First rock and roll record
There are many candidates for the title of the first Rock and Roll record
. Numerous recordings mark the development of rock and roll
as a separate musical form. These include not only hits from the 50s
when the music emerged on the national and international scene, but also earlier precursors.
Wild cards from the 20s and 30s that seemed then to have come from nowhere but now clearly foreshadow rock and roll:
- "My Daddy Rocks Me (with One Good Steady Roll)" by Trixie Smith (1922). Although it was played with a backbeat and was one of the first "around the clock" lyrics, this slow minor-key blues was by no means rock and roll. On the other hand, the title certainly underscores the original meaning attached to those two words (both of four letters) , rock and roll.
- "Tiger Rag" by the Washboard Rhythm Kings, (1931) virtually out of control performance with screeching vocals, a strange tiger roar, and rocking washboard. This recording is standing in for many performances by spasm bands, jug bands, and skiffle groupss that have the same wild, informal feel that early rock and roll had.
Tunes from the 30s
that were early indicators of an important change in the music world:
- "Roll 'Em Pete" by Pete Johnson and Joe Turner (1938) driving boogie woogie and a masterful collation of blues verses
- "Flying Home" by Lionel Hampton and his orchestra (1939), tenor sax solo by Illinois Jacquet, recreated and refined live by Arnett Cobb, the model for rock and roll solos ever since, emotional, honking, long, not just an instrumental break but the keystone of the song.
- "Rock Me" by the Lucky Millinder Orchestra with Sister Rosetta Tharpe vocals and guitar, a gospel song done like a city blues
- "I Wonder" by Cecil Gant (1944), an early black ballad performance that became widely popular, the first of the black tenors.
- "Straighten Up and Fly Right" by Nat King Cole (1946), very light on the rocking, but a popular hit with lyrics from African American folk tale, like Bo Diddley, but without the beat
- "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee"; by Stick McGhee and his Buddies (1949)
- "Ragg Mopp" by Johnny Lee Wills and Deacon Anderson (1949), strange little novelty tune, the lyrics are simply the title spelled out or yelled out, re-released in 1954 by the Ames Brothers.
The hits from the 1950s
typically are seen with an early performance much in the rhythm and blues
style and a later cover performance more in the rock and roll vein. Often, the first performance was by a black artist and the second by a white artist. These white covers, much disdained at the time, and later, were a necessary part of the transition of the music. Nor were they all pale imitations, but sometimes genuine remakes in the new style:
- "Good Rocking Tonight" (1949) by Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris, both black artists; Brown's original version is jump blues while Harris's version is definitely more modern rock and roll. Later covered by Elvis Presley.
- "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino (1949), featuring Fats on wah-wah mouth trumpet, the first of his 35 Top 40 hits.
- "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (actually Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm) (1951), and Bill Haley and his Comets (1951)
- "Crazy Man, Crazy", (1953) Bill Haley and his Comets, first rock and roll record on Billboard magazine chart. Not a cover, but an original. Haley said he heard the phrase at high-school dances his band was playing.
- "Rock Around the Clock", (1954) by Bill Haley and his Comets, first number 1 rock and roll record
- "Shake, Rattle and Roll", (1954) by Big Joe Turner, Bill Haley and his Comets, and Elvis Presley
- "Sh-boom" (1954) by the Chords and the Crewcuts, in this case, the latter was a pale imitation.
- "Maybellene", (1955) by Chuck Berry