Bill Haley turned Preston’s bluesy version into something
conducive to white country kids. “The crowd, hillbilly fans, went crazy” (Bill Haley The Daddy of Rock and Roll). Jimmy Preston "Rock the Joint"
William Melvin Moore tried boxing during the Depression and then
turned to playing tenor saxophone. He formed a rhythm and blues band, “Wild
Bill Moore, his Groovy Sax and Orchestra,” in 1948. He successfully merged the
improvisation of jazz with the enthusiasm of R&B (The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz).
McGhee wrote this drinking song during his stint in the army
during World War II. A second recording in 1949 became his only hit and a
popular R&B standard redone by Jerry Lee Lewis. His older brother, Brownie,
was a noted folk song and blues artist (The
Big Book of Blues).
Jordan was a college music major, songwriter, saxophonist, and lead
singer whose charismatic stage presence was influenced by swing band leaders
such as Chick Webb and Cab Calloway (The
Big Book of Blues).
Young Antoine picked up the New Orleans style of R&B piano
while playing in New Orleans bars. The band director at the Hideaway Club gave him
the nickname “Fats.” He recorded his first major hit, “The Fat Man,” with
trumpeter Dave Bartholomew.
A self-taught guitarist from Houston, he resisted his manager’s
insistence to imitate T-Bone Walker. He was drafted into the army during the
Korean War; the war “and the strain of nursing his ailing mother effectively
ended his short career” (The Encyclopedia
of Popular Music).
“I always felt like I could beat plowin’ mules, choppin’ cotton and
drawin’ water. I did all that and I never did like none of it” (Rock The Rough Guide). Keith Richards
and his friend Mick Jagger were listening to The Best of Muddy Waters album and decided to name their band after
the song, “Rollin’ Stone” (Can’t Be
Satisfied). Muddy Waters "Rollin' Stone"
“[T]he patriarch of post-World War II Chicago blues” (The Big Book of Blues), Waters
began a 28 year collaboration with Chess Records when he was invited to record
for them in 1948, performing songs he had first recorded for folklorist Alan
Lomax seven years earlier (Can’t Be
Ruth Lee Jones worked as a restroom attendant in a Chicago nightclub,
auditioned for Louis Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glazer, and became successful
recording artist Dinah Washington. She died from an overdose of alcohol and
medical pills (The Big Book of Blues).
Tharpe heard Marie Knight’s “rich contralto” voice at a gospel
program in Harlem and invited her to tour together. “There was magic in the
combination of Rosetta and Marie.” Their recording of this song “captured
people’s budding hope that the late 1940's and early 1950's would bring about
sorely overdue change.” They separated soon after Marie’s mother and children
died in a fire the following year (Shout,
Born John Chatman, he was given the moniker “Memphis Slim” by
Bluebird record producer Lester Melrose. Memphis Slim had a successful 60 year
career composing, performing, and recording. He moved to Paris in 1962; until
his death he was “the most prominent expatriate blues artist” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).
“Along with the Ravens, the Orioles were considered the pioneers
of rhythm and blues vocal harmony.” Many of their hit songs (written by their
manager, Deborah Chessler) featured the tenor voice of Sonny Til (1928-1981)
and accompaniment “that was felt rather than heard” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).
“The straight rhythm, the harsh sounds of the tenor saxophones,
and the musical flights at the piano announced the urban trend of rock-and-roll
that the pale Bill Haley was to embody” (Encyclopedia
of the Blues).
“Johnson was one of the first great single-string jazz
guitarists.” After recording his hit “Tomorrow Night,” he ended up as a janitor
in a Philadelphia hotel. He was rediscovered, playing in a reunion concert with
Duke Ellington and “Gained a new, young audience during the ‘60s folk/blues
revival” (The Biographical Encyclopedia
She left New Orleans as a
teenager, moved to Chicago, worked as a laundress, and was discovered by a
local gospel group singing at the Greater Salem Baptist Church. Recorded in
1947, “Move on Up” became a gospel best-seller (Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Her rendition of “How I Got Over” at the Washington Freedom March was one of the electric moments, second only to King's “I have a dream”speech (History of Gospel Music, YouTube). Mahalia Jackson "Move on Up a Little Higher"
“John Lee Hooker was born in 1917 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta. He was the fifth son of Minnie and William Hooker, a sharecropper and devout Christian who forbade secular music in his home. When Hooker’s parents divorced, Minnie married William Moore, a blues singer and guitarist who had performed with Charley Patton…At fourteen, Hooker ran away to Memphis, where he became an usher in a movie theater before finding work with gospel groups who were partial to his deep, gravelly voice. After periods in Knoxville and Cincinnati, he moved to Detroit in the late 1930’s and worked as a factory janitor while playing his guitar in nightclubs” (Michael Adams, Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2016). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
The song was first recorded by Roy Brown in 1947 and later by
Elvis Presley. Harris’ sex-charged stage presence and “hell-raising vocals”
“paved the way for the flood of rock & roll artists who followed him” (The Big Book of Blues).
The song “betrayed his debt to black music. It rocked. The melody
was as old as blues itself; a variant had done business as ‘Your Red Wagon’ and
another variant became ‘Rock Around the Clock’” (Hank Williams The Biography).
Walker helped Blind Lemon Jefferson, who was a family friend,
navigate the streets of Dallas in the early 1920’s. His influential electric
guitar style was partly “derived from Jefferson’s acoustic picking” (TheNew Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock
& Roll). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
The theme song for this popular gospel quartet’s radio program,
featured on Memphis radio stations WDIA and KWAM which “fed large doses of
black gospel to the city” (Encyclopedia
of American Gospel Music).
“The song originated with a
popular Atlanta-area group, the Homeland Harmony Quartet” in 1945. Lee Roy
Abernathy published the song and said, “I felt it was one way of reaching
distant places where no ministers go” (Encyclopedia
of American Gospel Music). Many artists recorded “Gospel Boogie” but none quite like Rosetta Tharpe. “With a Gibson SG in her hands, Sister Rosetta could raise the dead. And that was before she started to sing” (Richard Williams, theguardian.com).
Founded by Jimmy Ricks and Warren “Birdland” Suttles, the Ravens were
noteworthy for featuring a bass lead singer. They were key figures in
developing ‘50s doo-wop (Encyclopedia of
Pop, Rock & Soul). The Ravens "Ol' Man River"
A nervous young Elvis Presley met his idol at the Grand Ole Opry about
his rocking remake of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Monroe told him, “If it helps
your career, I’m for it one hundred percent” (Can’t You Hear Me Callin’). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
“Crudup first gained attention from black record buyers with his
single, ‘If I Get Lucky,’ recorded in 1941…It was the first of many such singles
hits during the ‘40s and early ‘50s” (Encyclopedia
of Pop, Rock & Soul).
“Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys’ 1945 visit to the Grand Ole
Opry defied Nashville’s parochial proprieties. First, they arrived in a bus.
They wore white, tailored western suits, white hats, and boots…People were also
awestruck over his musical instrument display, which included electric guitars,
amps, and a set of white pearl Slingerland drums…Ernest Tubb said, ‘Bob Wills
is important because he put the beat in country music’” (Rosetta Wills, The King of Western Swing, 1998).