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Chapter 1: Origins of Rock and Roll ............................. 7 Chapter 2: The Rockin’ 1950s ..................................... 21 Chapter 3: Rock and Roll Evolves . ............................. 37 Chapter 4: Rock Matures ............................................. 53 Chapter 5: Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay . ................. 73 Series Glossary of Key Terms ...................................... 84 Chapter Notes ............................................................... 86 Chronology .................................................................... 88 Further Reading . .......................................................... 90 Internet Resources ....................................................... 91 Index . ............................................................................. 92 Author’s Biography and Credits ................................. 96 K E Y I C O N S T O L O O K F O R : Words to Understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the reader’s understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills. Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Text-Dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there. Research Projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis. Series Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field.

Statue of Elvis Presley in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. The “king of Rock and Roll” became an American cultural icon in the 1950s thanks to hits like “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”


LP record —a vinyl disc containing about twenty-two minutes of music on each side, which was played on a record player at 33 revolutions per minute (rpm). rhythm and blues —a style of music played primarily by black people, that evolved into rock and roll music with some other infuences. segregation —the practice of keeping one group or race separated from another. single —a record that is released by a musician and intended to be played on the radio. Singles generally have an A side, containing the song that’s expected to be a hit, and a B side, containing another song. Singles were also called “45s,” because they were released on smaller seven-inch record disks that were played at 45 rpm. transistor —a device that regulates the flow of electricity and acts as a switch or gate for electronic signals.


Origins of Rock and Roll Rock and roll music originated in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but pinning down a specific place, time, or person who started rock is impossible. It developed in several places at the same time, and drew influences frommany different musical genres, including jazz, rhythm and blues (R&B), country and western, and gospel music. Rock and roll took American society by storm in the 1950s, and soon became the most popular music style in the country. Over the decades rock music has changed and branched out in many directions, yet the basic elements of the music remain the same. Rock songs are often played at a fast tempo. Many songs often follow a musical pattern of twelve measures, with four beats in each measure. A common three-chord pattern is known as the “twelve-bar blues.” Songs are usually played on amplified instruments, such as electric guitars. Usually, rock music is played by small groups of three to six musicians. A typical rock band might have two electric guitar players, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. The lead guitarist plays the song’s melody, and often performs an instrumental solo. The rhythm guitarist accompanies him by playing chords that compliment the melody. The bass guitarist and the drummer


establish the beat and rhythm of the song. In some bands musicians playing keyboards, horns, or other instruments may be added to create a fuller sound. A vocalist will sing the lyrics energetically, sometimes screaming or shouting to be heard above the band. Origins of a Genre It is impossible to talk about the history of rock and roll without understanding what the United States was like at the end of World War II in the mid-1940s. In many parts of the country, white and black Americans did not mix. Blacks faced racial discrimination in their everyday lives. They were not allowed to live in the same neighborhoods as whites. Schools, restaurants, and other public places were segregated .

Entertainment was also segregated. Theaters and nightclubs either were not open to blacks, or had a small section in the back where they could sit. The music of black and white artists

The development of the electric guitar made rock music possible. Electric guitars use devices called pickups to convert the vibration of the strings into an electrical signal, which can be played back loudly through an amplifier.



were recorded and sold by different companies. Even radio stations were segregated, and most radio stations would usually only play records by white artists. Music could also be a barrier-breaker, however. During the 1920s, white audiences had begun to enjoy musical styles that originated in black communities, such as jazz or blues. Jazz music came from the South, particularly New Orleans. It was fun, upbeat music that made people want to dance. The melodies were played on trumpets and other brass instruments, and talented musicians often improvised wild solos. Rhythm and blues music also originated in the South, in places like Mississippi and Tennessee. Blues songs usually had a strong rhythm and simple three-chord structure. The lyrics often expressed pain, sadness, and suffering.

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Chapter 1: Origins of Rock and Roll

Segregation was common in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s. This segregated movie theater for black Americans was located in Leland, Mississippi.

Over time, the bands that played jazz and blues began adding more musicians and different instruments. During the 1930s and 1940s, white bandleaders incorporated jazz and blues rhythms and sounds into their own music. Sometimes, they hired black musicians to play with their bands. And black bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Count Basie were just as popular with white audiences as with black audiences. Several technological developments in the late 1940s made rock and roll music possible. One was the development of the electric guitar, thanks to innovators like Les Paul and Leon Fender.



Before this time guitars had been used to accompany the music; now they could provide a dominant sound. Another innovation was the creation of the “long play” record format; more songs could be included on the new LP records . A third development was the invention of the transistor in 1947, which made it possible to make small handheld radios in the early 1950s. For the first time, music could be portable, and put into the hands of young people. Black Music for White Audiences Due to the racial attitudes of the time, parents tended to frown on their teenagers bringing home records by black musicians. But the music was very popular among young people. Record companies began looking for white singers who could perform the songs. White musicians took ideas freely from black musicians, and they often played together. Early rock and roll stars like Fats Domino believed that the musical form was just a new way to market the music black artists like him had been playing for a long time. “Rock & roll is nothing but rhythm & blues and we’ve been playing it for years down in New Orleans,” he once said. The early rock and roll stars acknowledged the influence of black musicians. Unfortunately, black musicians often did not benefit as much financially as the white musicians did. Sometimes, music companies would purchased the rights to play a song from the original writer for a flat fee. If the record sold a lot of copies, the profit would all go to the music company, not the original writer. Publishing royalties were not common at the time. Still, if a famous white singer’s re-recording of a black performer’s song sold a million copies, the original recording would sell more copies too. That helped some black musicians, although indirectly. White musicians also made important contributions to rock and roll. Traditional country music—sometimes called


Chapter 1: Origins of Rock and Roll


Gospel music star Sister Rosetta Tharp (1915–1973) was also a rock and roll pioneer. Some say her 1944 song “Strange Things Happening” was the first rock and roll song. Not just a singer, she also played the electric guitar. This was extremely unusual

for a woman, yet she is said to have been better than any male guitarist as well. “Nobody—not Chuck Berry, not Scotty Moore [Elvis Presley’s famed guitarist], not James Burton, not Keith Richards—played wilder or more primal rock ’n’ roll guitar than [Tharp],” claimed a article in The Guardian . “With a Gibson SG in her hands, Sister Rosetta could raise the dead. And that was before she started to sing.” Tharp was also unconventional because she was not afraid to play

her gospel music in regular nightclubs, which many Christians frowned upon. She became the first gospel performer to have a number one hit on the R&B music chart. She gave a concert in England in 1964 that had a major impact on the evolution of rock and roll in that country. Many great rock stars—including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley,

Little Richard, and Bob Dylan—said she was a major influence on their music. She was inducted into the Rock and

Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 for her early contributions to the genre.


“hillbilly music” because it originated in the rural Appalachian Mountain region—was an important influence. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Hank Williams became famous for singing “brutally honest songs about his life in the language of the everyman,” according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some white performers took these country songs and played them at a faster Until the late 1940s, each side of a record could hold only about four minutes of music. The “long play” (LP) album format, introduced in 1948, could hold more than twenty minutes of music per side. This changed the way popular music was marketed, as artists could include ten to twelve short songs on each LP album.


R&B tempo so that they would be better for dancing. This early form of rock music was known as “rockabilly.” Cultural historian Gregory McNamee has written on the blending of black and white musical styles to create rock music. “A mixture of white and black musical forms from the Mississippi Delta, country music with the grinding of machinery and automobiles implicit in its grinding beat, rhythm and blues spread across the nation from its birthplace, Detroit,” he wrote in an essay on the origins of the genre. “When white pop music



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