Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Emery. Emery Wonders, “Where does the term "rock and roll" come from?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Emery!
We were putting up hay in the Wonderopolis barn loft the other day when we overheard an interesting conversation between a couple of the cows:
Cow 1: Hey Bessie! What are you listening to?
Cow 2: Howdy Buttercup! I just love this new song by Justin Beefer. He's my favorite!
Cow 1: Really? I've never been a big fan of his.
Cow 2: Why not? Who's your favorite musician?
Cow 1: I have several favorites: Lady MooMoo, Green Hay, New Calves on the Block, Fleetwood Milk, Moo Fighters, Udders 'n Hoses.
Cow 2: Wow, Buttercup! I had no idea you loved music so much!
We had no idea that cows loved music so much either! As we finished up our work in the loft, the cows' conversation echoed in our minds. They seemed to prefer good old rock and roll music. Has that always been the case? And just who invented rock and roll anyway?
Rock and roll — sometimes written rock 'n' roll or rock & roll — can be hard to describe, but people know it when they hear it. Compared to other styles of music, it's more exotic and thrilling. It's fun. It's spontaneous. It's like an uninhibited soundtrack for rebellion.
Rock and roll was born in America in the 1950s and, like America, its creation was the work of many people over many years. No one person can claim to have invented rock and roll.
Instead, rock and roll was the convergence of various paths simultaneously heading to the same destination. Black rhythm and blues artists alongside white pop and country artists learned from one another and began mixing their sounds.
Savvy producers and visionary disc jockeys discovered a new audience — teenagers — and began to promote and develop a new style of music that spoke to the youth of the day. It was a new style that brought together the best of what had been brewing for years.
Many people believe rock and roll began with Elvis Presley in 1954. However, you can't give credit to Elvis without recognizing the role his producer, Sam Phillips, played in discovering this young talent in Memphis, Tennessee.
Elvis certainly made rock and roll more popular, but even he didn't claim to have invented rock and roll. He knew its roots went back farther to the people who influenced him, such as B.B. King, Ray Charles, and Ike Turner.
The new sounds developing in the early 1950s were promoted to a young audience by a variety of influential radio disc jockeys. Perhaps the most influential of these was Alan Freed of Cleveland, Ohio. His late-night radio show, The Moondog Rock & Roll House Party, helped to popularize this new genre as "rock and roll."
Freed began organizing concerts in Cleveland. The first such concert caused a riot when so many people showed up that the venue couldn't hold them all. The youth of Cleveland loved Freed's show and the new music he was promoting. Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls Cleveland home.
Other pioneers of the new sound called rock and roll included Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis. One other early pioneer — Chuck Berry — is often given credit by rock and roll historians as perhaps the single musician who came closest to putting all the essential pieces together and establishing rock and roll as a songwriter's medium.
No matter who you give credit to, rock and roll evolved from a mixture of musical styles in a way that seemed inevitable. If it hadn't been Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, it would've been others in their place. What is sure is that their contributions helped to create a new genre of music that changed music itself forever. Long live rock and roll!