Several musicologists suggest that Rhythm & Blues (R&B) should be a separate form of music. The music was created in the 1950s by such legends as The Clovers, Bo Diddley, Ruth Brown, and Muddy Waters. So let’s take a closer look at the origins of Rhythm & Blues and Rock.
One of the first supporters of the Southern Music Hall of Fame and author of This Magic Moment, Harry Turner, tells the story of R&B and today, Harry has become one of the spokespeople for another form of music that originated in the South, Carolina Beach Music, being one of the founders of Beach Music Association International.
Here’s what Harry said about the origins of Rhythm & Blues: “And with the advent of R&B music, music traditionalists were repulsed by this unsophisticated music form. To them, music should only have been performed and recorded by trained students of music. Imagine how offended they must have been by this upstart music, performed largely by less educated blacks and aimed at black audiences!”
Besides The Clovers and Ruth Brown, Harry states that Joe Turner, Chuck Willis, Ray Charles, Lavern Baker, the Drifters, Clyde McPhatter and Ivory Joe Hunter, James Brown and Otis Redding were also pioneers in R&B.
As R&B became more popular, the music world began to see what had been called by the music industry: “cross over” and “cover” records. Here’s what Harry has to say in his This Magic Moment: “Sales of records by black artists increased ‘cross over’ appeal to white kids. And seeing the popularity of the music among teenagers, record companies (even major labels) realized this was a simple way to appeal to more kids and benefit education.
Using popular mainstream artists, they recorded songs that were already moving up the record charts. Radio stations that never would have aired the original black or country versions quickly played the homogenized versions. This was the birth of the infamous ‘cover’ record. The covers were tamer than the originals and parents’ fears were eased sufficiently to allow their kids to buy more records.”
Here are some of the records (Song/Cover/Original) that were “covered”:
Ain’t That A Shame/Pat Boone/Fats Domino
Tutti Fruitti/Pat Boone/Little Richard
Sincerely/The McGuire Sisters/The Moonglows
Earth Angel/The Crew Cuts/The Penguins
Only You/The Hilltoppers/The Platters/Bo Weevil/Teresa Brewer/Fats Domino
Shake Rattle Roll/Bill Haley/Joe Turner
Harry continues: “With all this going against it, how did R&B get even as far as it did? The jukebox certainly played a part. Millions of kids were greatly influenced by what they heard on the jukeboxes in establishments throughout the country. Places that featured jukeboxes often had areas for dancing, so it was natural that jukebox operators provide as much danceable music as possible. R&B was the first danceable music of all, and there was no jukebox censorship.”
R&B producer Ralph Bass has stated that early Rock-N-Roll did as much to break down America’s racial barriers as the civil rights acts and marches. On top of that, music will also bring your family closer.
R&B has lived on with the film industry with classics like American Graffiti, The Big Chill, American Hot Wax, Pretty Woman, Sister Act, etc. Even Madison Avenue got on the lucrative bandwagon with the use of R&B songs like: Personality (Chevrolet), Kansas City (Chevrolet), The Wanderer (Oldsmobile), Dedicated to the One I Love(ATT), Stand By Me (American Express), Up on the Roof (British Airways) and I Love Beach Music (Budweiser).
Rock N Roll
The era of Rock N Roll, or Rock, lasted roughly from 1955 to 1965 ending with the British Invasion. Rock was a mixture of white and black Folk and popular music. The term Rock-N-Roll was first used by disc jockey Alan Freed referring to Bill Haley & The Comet’s hit Rock Around the Clock.
Soon a swivel-hipped teenager from Tupelo, Mississippi named Elvis Presley was causing teenage girls to swoon and parents to become alarmed. Others soon joined The King of Rock-N-Roll: Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Little Richard.
Rockabilly was premiered in Memphis by its creator Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records. His dynamite performers included: Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Billy Riley, Sonny Burgess, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, and Conway Twitty. Other labels joined the bandwagon with their stars: Dale Hawkins, Gene Vincent, and the Everly Brothers.
Not to be outdone, New Orleans Rock-N-Roll was infused with the Blues and launched greats like Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Smiley Lewis, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Frankie Ford, Bobby Charles, and Jimmy Clanton.
In the 1970s, Rock made a new revival in the form of Southern Rock with legendary performers like The Allman Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, Wet Willie, Sea Level, and ZZ Top.