found a way to keep its 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.

So, who invented rock and roll?

Electric Guitar
Photo by Leutrim Fetahu on Unsplash Copyright 2021

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.

To read more articles like this, click here.

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