Rock and Roll, Rock 'n' Roll, Rock-and-Roll. No matter how people refer to it, the distinguishable era that formed this great all-encompassing genre was as colorful as the music it produced.
Back when the concept of popular music was still being shaped, many cultural influences contributed to the formation of most of the musical genres we now know today. For example, the church songs and choirs, as well as the gospel singing styles of the '30s up to the '60s positively influenced many musicians and artists who grew up exposed to these sounds. Then, there are the subcultural formations that developed in pockets of places here and there, with experimentations that included various musical instruments, as well as experimentations that included vocal harmonies.
Now, combine all of that with the burgeoning attitude of change evident in the 1950s and 1960s, and what have you got? You guessed it - rock and roll! No wonder this definitive musical genre is identified with concepts such as teenage angst, rebellion, and even counterculture since the music styles of that era challenged many existing structures already in place.
So, do you think you can name the people behind these monumental changes? Let's see if you can identify them after we give you some clues and their hit songs as hints. Come on, rock on!
Elvis Presley is undeniably the King of Rock and Roll, as he helped invent and usher in this musical genre. It all started in the mid-‘50s for him, as he recorded his first songs with Sun Records – and the rest was musical rock and roll history.
It was the song “Johnny B. Goode” back in 1958 that really cemented Chuck Berry’s significant contribution to rock and roll music. His brand of rhythm and blues infused with rock and roll became a distinct sound that’s still being heard today.
The British Invasion was characterized in the 1960s by the introduction of the Fab Four musicians from England, collectively known as The Beatles. John, Paul, George, and Ringo became record-breaking musical artists, and their music continues to influence musicians of today.
“The Genius” known as Ray Charles became the icon of soul music as he tinkered with this genre and crossed it with other genres to produce his own brand of iconic music. Some of his iconic songs include “I Got A Woman,” “Georgia on My Mind,” and “Unchain My Heart.”
The rockabilly sound was the selling point of artist Buddy Holly, who also came with a group called The Crickets. You might know them from their hit rock and roll songs like “That’ll Be The Day” and of course the classic “Peggy Sue.”
Little Richard was rightfully inducted back in 1986 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame due to his early contributions to the formation of this genre. Many early rock and roll classic songs were by him, such as “Long Tall Sally,” Keep A-Knockin’,” and the legendary “Good Golly, Miss Molly.”
Louisiana is very proud to have Fats Domino as their homegrown son, who helped pioneer the sound of early rock and roll in the ‘50s. He actually had a song entitled “Walking to New Orleans” as a tribute to where he was born.
Vocal groups were also big during the early rock and roll era, not just musicians and bands, and one of the pioneers of the genre were The Platters. Some of their biggest hit songs include “Only You,” and of course “The Great Pretender” as well.
If you’re familiar with the hit song “See You Later, Alligator,” then you should know that the rock and roll legends who sang this were Bill Haley and the Comets. Another undeniable rock and roll hit song for this group was called “Rock Around The Clock,” which is still being popularly played today.
Rumor has it that the rockabilly rocking sound of piano-playing Jerry Lee Lewis threatened the guitar-playing rock and roll icon, Elvis Presley. But it was also shown in a Lewis biopic that he also had to improvise on his sexy swaying which Elvis could do while playing the guitar, so he stood up when he played the piano, too!
The Everly Brothers were indeed blood brothers, composed of elder brother Don and younger brother Phil, who meshed the sound of country music and rock and roll. Their popular songs include “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” their version of “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Cathy’s Clown,” and the emo-inducing “Crying in the Rain.”
Blues and rock and roll certainly mixed into a great genre that influenced other artists, thanks to the pioneering work of singer-songwriter Bo Diddley. One of his famous songs is entitled “Road Runner,” which was also covered by many other rock greats.
No one does doo-wop better during the rock and roll era than The Drifters. Aside from their legendary tune called “Save The Last Dance for Me,” they also sang “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “There Goes My Baby.”
That unmistakable blend of rock and roll, jazz, pop, folk, and country is very evident in Bobby Darin’s early hits. But his hit “Mack The Knife” had a resurgence when McDonald’s used it for a commercial before. His other songs include “Dream Lover” and his version of “Beyond The Sea.”
Early rock and roll legend Eddie Cochran was born in Minnesota, but he died in the U.K. His hits include “Twenty Flight Rock,” “Something’ Else,” and “C’mon Everybody,” to name a few.
Fantastic females also rocked the rock and roll scene, and Brenda Lee was one such pioneering lady. She had a hit entitled “I’m Sorry” back in 1960, as well as other hits like “Sweet Nothin’s,” “Emotions,” and “Everybody Loves Me But You,” to name just a few of her many, many hits.
Big Joe Turner left a legacy in rock and roll as The Boss of The Blues. He was performing with great musical legends even before rock and roll became rock and roll in the ‘50s, having performed with the likes of Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
Did you know that the hit Elvis song “Blue Suede Shoes” was actually first recorded by Carl Perkins, and it became a hit song for him back in 1954? That’s why he is regarded as the King of Rockabilly because he was one of the early pioneers of this rock and roll combined genre, which later influenced artists like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
The doo-wop style is a characteristic of early rock and roll styles that was popularized in the 1950s and ‘60s by many vocal groups, including The Penguins. You may know them from their hit single called “Earth Angel,” which was popularized anew in the ‘80s by the “Back to the Future” scene where Marty McFly’s parents dance to this tune, solidifying their union.
Frankie Lymon was the lead singer of the group The Teenagers, but since they became popular, the billing changed in 1957 and included his name as a headliner, a typical billing style utilized by other acts during the early rock and roll era. Their group is noted for being one of the firsts, if not the first, vocal group to actually feature teenagers, with Frankie being below 18 years of age when they hit it big with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.”
Another pioneering musician who contributed to the rockabilly sound is Gene Vincent, with his hit song “Be-Bop-A-Lula” being cited as one of the earliest releases that exemplified the rockabilly sound. His other hits include “Dance to the Bop” and “Lonely Street.”
Connie Francis had a lot of albums and singles released not only in the U.S. but also internationally. Some of her well-loved songs include “Where The Boys Are,” her version of “Who’s Sorry Now,” “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” and “Lipstick on Your Collar,” to name a few.
“The Man in Black” named Johnny Cash is a country music icon, but he got his start during the rock and roll era, where he also contributed to the polishing of the rockabilly sound that permeated that time. He had a band called The Tennessee Three during those early years, which had many line-up revisions and formations throughout the years, even name changes, but it’s still primarily identified with Johnny’s music and legacy.
Doo-wop was such a big hit during the early rock and roll era, and The Five Satins was successful because of that. Aside from their signature hit song “In The Still of the Night,” they had other hits such as “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “To The Aisle.”
The Clovers is another of those doo-wop vocal groups that became successful in the early rock and roll era. Aside from their signature hit “Love Potion No. 9,” they also had other hits such as “From The Bottom of My Heart” and “One Mint Julep.”
Hank Williams was only 29 years old when he died back in 1953, but he was such an influential singer-songwriter who made a mark in the musical landscape of America, starting in the 1930s. Some of the songs he either composed or recorded were “Lovesick Blues,” “Honky Tonkin’,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” and “Hey, Good Lookin’,” just to name a few.
The Del-Vikings were one of those early doo-wop vocal groups that had hit songs during the 1950s rock and roll era. Aside from their hit “Come Go With Me,” they also had other hits like “Whispering Bells.”
Shirley and Lee was the duo known as the “The Sweethearts of the Blues,” producing hit songs such as “I’m Gone,” “Feel So Good,” and “Well-A, Well-A.” When the duo split up, Shirley Goodman went on to have a solo career, and came up with the hit ‘70s song called “Shame, Shame, Shame.”
You might know The Coasters as that vocal group who popularized the fun song called “Yakety Yak,” but they actually had more hits. Some of them are “Searchin’,” “Young Blood,” “Charlie Brown,” and “What About Us.”
Spanish lyrics suddenly came into play when Ritchie Valens’ hit rock and roll record called “La Bamba” hit the charts. Too bad his career was cut short by a plane accident, which also killed other legends such as Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.
Yes, they are indeed related by blood, and the Isley Brothers topped the charts with their catchy vocal harmonizing styles. Some of their hits include “Shout,” their cover of “Twist and Shout,” and “Nobody But Me.”
Early rock and roll sound also had soul, thanks to The Godfather of Soul, James Brown. He started with the group called The Famous Flames in the 1950s, where they produced hits like “Try Me” and “Please, Please, Please,” until he went on to have his own hits in the ‘60s and ‘70s such as “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine).”
LaVern Baker was one of the great pioneers of the rhythm and blues sound of the rock and roll era, with hit songs such as “I Cried A Tear,” “Love Me Right in the Morning,” and “Jim Dandy.” She also recorded a very controversial duet with Jackie Wilson in the ‘60s entitled “Think Twice,” which could very well put all the “explicit lyrics” people today to shame. Go search for it on YouTube; it’s a hoot!
Duane Eddy was included in the 1994 roster of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for a great reason – as one of the legendary artists that graced the ‘50s and ‘60s. His legendary guitar skills can be heard in his hit songs like “Peter Gunn,” “Ramrod,” “Because They’re Young,” and “(Dance with the) Guitar Man.”
The man who sang the hit song “Chantilly Lace” was known as The Big Bopper, but he also went by the name J.P. Richardson Jr. He was also a composer, penning songs for other artists such as “White Lightning” and “Running Bear.”
Jackie Wilson had a very tumultuous life, but it was also colorful in terms of musical legacy, since he helped shape rhythm and blues in the history of rock and roll’s development. Some of his hits include “Reet Petite,” “Talk That Talk,” “Doggin’ Around,” and “I Get The Sweetest Feeling,” to name a few.
Who knew that a partially deaf artist would be influential in forging the rock and roll sound of the ‘50s? But that was the legend of Johnnie Ray, who released many hits such as “The Little White Cloud That Cried,” “Please, Mr. Sun,” and his version of “Hernando’s Hideaway.”
With “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” everybody heard Lloyd Price for the first time back in 1952, which also helped shape the New Orleans sound of that early rock and roll era. His other hits include “I’m Gonna Get Married,” “Where Were You,” and “Stagger Lee,” to name a few.
Johnny Otis was influential in the formation of both the rhythm and blues sound as well as the rock and roll sound of the late ‘40s and the ‘50s as well. He not only wrote and recorded his own songs, but he also discovered many of the pioneering artists of that era, such as Jackie Wilson, Etta James, and Hank Ballard, to name a few.
The 1950s became Ricky Nelson’s teen transition years when he became a certified teen idol after growing up as a kid in his parents’ hit TV show called “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” He was able to come to his own fame as a musician, with hits like “Be-Bop Baby,” “A Teenager’s Romance,” “Sweeter Than You,” and “Travelin’ Man,” among many other hits in his lifetime.