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Origin of  "Rock and Roll"

Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in America in the 1950s, though elements of rock and roll can be heard in rhythm and blues records as far back as the 1920s. Early rock and roll combined elements of blues, boogie woogie, jazz and rhythm and blues, and is also influenced by traditional Appalachian folk music, gospel and country and western. Going back even further, rock and roll can trace a foundational lineage to the old Five Points district of mid-19th century New York City, the scene of the first fusion of heavily rhythmic African shuffles and sand dances with melody driven European genres, particularly the Irish jig.

Rocking was a term first used by gospel singers in the American South to mean something akin to spiritual rapture. By the 1940s, however, the term was used as a double entendre, ostensibly referring to dancing, but with the hidden subtextual meaning of sex; an example of this is Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight". This type of song was usually relegated to "race music" (the music industry code name for rhythm and blues) outlets and was rarely heard by mainstream white audiences. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed would begin playing this type of music for his white audience, and it is Freed who is credited with coining the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the rollicking R&B music that he brought to the airwaves.

There is much debate as to what should be considered the first rock and roll record. Candidates include the 1951 "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, or later and more widely-known hits like Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" "Johnny B. Goode" or Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley" or Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock". Some historians go further back, pointing to musicians like Fats Domino, who were recording in the 40s in styles largely indistinguishable from rock and roll; these include Louis Jordan's "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?", Jack Guthrie's "The Oakie Bookie" (1947) and Benny Carter and Paul Vandervoort II's "Rock Me to Sleep" (1950).

Early North American rock and roll (1953-1963)

Whatever the beginning, it is clear that rock appeared at a time when racial tensions in the United States were coming to the surface. African Americans were protesting segregation of schools and public facilities. The "separate but equal" doctrine was nominally overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954. It can hardly be a coincidence, then, that a musical form combining elements of white and black music should arise, and that this music should provoke strong reactions, of all types, in all Americans.

The phrase may possibly first be heard on Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five's version of Tamburitza Boogie recorded on August 18, 1950, in New York City.

On March 21, 1952 in Cleveland, Alan Freed (also known as Moondog) organized the first rock and roll concert, titled "The Moondog Coronation Ball". The audience and the performers were mixed in race and the evening ended after one song in a near-riot as thousands of fans tried to get into the sold-out venue.

By the end of the decade, rock had spread throughout the world. In Australia, for example, Johnny O'Keefe became perhaps the first modern rock star of the country, and began the field of Australian rock.

Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in America in the 1950s, though elements of rock and roll can be heard in rhythm and blues records as far back as the 1920s. Early rock and roll combined elements of blues, boogie woogie, jazz and rhythm and blues, and is also influenced by traditional Appalachian folk music, gospel and country and western. Going back even further, rock and roll can trace a foundational lineage to the old Five Points district of mid-19th century New York City, the scene of the first fusion of heavily rhythmic African shuffles and sand dances with melody driven European genres, particularly the Irish jig.

Rocking was a term first used by gospel singers in the American South to mean something akin to spiritual rapture. By the 1940s, however, the term was used as a double entendre, ostensibly referring to dancing, but with the hidden subtextual meaning of sex; an example of this is Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight". This type of song was usually relegated to "race music" (the music industry code name for rhythm and blues) outlets and was rarely heard by mainstream white audiences. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed would begin playing this type of music for his white audience, and it is Freed who is credited with coining the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the rollicking R&B music that he brought to the airwaves.

There is much debate as to what should be considered the first rock and roll record. Candidates include the 1951 "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, or later and more widely-known hits like Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" "Johnny B. Goode" or Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley" or Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock". Some historians go further back, pointing to musicians like Fats Domino, who were recording in the 40s in styles largely indistinguishable from rock and roll; these include Louis Jordan's "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?", Jack Guthrie's "The Oakie Bookie" (1947) and Benny Carter and Paul Vandervoort II's "Rock Me to Sleep" (1950).

Early North American rock and roll (1953-1963)

Whatever the beginning, it is clear that rock appeared at a time when racial tensions in the United States were coming to the surface. African Americans were protesting segregation of schools and public facilities. The "separate but equal" doctrine was nominally overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954. It can hardly be a coincidence, then, that a musical form combining elements of white and black music should arise, and that this music should provoke strong reactions, of all types, in all Americans.

The phrase may possibly first be heard on Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five's version of Tamburitza Boogie recorded on August 18, 1950, in New York City.

On March 21, 1952 in Cleveland, Alan Freed (also known as Moondog) organized the first rock and roll concert, titled "The Moondog Coronation Ball". The audience and the performers were mixed in race and the evening ended after one song in a near-riot as thousands of fans tried to get into the sold-out venue.

By the end of the decade, rock had spread throughout the world. In Australia, for example, Johnny O'Keefe became perhaps the first modern rock star of the country, and began the field of Australian rock.

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Rockabilly

Main article: Rockabilly

Two years later in 1954, Elvis Presley began recording with Sam Phillips, starting with the hit "That's All Right, Mama". Elvis played a rock and country & western fusion called rockabilly, which was characterized by hiccupping vocals, slapping bass and a spastic guitar style. He became possibly the first celebrity musician and teen idol to perform in the genre.

It was the following year's "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets that really set the rock boom in motion, though. The song was one of the biggest hits in history, and frenzied teens flocked to see Haley and the Comets perform it, even causing riots in some places; "Rock Around the Clock" was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll music. If everything that came before laid the groundwork, "Clock" certainly set the mold for everything else that came after. With its combined rockabilly and R & B influences, "Clock" topped the U.S. charts for several weeks, and became wildly popular in places like Australia and Germany. The single, released by independent label Festival Records in Australia, was the biggest-selling recording in the country at the time.