Roots of Rock N' Roll Music in the 1950s

• Quiz: Either ask kids as they enter the room or
do a 5 question class quiz (5 min.)
• Ice Cream: Play music as kids (10 min.)
• Slideshow (20 min.)
• Begin Music Lesson
• Give kids quick quiz at the very end of class
– 5 questions—play short clip of song; 5 student
that get it right get 3 free terms on scrapbook
Postwar America
“The Affluent Society: For Some”
The Truman Years—Domestic
• Social Legislation: The Fair Deal
– Increase Social Security/Poverty
Reduction/ Increase Min. Wage
• Civil Rights
– Ban discrimination in federal
– Ends segregation in armed
forces (Exec. Order 9981)
– Loses Democratic support in
• Proposes National Health
• Defense of labor/unions
– Attacked by Republicans
The Eisenhower Years
• Federal Highway Act
– Largest public works project in
– Connects Great Lakes to Atlantic
– 41,000 miles of roads=Car Culture
– Significance: Fuels an automotive
boom and the growth of suburbs
• Extends Social Security &
Unemployment Insurance
• Little Rock Crisis (1957)
– Takes over Arkansas National Guard
– Protect desegregation of Little Rock
Central HS
GI Bill
• GI Bill Provides:
– Funds for starting businesses,
buying homes, attend college
– Low interest loans to vets
• Significance:
– Helps Millions attend college
– Homeownership increases
20%...growth of suburbia
– Sparks Baby Boom
– ↑ White-collar jobs; ↑ income
“The American Dream”
“It seems to me that every other
housewife I see is pregnant.” 1958
• British tourist in the U.S.
• Baby Boomers
– (65 million)—1945-61
– 1957: 1 baby born every 7 sec.
– What was the impact of the
baby boom?
• Growth of white-collar
• New Technology
– Transistor Radio, Computers,
Antibiotics, Chemotherapy, CPR,
Polio vaccine
“The American Dream”
• “Roaring 20s Relived”
– Increased Consumer Spending
– Mass Advertising
– Increasing Income
• Massive Growth of Suburbs
– Why?
• Baby Boom
• Safer, Inexpensive, low income
loans, income tax deductions for
• $7,990 or $60/month w/ no down
Suburbs: “The New American
By 1960: 1/3 of Americans live
in the suburbs
• Typical Levittown Floorplan
• 1 story high
12’x19’ living room
• 2 bedrooms
• tiled bathroom
small backyard
• front lawn
1950s Consumerism
All babies were potential consumers who spearheaded a
brand-new market for food, clothing, and shelter.
-- Life Magazine (May, 1958)
1946  7,000 TV sets in the U. S.
1950  50,000,000 TV sets in the U. S.
Consumerism: Car Culture
1955: 1st
Howard Johnson
“Teen Culture”
• In the 1950s  the word “teenager” entered the
American language.
Behavioral “Expectations”
of the 1950s
Obey Authority.
Control Your Emotions.
Don’t Make Waves  Fit
in with the Group.
Don’t Even Think About
New Mass Media
• Television
– 1947-1957: 80% of homes have 1 TV
– I Love Lucy, Dragnet, Ed Sullivan Show
• Hollywood
– Suffers blow; 3-D films?
• Radio
– Transforms with TV
– Broadcasts music, sports, weather, news
– Alan Freed
Birth of Rock N’ Roll
• Based on Afr. Amer. R &B,
Blues, & Country
• Loud beat ideal for dancing
• Generation Gap
– “White singers doing black
– Songs about romance, cars,
drinking, etc..
– Provocative Dance Moves
(Elvis, Berry, Richard)
• Ed Sullivan refuses to show
Elvis dancing, shot from the
waist up during his
Roots of Rock N’ Roll
Music in the 1950s
Roots of Rock (Blues): B.B. King
• Mississippi Cotton Picker
• First Recorded by Sam
Phillips at Sun Records
• Influenced:
– Eric Clapton
• Bending Strings
• Considered one of the
greatest guitar players in
• Known for interaction w/
the audience
Suggested Songs:
•Thrill Is Gone
•Ain’t Nobody’s Business
•Rock Me Baby
Suggested Album: Live at San Quentin
Roots of Rock (Blues): Muddy Waters
• McKinley Morganfield
• Heavily influenced by Son
• Chess Brothers (Chicago)
– 1st star for Chess
– Electric Guitar
– Country infused sound
resonates with migrants from
South moving North
Suggested Songs
•“I Just Wanna Make Love
To You”
•“Got My Mojo Working”
•“Mannish Boy”
Roots of Rock Blues: Howlin’ Wolf
• Tragic Childhood
• Taught by Charlie
• Discovered by Sam
• Chess Brothers
Suggested Songs:
•“How Many More Years”
•“Smokestack Lightning”
•“Moanin’ at Midnight”
Other Early Hits
“Sixty Minute Man” –The Dominoes
“Money Honey” –The Drifters
“Ain’t That A Shame”—Fats Domino
“Shake Rattle & Roll”—Big Joe Turner
– Covered by Bill Haley & Comets
Other Musicians You Should Investigate:
– John Lee Hooker: “Boogie Chillen”
Birth of “Rock N’ Roll”
• “Rock N’ Roll”
– Fusion of Country and Blues
• Alan Freed
– Cleveland Disc Jockey
– Most famous DJ to play Afr.
Amer. Music
– Coins term “Rock N’ Roll”
Pioneer of Rock and Roll: Little Richard
• Key in the transition
from R & B to Rock N’
• Inspired James Brown,
Elvis Presley, Otis
Redding, Bob Dylan,
Jimi Hendrix, Michael
• 1957: born-again
– Becomes evangelist
Suggested Songs: “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall
Sally,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Keep A
Knockin,” “Lucille”
“Father of Rock N’ Roll”—Chuck Berry
• Brilliant Lyricist/guitar
• “Too Much Monkey
– Infl. Dylan’s “Subterranean
Homesick Blues”
• Influenced: Dylan, Beatles,
Springsteen, Rolling
Stones, Eric Clapton
• 1959: Thrown in Jail;
serves 2 years in prison
Suggested Songs: “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybelleine,” “Roll over Beethoven,”
Pat Boone
• White pop singer in
1950s and 60s
– White Response
• Covered black artists
• Sold more records
than his black
Devil’s Music
Rock N’ Roll
• Bill Haley & The
– Brings Rock N’ Roll to
white America
– 1954-56: 9 Top 20
– “Rock Around the
Rock N’ Roll Pioneer: Buddy Holly
• Singer/Songwriter
– 1st to use overdubbing
• Influenced: The Beatles,
Rolling Stones, Bob
Dylan, and Eric Clapton
• Tragic Ending
– Dies in plane crash:
2/3/1959 (Richie Valens,
and Big Bopper)
– “The Day the Music Died”
“Holly was the single most influential
creative force in early rock and roll.”—critic,
Bruce Eder
Suggested Songs
•“Not Fade Away”
•“Words of Love”
•“Peggy Sue”
•“That’ll Be the Day”
The King of Rock: Elvis Presley
• Discovered by Sam
Phillips (Summer 1954)
– “White Man with Black
• Records “That’s All Right”
• Manager: Col. Tom Parker
– Takes 50% earnings for
Elvis: The Glory Years (1956-1958)
• RCA Records
– “Heartbreak Hotel”--#1 on Pop
• Elvis Styles
– Rock: “Hound Dog” & “Jailhouse
– Pops: “Don’t Be Cruel” & “All
Shook Up”
– Ballads: “Love Me Tender”
• Best Selling Record of the 50s
– “Don’t Be Cruel”/“Hound Dog”
Elvis in the Movies
• Love Me Tender (56)
• Loving You (57)
• Jailhouse Rock (57)
• King Creole (58)
• Would appear in 20
feature films
Elvis Goes to the Army
• March 1958: Elvis
Drafted into the Army
• Rock Hits A Lull Until
The Beatles/Beach
– Chuck Berry: Jail
– Jerry Lee Lewis:
– Little Richard: Religion
– Buddy Holly: Dies
Suggested Music (later recordings):
•“Suspicious Minds,” “In the Ghetto,” “Polk Salad
Suggested Album:
•Live in Vegas Box Set
• “Susie Q”—Dale Hawkins
• “Who Will the Next Fool
Be”—Charlie Rich
• “Ooby Dooby”—Roy Orbison
• “Rebel Rouser”—Duane
• “Train Kept A Rollin”—
Johnny Brunette Rock N’ Roll
Doo Wop Ballads
• The Flamingos: “I Only Have Eyes For You”
• Jerry Butler and the Impressions: “For Your
Precious Love”
• The 5 Satins: “In the Still Night”
R & B: Push Toward Soul
• Johnny Ace: “Pledging My
– Kills himself playing
Russian Roulette
• Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: “I
Put A Spell On You”
– Too wild for radio
• Solomon Burke: “Cry to
– Incorporates Gospel Style
Soul Pioneers: Ray Charles
• Overcomes brutality of
South and being blind
• Controversial: Converts
Gospel hymns into Soul
– “I’ve Got A Woman”
• 1st Million Selling Record
– “What I’d Say”
– Banned by some radio
Suggested Songs:
•“I’ve Got a Woman,”
•“What I’d Say,”
•“Hallelujah, I Just Lover Her So,”
•“Hit the Road Jack,”
•“Georgia on my Mind”
Soul Pioneers: Jackie Wilson
• Key in transition from R
& B to Soul
• Master Showman &
Dynamic Singer
• Tied Down by
Brunswick Mob
• 1975 Benefit Concert
– Heart Attack on Stage
Suggested Songs:
•“Higher & Higher”
•“Lonely Teardrops”
•“Reet Petite”
Soul Pioneers: Sam Cooke
• King of Soul
• Had 29 Top 40 Hits
• Influenced Aretha Franklin,
Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding,
James Brown
• Entrepreneur & Civil Rights
– Publishing Co. & Recording Studio
• Tragic Death (1964)
– Murdered at age 33, by Hacienda
Motel manager
Suggested Songs:
•“Bring It On Home To Me”
•“Chain Gang”
•“Change Is Gonna Come”
•“Wonderful World”
•“You Send Me”
Soul Pioneers: James Brown
• Godfather of Soul
• “Hardest Working Man
in Show Business”
• Most Sampled Artist in
History of genre
• Social/Civil Rights
Suggested Songs:
•Please, Please, Please
•Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
•Get Back
•“Man’s Man’s Man’s World”