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History of Rock 'n' Roll


The demise of the Big Bands of the Swing era after World War II saw the rise of much smaller combos, the most influential of which was Louis Jordan's Tympany Five, whose upbeat blend of jazz and "jump" blues took the dance scene of post-war black America by storm. The driving rhythms of this completely new sound, typified by his 1945 hit "Caldonia" and "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie" in 1946, represent the early stages of "Rhythm & Blues" a term coined by the then Billboard magazine reporter Jerry Wexler in 1949 as an alternative to "Race Music", which had come to be regarded as demeaning.
At the same time vocal outfits like The Ravens, The Orioles, The Clovers & The Dominoes were laying doo-wop and swing jazz rhythms over the earlier vocal styles of groups such as The Ink Spots and The Mills Brothers, often drawing on older songs for their repertoire
By the early 1950's rhythm & blues, or simply "r&b", had thus become the defining sound of black popular music. Race issues were still all too prevalent, however, and these severely limited it's marketability to white America. Basically, black radio stations played r&b and white stations played pop and country. But as early as 1951 The Dominoes reached No.17 in the pop charts with "Sixy Minute Man", and artists on the r&b circuit like " Little Miss Rhythm " Ruth Brown of Ahmet Ertegun's seminal Atlantic Records label, Fats Domino and Big Joe Turner were hugely popular with both white and black audiences. This proved to the record industry that r&b had a market in white America, a realisation which marks the very beginnings of a coalescing of black and white styles that would end up as rock & roll.
In the mid 1950's, with vocal r&b in its heyday, outfits like The Drifters, The Coasters, The Platters and Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers were all the rage across America. It was about this time that a change began to take place in it's sound, as gospel-based singers like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, James Brown and Jackie Wilson, along with r&b artists like Clyde McPhatter and Chuck Willis, began to combine the two styles, a development that would lead to the emergence of soul.

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Prominent songwriters

Louis Jordan
Ahmet Ertegun
Howard Biggs
Deborah Chessler
Rudy Toombs
Dave Bartholomew
Leiber & Stoller
Buck Ram
Chuck Willis
Sam Cooke
Mann & Weil
Pomus & Shuman
Goffin & King


audio : Classic R&B

books : on Rhythm & Blues


audio : Classic R&B and Soul

books : R&B songbooks