First rock and roll record

There are many candidates for the title of the first Rock and Roll record. Numerous recordings mark the development of rock and roll as a separate musical form. Some songs are cited as having important lyrical content, others are seen as offering important melodic, harmonic or rhythmic influence. These songs include not only hits from the 1950s when the music emerged on the national and international scene, but also earlier precursors.

Wild cards from the 1920s and 1930s that seemed then to have come from nowhere but now clearly foreshadow rock and roll:

  • "My Daddy Rocks Me (with One Good Steady Roll)" by Trixie Smith (1922). Although it was played with a backbeat and was one of the first "around the clock" lyrics, this slow minor-key blues was by no means rock and roll in the modern sense. On the other hand, the title certainly underscores the original meaning attached to those two words (both of four letters), rock and roll.
  • "Tiger Rag" by the Washboard Rhythm Kings, (1931) virtually out of control performance with screeching vocals, a strange tiger roar, and rocking washboard. This recording is standing in for many performances by spasm bands, jug bands, and skiffle groups that have the same wild, informal feel that early rock and roll had.

Tunes from the 1930s and 1940s that were early indicators of an important change in the music world:

The hits from the 1950s typically are seen with an early performance much in the rhythm and blues style and a later cover performance more in the rock and roll vein. Often, the first performance was by a black artist and the second by a white artist. These white covers, while at the time sometimes disdained as exploitive and derivative, were a necessary part of the transition of the music. Nor were they all pale imitations, but sometimes earnest remakes by sympathetic performers, and more than a few were recognized as superior recordings to the originals.

In 2004, debate was sparked between fans of Elvis who claimed "That's All Right Mama" was the first rock and roll song, with those who feel the proper claimant should be Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock"--both songs celebrating their 50th anniversaries that year. Rolling Stone Magazine took the controversial step of unilaterally declaring Elvis' song the first rock and roll recording, attracting criticism from many quarters.

Related topics

External links

  • Article (,12102,1192358,00.html) by The Guardian newspaper on the topic

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