Rock and roll began as a distinctly defined musical genre in the United States during the early to mid 1950s. It grew most significantly from the rhythm and blues movement of the 1940’s, which itself evolved from early boogie, swing, and jazz music, as well as being influenced by country, gospel, western, and folk music. Boogie music had many influences, including jugglers, jockeys, steel guitarists, bebop musicians, rhythm guitarists, as well as vocalists. Many critics during the late 1940’s believed that rock and roll were actually merely a reaction to the growing popularity of such disparate musical styles as jazz, blues, and folk, as well as the ever-popular gospel music. As such, rock and roll fused several of these styles together to create a new musical style that was inimical to popular music, yet had a strong sense of individuality that resonated with many Americans of all ages.
Rock and roll music was characterized by a unique sound that was distinctively different from the sounds coming from more familiar forms of popular music. One early example is that the original rock and roll songs were often very loud and abrasive, often bordering on the aggressive and shocking noise level of early rockabilly music. They nonetheless spoke of topics that were of interest to American citizens at the time. Songs like “Dirty Laundry,” “Hound Dog,” and “Mystery Train” spoke about America’s racial problems, while “estones” and other decorative sounds were an intrinsic part of rockabilly songs. These decorative sounds were an integral part of what was to become known as ‘rock and roll.’
In addition, rockabilly was, in some ways, a reaction to what was beginning to be labeled as ‘jazz’. Jazz, at the time, was often described as being free-form, where the composer would freehand his ideas to create a unique and often unexpected musical experience. This was not the case with rockabilly, where musicians would often feel compelled to bring a similar tone to their compositions.
Thus, by the end of the 1950s, rockabilly had become overwhelmingly popular in the United States, even though it was not considered a genre by mainstream audiences. Rockabilly was not yet characterized by the inclusion of a number of notable musicians from foreign countries, although such artists would eventually come to play a major role in popularizing the music further. Two of these mid-1960s performers were Jack Wilkins and Robert Johnson, who became known as the dynamic duo known as Highwaymen. Their performances were often advertised in television spotlights that often included an assortment of well-known stars.
By the mid-1960s, however, a new generation of young people was starting to become involved with both the American folk and rockabilly music industries, with the former often representing the past and the latter bringing a contemporary perspective to the music industry. This new breed of artists began to bring a more diverse musical approach to their compositions, including the use of a wide variety of influences. These musical styles included jazz, blues, psychedelic, country, as well as a number of others.
In terms of musical styles, early rock and roll artists from the United States began to utilize a diverse array of instruments, along with their own vocals. Throughout the course of their careers, they would even use such things as hypnotic chanting and complex vocalizations. However, by the end of the 1950s, most artists from this nation had grown accustomed to the use of popular, white records. From this point forward, the United States has used commercially available white records for rock and roll. Interestingly enough, in many cases, the origins of rock and roll may be traced back to folk and country music.
The origins of rock and roll music can also be found in Great Britain. Prior to World War II, at least, the British music industry had become popular for a number of years with folk and country music being the mainstay. During the war, however, the industry became more geared towards pop music than ever before. Some of the artists that became famous during this time period include Elvis Presley, the Monkees, Cream, the Rolling Stones, and many others. It is important to note that early Beatles’ music, which was popular at the time due to the fact that it combined pop and rock elements, did not really become popular in the United States until much later.
As we have seen, the roots of rock music can be traced throughout the history of popular music. Moreover, the early rock and roll that was produced in Great Britain, or within the United States and the United Kingdom, began in response to the more popular folk and country music that had been popular prior to the war. By the end of the war, though, there were many other kinds of music that were more popular than rock and roll. So why do we think that it became popular? Why do we think it became such a large part of popular culture? Well, one reason is the civil rights movement.