Rock ‘n’ Roll Music
Rock ‘n’ Roll is nothing more than black Rhythm & Blues played by white musicians with a bit of Country & Western thrown in for good measure. There are exceptions to this but this definition allows us to see the complicated interwoven relationship that exists between the music that became known as Rock ‘n’ Roll and its black cousin Rhythm ‘n’ Blues. Throughout their short evolution the two styles have become so closely associated that it is almost impossible to distinguish one from the other. Indeed there is a great deal of confusion as to which type of music an artist is playing within the confines of a single performance or album.
Does it matter?
Not really. It only matters if you want to explore the various avenues that lead to the stuff you love.
You might find a few more things to get enthusiastic about.
You may get to understand why you appreciate it.
It is possible to trace the roots of Rock music right back to the 18th and 19th centuries with the introduction of African rhythms and beat to the European Folk Tradition. This was a meeting of spirits that was to reach fruition in the Southern States of America, particularly New Orleans in Louisiana and Memphis Tennessee. It was a merger that first gave rise to Country Blues, Cajun and Gospel. It led to Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, Jazz, Bluegrass, Honky Tonk and Country Boogie. In the early part of the 1950s it gave birth to a vigorous hybrid that came to be known the world over as Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It took the world by storm and altered all our lives. It was a revolution. It was strongly allied to the prevailing youth culture of teenagers that emerged after World War 2.
The very name itself set the whole tone for everything that followed. It was coined by Alan Freed who borrowed it from the black slang for sex. It set generation against generation and rocked the world. It instigated a sexual revolution and social change on unheard of proportions. It upset the prevailing racial and gender attitudes and provoked the move to equality and freedom that prevails today. It set in motion a climate of questioning that altered the deferential way people thought about politicians.
The moment Elvis shook his hips the world would never be the same. Even Elvis did not have a clue that would happen. He was as bemused as everyone else. It took on a life of its own. It was powerful.
To understand where it began and where it went we have to go back to the very beginning. The story of Rock begins with the fusing of the two cultural traditions in the latter part of the 19th century to produce a new type of music that we now refer to as Country Blues. This was first written about by W C Handy who recalls hearing a black musician playing this style of music at the railway station in Tutwiler Mississippi in 1903. He was playing an old guitar by running up and down the frets with a penknife. W C Handy was hearing Country Blues, bottle-neck style, for the first time. He was captivated.