The emergence of a youth culture that rejected older styles of popular culture helped rock and roll to displace the New York-based Tin Pan Alley songwriting tradition that had dominated the mainstream of American popular taste since the late 19th century. Rock and roll was a combination of the R&B style known as jump blues, the gospel-influenced vocal-group style known as doo wop, the piano-blues style known as boogie-woogie (or barrelhouse), and country-music styles such as hillbilly and honky-tonk.
The term ROCK AND ROLL goes back to 1929. It’s the title of a song by the Boswell Sisters.
Rock and roll was first released by small, independent record companies and promoted by radio disc jockeys (DJs) like Alan Freed, who popularized the term “rock ‘n’ roll” (originally a slang term for sex) to help attract white audiences unfamiliar with R&B. Fred hosted a concert, The Moon dog Coronation Ball, at the Cleveland Arena in 1952, which is often cited as the first major rock-and-roll promotion. Indeed, the appeal of rock and roll to white middle-class teenagers was swift and caught the major record companies by surprise. As these companies moved to capitalize on the popularity of the style, the market was fuelled by cover versions (performances of previously recorded songs) of R&B songs with their original suggestive lyrics and expressions excised and performed in the singing style known as crooning, by white vocalists such as Pat Boone. The most successful rock-and-roll artists wrote and performed songs about love, sexuality, identity crises, personal freedom, and other issues that were of particular interest to teenagers.
Popular rock-and-roll artists and groups emerged from diverse backgrounds. The group Bill Haley and the Comets, which had the first big rock-and-roll hit with the song “Rock Around the Clock” (25 Million seller in first year) and became well known because it was the theme for blackboard jungle the 1954 movie, was a country-music band from Pennsylvania that adopted aspects of the R&B jump-blues style of saxophonist and singer Louis Jordan. The unique style of Chuck Berry came from his experience playing a mixture of R&B and country music in the Midwest. The rock-and-roll piano style of Fats Domino grew out of the distinctive sound of New Orleans R&B, which also influenced singer and songwriter Little Richard. The earthy style of guitarist Bo Diddley derived from the blues of the Mississippi Delta region. Rockabilly, a blend of rock-and-roll and country-and-western music, was pioneered by Memphis producer Sam Philips, who first recorded artists Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins on his Sun Records label.
The first Elvis single release in 1954 combined two critical aspects of rock and roll. One track was a spirited version of the R&B song, “That’s All right Mama”. The second track was a bluegrass song, “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, played much faster than before. Elvis became a figurehead for this new music, which also valued image, attitude, and energetic performances in addition to the music.
The age of classic rock and roll, which lasted only five years, from 1954 to 1959, is exemplified by the recordings of Berry, Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly. The latter developed the standard four-piece instrumentation of rock bands (drum kit and lead, rhythm, and bass guitars). By the early 1960s, the popular music industry was assembling professional songwriters, hired studio musicians, and teenage crooners to mass-produce songs that imitated late-1950s rock and roll.