Many people feel that Rock and Roll music’s origins were founded in the late 1950s. The surprising thing is their roots really go all the way back to the early 1920s. Tin Pan Alley was a early style of music which would eventually lead to what we refer to as Rock and Roll today. Listeners gave it that odd sounding label because the music reminded them of people banging on tin pans.
Beginning in year 1920 most people listened to music using the radio. That trend lasted well into the 1940′s. There were quite a few shows which featured live singers and musicians in their broadcasts. These radio shows were popular and generated increased interest in music overall.
Music evolved into what is referred to as the ‘Big Band’ era during the of a big bands era between 1935 – 1945. The most famous of these groups revolved around their band leaders. Band leaders such as Count Bassie, Benny Goodman, Louie Armstrong became household names. Lead singers soon started attracting more attention from audiences. This would lead to another evolution towards what would one day be known as Pop music. Instead of the attention being centered on the entire band, individual artists began attracting the lion’s share of the attention.
These individual lead performers began developing their own music and create the type of band which would feature them. The most famous was Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. It was 1943 when Sinatra went solo and released a library of big hits. Many people feel these two performers were the original Pop music stars.
Radio and TV audience were expanding faster than ever and music was a natural fit for both mediums.
Starting In the late 1940s television began a widespread expansion in the United States. With its growing popularity it also became a bigger influence on culture, especially among the younger generations.
Popular music had a large national audience but Country music was on the rise in the southeast and southwest. Country music in the west typically involved cowboy type story themes. The Country music in the southeast dealt with folk traditions and evolved out of the gospel music environment.
Eventually these 2 styles merged and formed the ‘Country and Western’ genre. County & Western recording shows blossomed in popularity with radio shows like the ones produced from Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Some of the early stars in Country music were Roy Rogers, Bob Willis, Hank Williams, Earl Scruggs. Many people feel that Country and Western harmonies were influential in shaping Rock and Roll’s style.
Rhythm & Blues began to garner increased audiences beginning in the second half of the century. This style emanated from the rural south but soon spread into the inner-city areas in the northern United States. Typical Rhythm & Blues artists were of African American heritage. Much of their music was too edgy for a large mainstream acceptance. Their music often included sexual overtones which kept if off the radio. This style of music branched out into what became known as Doo-Wop which had a upbeat message and which eventually broke through the race barrier by appealing to both blacks and whites.
As the world embraced both TV and radio, musical audiences increased rapidly. Music has always had a special way of stirring emotions in people and now people were being engaged in record numbers. As music evolved it also found new ways to stir people’s emotions like never before. Just as important, music started providing people an socially acceptable excuse to express themselves. Self expression is a natural human desire but for many generations it was suppressed in favor of a more stoic demeanor.
A consistent problem which has occurred throughout history occurs when an art form evolves faster than the general population’s ability to understand it. When humans don’t understand something they tend to resist If. Early Rock and Roll was heavily criticized and banned in some situations. The fact that the music style was also not acceptable to parents made it all the more captivating to their kids.
Over hundreds of generations kids worldwide have longed for more freedom than their parents were comfortable with. Young people always feel they are being unnecessarily controlled. Rock and rock presented a way to be feel free of those restrictions they faced, whether or not they actually had more freedom.
The older a person becomes, the easier it become to follow the path and norms taught by the previous generation. As music evolved at an ever increasing rate it challenged parents who were naturally stuck with what was acceptable in the past. This new wave of free emotional expression fostered by music came as a shock, or a threat, to most adults. New music actively ignited emotions and pushed behavior. Now with both TV and radio readily available; messages of self expression, injustice, drug use, sexual exploration, and freedom from authority became the new norm.
Another big element which pushed Rock and Roll music to new heights was the invention of the electric guitar. Teens of the 50s started listening to hits by black artists like Little Richard and Chuck Berry. It was this time that Elvis Presley came into the mainstream becoming one of the most important performers of all time. Parents hated him; and the kids, both black and white, loved him.
A huge population group known a the ‘Baby-boomers’ were coming of age in the 1950′s . They grew up with freedoms their parents hadn’t known. Naturally they made up a large part of those listening to radio and watching TV. Rock And Rock penetrated this mass of young people and swept them off their feet. Radio introduce the sound of rock And roll but it was the TV that brought the music to life. TV shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show played huge role in spreading the influence of modern music among young people.
From the beginning, Rock and Roll had many sub-categories of styles. At one end of the spectrum there were bands focused on playing their guitars loud and fast. BB King Bo Diddley, and later on bands such as The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and hundreds of other like them. On the other side of the Rock and Roll spectrum were bands like the Four Tops, Gladys Knight And The Pips, the Jackson 5, The Carpenters, and many others. The vast majority of listeners enjoyed them all and would argue they all fit inside the Rock and Roll genre.
The success of Rock and Roll was inevitable due to the emotional connection it generated with listeners.
Young people got a sense of new power which lead to the rapid spread of rock and roll popularity. Soon Rock and Roll music became the most popular style of music in history.