Rock and roll

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Rock 'n' Roll (short for Rock [ing] and Roll [ing] ) is a not clearly defined term for an American style of music from the 1950s and early 1960s and the associated lifestyle of a youth protest culture.

A characteristic of most rock 'n' roll bands is the line-up with a singer acting as a front man , accompanied by guitar and / or piano , double bass or electric bass and drums , sometimes supplemented by other instruments such as the saxophone . The singing is often throaty and rough. The permanently repeated riff is underlaid with a hard beat , usually in 4/4 time and with a clear backbeat / offbeat . Relatively short compositions in the 12-bar blues scheme are typicaland the "rolling", originally from the boogie-woogie originating bass line . Rock 'n' roll is considered the original form of rock music .

The rock 'n' roll dance is a tournament dance associated with this music , which emerged from the Lindy Hop (a swing dance of the 1930s) and whose most famous feature are the acrobatic interludes. The dances Jive and Boogie-Woogie are closely connected to this music .


Originally rock and roll - English for "Wiegen und Walzen" - or the corresponding progressive form rocking and rolling , "wiegen und wälzen", is a slang expression and euphemism, especially for cohabitation . The term rock 'n' roll was probably first coined in 1951 by the American DJ Alan Freed as a name for a musical genre . The line of text "Rock, rock, rock everybody, roll, roll, roll everybody" from Bill Haley's Rock-a-Beatin-Boogie , which Freed later used as the emblem of his broadcasts, was soon followed by youth across the country. However, the terms rock and rock and roll appeared years before in black rhythm and blues titles, for example in Eunice Davis ' recording Rock Little Daddy from 1951 or in the title Rock & Roll recorded by the Boswell Sisters in 1934 .

Still, it remains undisputed that it was Freed who popularized both the term and the music itself to a broad public. Freed's afterschool radio show Moondog Rock and Roll House Party , which played primarily black rhythm and blues, had cult status among both white and black youth in the mid-1950s. At a time of racial segregation, many white young people had the opportunity to listen to African-American popular music intensively for the first time . Freed also acted as an organizer for live concerts and as the discoverer and promoter of artists such as Chuck Berry , Bo Diddley , Gene Vincent , Frankie Lymon and many more. The term rock 'n' roll, which was initially just a synonym for rhythm and blues, quickly developed into an independent generic term and referred to the new music in which the strict separation between black and white that was customary at the time was softened.

Today the term is also used in common parlance to contemporary rock music, especially in the Anglo-Saxon language area. However, the music-historical definition is narrower. Here rock 'n' roll is a collective term for various early forms of rock music that originated in the USA in the mid-1950s and were replaced by beat music in their subcultural function in the mid-1960s.

History and social context

In the late 1940s, a culture of rebellion began in the USA, which elevated the underdog existence, freedom from bourgeois morality, drugs and restless mobility to its ideals. This movement initially identified itself not through music, but through the beat literature of authors such as Jack Kerouac , films such as The Wild One or books such as Catcher in the Rye . Even the James Dean film ... because they don't know what they're doing 1955 had no musical connection to rock 'n' roll, even though it already contained all of its characteristics. The music of this movement initially served as black bebop jazz , especially among followers of the beat generation in the early 1950s . As the protest movement spread, listening to rhythm and blues, the music of the Afro-American lower class (often forbidden by parents), became popular.

On the other hand, the young mass audience was also attuned to the upcoming rock 'n' roll with folk and blues records on funk: When Bill Haley struck his Rock Around the Clock in 1954/55, he set the whole of the USA vibrating like an immense resonance body - the country had been waiting for a decade for blues and country music to merge. This new music thus filled a social vacuum and gave a vague attitude to life its expression. The predominantly white musicians initially legitimized rock 'n' roll as a new style in the eyes of the American public. Due to its relationship to swing , the harmony and listening habits of a broad public were served.

But it wasn't until the 1955 film Die Saat der Macht (The Seed of Violence) , which dealt with juvenile delinquency in schools, that the aforementioned Haley song was used twice around the world and brought about the breakthrough for this genre of music, which from then on was also called rock 'n 'Roll was called. The explosive success of this music can be explained by the longing that has existed for a long time for their own youth music, through which the rebellion against the parents' generation could be expressed. This made the music of rock 'n' roll an outlet for social constraints.

The music also got wilder, louder and more aggressive. The new rock 'n' roll stars emerging from 1956, such as Chuck Berry , Little Richard , Jerry Lee Lewis or the early Elvis Presley , triggered strong emotions with their music and broke with social conventions (hair length, hairstyle or provocation through sexual gestures) . This openly rebellious behavior immediately led to open controversy over rock 'n' roll culture in the USA. In a society that was still caught up in the McCarthy-era mindset , the lack of control was perceived as a fundamental social threat. In addition, the USA was threatened for the first time by the then strengthening Soviet Union, which was the first superpower to have ICBMs and whose nuclear weapons threatened the USA for the first time on its home territory. These events, frightening for the average American, reduced the willingness to tolerate a possible new youth culture and a relaxation of social rules. In addition, a ruthless battle for stars, publications and sales quotas began in the now booming music industry. There was less and less shrinking back from illegal acts and thus brought rock 'n' roll in the eyes of a broader public through scandals with crime (e.g. the Payola scandal ). The increasingly fashionable use of drugs in this environment and the then publicly rumored arrests did the rest ( Johnny Cash , Ray Charles , Carl Perkins ). Other scandals, such as the secret marriage of Jerry Lee Lewis to his then only 13-year-old cousin, shook the year 1958.

Pressure from the public, religious organizations and government intervention initially limited or removed rock 'n' roll from the media and then led to its general ostracism in the late 1950s. As a result, stars withdrew completely from the music business or sought refinement through extremely adapted behavior, regaining access to the masses and commercial success. So Little Richard turned to the study of theology, convinced that rock 'n' roll was made by the devil. Gene Vincent emigrated to England. The simultaneous deaths of Big Bopper , Buddy Holly and Richie Valens in a plane crash in 1959 and Eddie Cochran in 1960 ushered in the end of rebellious rock 'n' roll.

The search of an increasingly enlightened and self-confident youth for ways out of the social pressures of the time continued, however. The resurrection of rock 'n' roll and its rebellious moments is then attributed to beat music emerging in England in the early 1960s .

Rock 'n' Roll was never a homogeneous style in its time, but was a collective term for similar types of music. The music scene in the USA was also heavily regionalized, mainly because the dominant mass medium, broadcasting, consisted primarily of local stations. The record industry was also organized regionally, the ethnic subcultures had their geographical niches with their own musical traditions, and the southern states were strictly segregated . So, depending on social class, ethnicity and geographic region, different musical styles established themselves, all of which can be classified under rock 'n' roll because they combine two things in common: They are an expression of social rebellion and they are rooted in rhythm and blues.

Roots in rhythm and blues

The meaning of the term, coined by Jerry Wexler in the early 1940s , has changed continuously until today. Initially just a substitute for “race music”, rhythm and blues was the name for all African-American music apart from jazz in the 1940s , i.e. for the music of America's black underclass. In the 1960s the term gave way to the market name Soul , and today “R&B” is a form of contemporary black pop music. Rhythm and blues is anything but a uniform term for a uniform style of music.

At the end of the 1940s, a uniform, metropolitan style developed in the course of the urbanization of the black rural population. Many rhythm and blues combos were initially nothing more than scaled-down black big bands. Often they were sextets or quintets . The smaller line-ups resulted from the cost advantage compared to the big bands , which were not affordable for poorer clubs. The lower volume was compensated for by the then new electric guitar. Furthermore, a piano style emerged in which the left hand played boogie-like bass accompaniments, the right hand played fast double stops struck by triplets. In contrast to swing , the solo part of the winds receded. The alto saxophone in particular increasingly served as a rhythm instrument and played shuffel grooves. Purely instrumental pieces were rare. Singers - the proportion of women in rhythm and blues was significantly higher than in rock 'n' roll - often sang with gospel-like decorations. Quite a few rhythm and blues lyrics played with sexual innuendos and ambiguities.

For established America, rhythm and blues was considered lewd and vulgar, simply unacceptable underground music. In the meantime, rhythm and blues managed to establish its own music industry, which was also able to maintain larger labels such as Atlantic Records , where producer Jerry Wexler promoted this music like no other.

Rhythm and blues is one of the important roots of rock 'n' roll, because rock 'n' roll has taken over the meter, singing style and lyrical basis from him. Performers like the early Ray Charles , Big Joe Turner , Louis Jordan , Bo Diddley , of course Chuck Berry , Fats Domino , Little Richard , LaVern Baker and many others were role models with their music. In cities like St. Louis, Chicago or New Orleans, the two terms "Rock 'n' Roll" and "Rhythm and Blues" have long been used as synonyms. And even those rock 'n' roll varieties that clearly no longer belong to rhythm and blues, from rockabilly to high school rock 'n' roll, served rhythm and blues as a major source of inspiration. So one can rightly claim that rock 'n' roll was a further development, often also a "whitening" of rhythm and blues, with which only parts of the black youth could identify.

Particularly frustrating for blacks was the fact that white artists made millions while they themselves failed to achieve success with the masses. And even the successful black musicians like Little Richard and Bo Diddley were often cheated of the return on their performance (Bo Diddley didn't make a dollar from his great hits in the 1950s). However, it should not be forgotten that the Sun Records label in Memphis, with musicians such as Elvis Presley , Scotty Moore , Bill Black , Jerry Lee Lewis, paved the way for rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll. Sam Phillips , the owner, also had several black artists under contract, including Johnny London, Rufus Thomas, Joe Hill Louis and BB King . Some music historians see Rocket 88 (1951), recorded by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats and produced by Sam Phillips, as the earliest rock 'n' roll song. Without Phillips and Presley, it would have been the preserve of black artists to earn little or no money. When developing rhythm and blues or rock 'n' roll, one must not forget the social context in the USA at the time. Certainly black artists were disadvantaged, but it probably took a white artist to gradually remove the barriers to discrimination. An example of this is the story of a hit by Leiber / Stoller: When KC Loving was recorded by the black boogie-woogie pianist Little Willie Littlefield in 1952 , Kansas City became a world hit in 1959 in the version by Wilbert Harrison , who was also black , but the one in between Breakthrough for the white rock 'n' roll stars.

Only a little bit later than the triumphant advance of rock 'n' roll, black musicians and managers started a targeted counter-attempt to commercialize rhythm and blues without giving it away from black hands. Under the market name Soul (musicians usually continued to speak of rhythm and blues), new black talents were trained at a high level and then widely marketed. Instrumentally, dance-wise, compositionally and, above all, vocally, rhythm and blues reached its peak in the soul era. In fact, the soul succeeded in unleashing a worldwide boom that also hit the affluent white audience. Fresh talents with huge voices stormed the charts, which thanks to the commercial conception are still well known today ( Martha Reeves , Aretha Franklin , Ike and Tina Turner , Stevie Wonder , Otis Redding and many more).

Although this commercialized rhythm and blues was popular music, the black roots such as blues and gospel were by no means watered down, but consciously reactivated. Ultimately, the aim was to create music that was difficult for whites to copy. The Motown label was at the center of this development . In the 1970s, the originally black elements finally faded and black pop music became disco music. In the 1980s, black artists like Whitney Houston put their excellent singing voices at the service of rather insignificant pop music, which they thereby enhanced to a certain extent. The term soul came up again. However, this music no longer had much to do with rhythm and blues.

Representatives of the classic rhythm and blues are z. For example: Wynonie Harris , Clyde McPhatter , Bobby Blue Bland , LaVern Baker , Ruth Brown or Louis Jordan .


The “style map” shows the intersection and points of contact between rhythm and blues (red) and rock 'n' roll (yellow), as well as the most important styles and sub-styles of rock 'n' roll. However, if you wanted to list all cross-connections and mutual inspirations, such a graphic would become an even more inextricable knot than it already is here. Therefore, many aspects are not considered here, including the fact that most artists do not remain static in a stylistic corner in the course of their work. An example is Ray Charles, who, strictly speaking, should appear in almost every corner of the graphic. Hank Ballard should not only be listed under Twist, which he only invented in the later phase of his career. In addition, the illustration does not take account of an important development in the course of which, from around 1958, many or all rock 'n' roll varieties mixed into one mainstream form.

Categories and style drawers also always have an academic aspect that cannot adequately explain the music. It was precisely the overcoming of drawers that made rock 'n' roll possible in the first place.

Stylemap 2.png

Varieties of rock 'n' roll

For the individual game types, see the respective Wikipedia links with some of the more extensive articles.

Northern band style

In the north of the USA, a white style of music emerged from 1952, which enriched the swinging big band sound with a distinctive 4/4 offbeat, provided it with boogie lines and played it in a smaller line-up. The Northern Band Style is occasionally confused with its southern counterpart, the rockabilly , because of the " slapped " double bass , but it contains a more dominant, sometimes soloistic drum kit and also places an emphasis on the wind instruments that are atypical in rockabilly. The synchronized swiveling movements of the instruments were typical in the performance, the strikingly patterned uniforms of the musicians and rhythmic heckling (“crazy man, crazy!”) - all elements of big band culture. Cover versions of black rhythm and blues titles were played, but also new compositions. An important instrument in addition to the double bass and wind instruments was the electric guitar, which stood out from the rest of rock 'n' roll with its fast, difficult runs. The first notable success of this new style of music was the B-side of Bill Haley's single Icy Heart , Rock the Joint , in the spring of 1952, which already contained all elements of this new style except for the saxophone component and the drums. It is worth mentioning Danny Cedrones guitar solo, which he recorded again note for note in April 1954 for the world hit Rock Around the Clock . 1953 came the breakthrough for the Northern Band Style, because Bill Haley completed his band with the drums and placed himself with the title Crazy Man, Crazy as the first white representative of this style in the "Nation's Top Twenty Charts". It was not until two years later, in the fall of 1955, that Alan Freed and Bill Randle called this music, which was previously only traded under Rhythm & Blues, as Rock 'n' Roll and were the first disc jockeys to use this name for all other styles in their programs and shows. The subsequent popularization and dominance of rock 'n' roll by Haley lasted two years, from mid-1954 to mid-1956.

Representatives: Bill Haley & The Comets, Freddy Bell & The Bellboys , The Jodimars , The Esquire Boys, Dave Apple & the Applejacks, Alan Dale, Jimmy Cavello & the Houserockers.


A fusion of rhythm and blues with country music ( hillbilly music ) that originated in the southern states of the USA around 1953 . Initially played with a minimal line-up (“slapped” double bass, electric guitar, vocals), later drums and piano also came to rockabilly. Starting in Memphis, Tennessee, the rockabilly quickly spread throughout the south thanks to the intense touring activity of Sun Records' musicians, inspiring hundreds of musicians to copy the style. Few succeeded in going beyond a mere Sun copy and developing individual rockabilly styles, such as Jerry Lee Lewis , Gene Vincent and Buddy Holly . From 1957 rockabilly broke up into a kind of mainstream rock 'n' roll, but most performers turned to the pure country music they came from. Rockabilly was also the first form of country rock .

Representatives: the early Elvis Presley , the early Johnny Cash , Carl Perkins , Johnny Burnette Trio , Eddie Cochran , Gene Vincent , the early Roy Orbison .


Handjive (also known as "Chicago Sound" or "Bo-Diddley Sound") is an originally black variety of rock 'n' roll and originated in Chicago in the late 1940s as a subspecies of rhythm and blues. The main features are the percussion instruments ( maracas ), which are strongly in the foreground , which create a trance-like, ostinate groove and alternate line by line with the vocals, the melody of which is structured in a "question-and-answer scheme".

The handjive was originally pure street music, to which the children in the ghettos of the Southside of Chicago sang counting rhymes and counterfeit verses with sometimes dirty lyrics. The hands were hit against each other or against parts of the body in certain rhythms. The tradition of the handjive goes back to the "Hambone", that body percussion with which the black slaves of the south replaced the forbidden drum music that conveyed messages.

The merit of having captured the typical groove on record for the first time goes to the Chicago street musician Sammy McGier. His band Hambone Kids recorded the title Hambone for the Okeh label in the early 1950s , which already contains the legendary lick that would later be called “Bo-Diddley-Lick”. Finally, Bo Diddley , himself a former street musician on the Southside, made his debut in 1955 with his hit Bo Diddley (the original lyrics of this song, which was actually called "Uncle John", were too suggestive of the Chess label, which is why Diddley defused it) and immediately made it into place one of the rhythm and blues charts. His electric guitar was slightly distorted, a new sound completely unknown to the audience at the time. Soon artists in the USA began to include the groove: Buddy Holly with Not Fade Away and Bo Diddley or Johnny Otis with Willie and the Handjive . In the 1960s, British bands like the Rolling Stones and Animals occasionally adopted the Bo Diddley sound.

Representatives: Bo Diddley , Johnny Otis .

Car sound

In the 1950s, the music of the black guitarist and singer Chuck Berry was called "car sound" . It all started in 1955 with the Chess publication Maybellene , a title that deals with a kind of car race. Berry himself was a car mechanic and with his almost white-sounding voice addressed the American car cult of the 1950s. Berry's lyrics, who cracked cars in his youth to go for jaunts, tell of restless mobility across the United States and are reminiscent of Jack Kerouac's cult novel On The Road . The decisive factor for this "Chicago rock 'n' roll" is a completely new use of the electric guitar, which sounds a bit tinny with a slight tube distortion and is reminiscent of car horns during Berry's two-string bends. Berry played the rhythm accompaniment with downstrokes on the muted bass strings. Berry is a decisive, perhaps the most important stylist on the basis of the blues and therefore one of the most covered rock musicians. His licks inspired large parts of beat music in the 1960s and are still part of the standard repertoire of many guitarists and student bands.

Berry's colleague, Bo Diddley , who is also under contract with Chess , picked up the car sound and also played a few car titles (including Roadrunner ). The car sound from the car production cities of the north also inspired surf / hot rod musicians from California, the "Autoland". The expression is hardly used today.

Representatives: Chuck Berry , Bo Diddley .

Black Doo Wop

Doo Wop is the name for a rhythm and blues subspecies that puts a special emphasis on polyphonic vocal arrangements. The style developed from 1948 and was sung in the black quarters of major American cities, especially under bridges, in subway stations and greyhound waiting halls. Doo Wop is closely related to the special acoustics of public spaces. Ballads alternated with fast numbers. From 1956, more and more Doo-Wop numbers made it onto the Billboard charts. The pure a cappella style of the street was rarely retained. As a rule, soft instrumental accompaniment in typical rhythm and blues line-up (saxophone, piano) was added to recordings. Gimmicks like chimes were also typical in doo-wop ballads.

Representatives: The Penguins , The Moonglows , Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers , The Platters .

White Doo Wop

In the late 1950s, young white Americans began copying the doo wop in the big cities. Descendants of Italian immigrants stood out in particular; at the center of the white doo-wop movement was the New York Bronx. The rough sexual allusions in the texts of the black role models like Hank Ballard were not taken over and replaced by more harmless content from everyday teenage life. An important element was the lead singer's high falsetto voice - an effect that was later picked up by surf music . The white Doo Wop became the identification music of an entire generation of young people from the Italian-American minority in the USA. The atmosphere in the Italian scene in the Bronx at that time was reconstructed in the 1979 film The Wanderers .

At a time when rock 'n' roll was slowly losing its shocking effect and becoming a universally accepted fad, white doo-wop artists became very popular with white middle-class youth. The white Doo Wop became the forerunner of surf and high school rock 'n' roll .

Representatives: Dion DiMucci , The Diamonds , The Elegants .

New Orleans Sound

A black variety of rock 'n' roll or rhythm and blues, the main characteristic of which is the piano played in a triplet in the high registers. The New Orleans Sound dates back to the early 1950s; as true rock 'n' roll, he entered rock history around 1955 with Fats Domino and the more aggressive Little Richard. The tradition of this music is cultivated without interruption up to the present day and has interpreters like Dr. John and Professor Longhair spawned.

Representatives: Fats Domino , Little Richard , Huey "Piano" Smith , Smiley Lewis .


A guitar- instrumental tradition was established in the western United States in 1957 , which quickly found numerous imitators. Lee Hazlewood's studio in Phoenix , Arizona , and later in Los Angeles, recorded tracks with guitarists Al Casey and Duane Eddy, some of which became hits. The guitar was slightly distorted and a saxophone played simple solos. The reverberation in the recordings was created by the natural acoustics of the metal granary that housed Hazlewood's studio (one of Hazlewood's studio aids was the young Phil Spector , by the way ). Eddy's “ Twang Sound ” found numerous imitators throughout the western United States and influenced a number of musicians in Europe, for example Cliff Richard's backing band, the Shadows .

Also important are Johnny and the Hurricanes from Ohio, who from 1959 onwards delivered a completely new, often “heavy” sound with a “growling” saxophone, simple keyboard and distorted, fat guitar. With less swing, they mainly influenced later beat sounds, see Buckeye .

Representatives: Duane Eddy , The Ventures , The Shadows , Johnny and the Hurricanes , The Spotnicks .

Surf / hot rod

Surf music is the only branch of classic rock 'n' roll that extended well into the 1960s and offered a kind of American parallel to British-dominated beat music.

In general, the term surf music is associated with the sound of the Beach Boys or the duo Jan and Dean . However, there was also a much more aggressive, instrumental rock 'n' roll style that claimed the name “surf music” for itself. The Belairs and Dick Dale are considered to be the inventors of what is now known as “surf rock” (Dale claims he used the term “surf” on his music as early as the 1950s). In 1961 the Belairs released their single Mr. Moto , then Dick Dale came out with Let's Go Trippin ' . In November of the same year, the Beach Boys made their pop form debut with their single Surfin ' . Which is the "real" surf music, the rock form or the pop form, is a controversial and idle question.

In the rock instrumental form, both the "Twang" sound and the saxophone from the Hazlewood productions from Phoenix and Los Angeles were adopted. Sometimes the melody lines were played by a trumpet according to the Southern California-Mexican tradition. The main instrument was the Stratocaster , the legendary guitar made by the Californian manufacturer Leo Fender , the tremolo arm of which was used extensively in surf rock. The characteristic, sometimes destructively powerfully struck surf guitar was also played with a tape echo, which smoothed out the popular glissando riffs on the bass strings, with which the rapid waves of the surfboard were musically implemented. Dick Dale was in close contact with Leo Fender, who adapted his guitar amps of the late 1950s and early 60s to suit Dale's playing style . The sound of Dick Dales, which was almost forgotten for a long time, should be known to today's audiences primarily through the soundtracks of Quentin Tarantino's films, which initiated a revival of the harder surf sound.

The beginning of the more well-known “other” style, a pleasing, polyphonic variant of surf music, marked the Beach Boys title Surfin ' from 1961 (number 75 in the charts), which musically closely aligned itself with the white Doo Wop. But already the following titles of the band, published on Capitol, showed, in addition to influences from Chuck Berry and Doo Wop, a very independent style. A key feature of polyphonic surf music is the textual content that mostly glorifies life in California. In addition to the theme of "surfing" while the theme of "doctored" cars (is Hotrod ) remarkably often. The strong presence of the car cult in surf / hot rod music also explains the occasional borrowing from Chuck Berry, the founder of the “car sound” (compare Beach Boys: Surfin 'USA with Chuck Berry: Sweet Little Sixteen ). With the growing popularity of hallucinogenic drugs in the second half of the 1960s - just like beat music, which was dominated by the United Kingdom - surf music also metamorphosed into the psychedelic. This late form of surf had little to do with the straightforward simplicity of rock 'n' roll.

Both directions of surf sound, both instrumental surf rock and the polyphonic pop form, surf pop, established the tradition of West Coast rock music . Bands like the Trashmen and later also the Ramones , whose vocals initially resembled the Beach Boys, provided the music with an aggressive, anarchist attitude and paved the way for punk . The studio work of the late Beach Boys set the standard for more demanding pop productions of the 1970s, such as the first albums by the Swedish pop band ABBA .

Teenage rock 'n' roll / high school

In the late 1950s, the entertainment industry conceived a tamed form of rock 'n' roll aimed primarily at the very young, white, middle-class audience. The interpreters appeared clean and "parent-compatible". Jeans or leather jackets were avoided and replaced by knitted vests, polo shirts and ties. Many of these "teen idols" were cast solely by their looks and looked like domesticated clones of Elvis Presley. Her partly moderate singing skills were then, as in the case of Fabian , balanced by intensive, partly syllable-by-syllable editing in the studio. Some were also marketed as "actors" and took leading roles in B-Movies. The Dick Clark Show American Bandstand , a national television show that promoted the high school stars, played a key role in this development .

It is debatable whether one should really call teenage rock 'n' roll real rock 'n' roll, in the end it is a question of definitions. According to a widespread view, the teen idol phenomenon is only the attempt of the establishment to integrate rock 'n' roll, to make it a clean and mass-compatible product and thus to seal its end.

Representatives: Pat Boone , Paul Anka , Neil Sedaka , Bobby Darin , Tommy Sands , Connie Francis , Frankie Avalon , Fabian .


Twist is a name for a late version of rock 'n' roll and its dance that was popular in the United States and Europe for about two years. The dance caused quite a stir because it was no longer danced in pairs, but alone. He initiated the dance style that is still common in discotheques today.

Musically, the twist in times of shallow high school rock 'n' roll brought a revival of the origins from rhythm and blues and was therefore something of a first rock 'n' roll revival . The “inventor” of the twist is Chubby Checker , who gained fame through appearances on Dick Clark's show American Bandstand . As for the characteristic dance moves, this is certainly true. However, it was actually the rhythm and blues musician Hank Ballard who wrote and recorded the tracks The Twist and Let's Twist again ( The Twist was first recorded by Ballard in 1958). However, a planned appearance by Ballard was canceled due to an argument with Dick Clark over Ballard's backing band "The Midnighters". The until then little known, somewhat voluminous Checker, which The Twist launched in 1959, was chosen to fill the gap . The following year the title was number one on the charts (which it reached again in January 1962). In 1961 the Twist began to triumph over the world, accompanied by a merchandise machine that was unique up to then.

Representative: Hank Ballard , Chubby Checker

Other / mainstream rock 'n' roll

In addition to the most important forms of classic rock 'n' roll mentioned above, there were also a number of local styles, often with a strong folk influence. Few of them produced national successes, such as the titles of Ritchie Valens , the most important representative of Chicano Rock , which was widespread among the discriminated Spanish-speaking population in the Los Angeles, South Texas and New Mexico area and was sometimes sung in Spanish .

In the Mississippi Delta, on the other hand, it was musicians from the French-speaking minority from the swamp regions of Louisiana, the " Cajuns ", who combined their traditional fiddle and accordion music with rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll from around 1957 (→ Swamp Rock ) . The Cajun rock scene did not have any national hits.

The more popular rhythm and blues musicians from New Orleans influenced the music scene in Jamaica, where the US radio stations from Louisiana could be received. In this way, a mixture of New Orleans rhythm and blues and Jamaican folklore, such as the mento , emerged in the 1950s . From this mixture, ska developed in the early 1960s and later reggae .

The so-called “ calypso music” should also be mentioned here, which was invented by Harry Belafonte in the mid-1950s . Belafonte was originally from New York City and his Caribbean accent wasn't real. But he demonstrated a keen sense for the market, which in the 1950s called for South Sea romance and the exotic in a kind of first “ethnic wave”. This gave his 1956 debut album Calypso a sensational success. If anything, his music can be classified in the pop and entertainment corner of rock 'n' roll.

Finally, from around 1957 onwards, with the mass media spread of the various regional rock 'n' roll styles, a process of mutual influence began. The contours of the regional styles were becoming increasingly blurred. The resulting mainstream form of rock 'n' roll often combined elements from two, three or more different varieties. Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps mixed their rockabilly seamlessly with elements from Doo Wop, Buddy Holly , originally at Texas rockabilly at home, added doo wop elements to his music as well as Chicago grooves à la Bo Diddley. After all, many rock 'n' roll performers of the "second hour", that is, performers who did not appear in public until 1957, can no longer be clearly assigned to one of the rock 'n' roll varieties.

Rock 'n' roll revival / rockabilly revival

By the early 1960s, rock 'n' roll had lost its popularity. Elvis Presley turned away from him, and numerous other rockabilly / rock 'n' roll musicians and bands switched back to country. At the same time, the Beatles stepped into the limelight and introduced English beat music to a wider audience. Its popularity continued to decline until the mid-1960s; only a few clubs and bars still played rock 'n' roll. On the other hand, rhythm & blues flourished again thanks to white musicians such as the Rolling Stones , the Yardbirds , Alexis Korner , but also Dave Edmunds . Dave Edmunds worked as a producer and musician on the rock 'n' roll revival in the late 1960s.

In the late 1960s / early 1970s Bill Haley's Shake, Rattle And Roll hit the UK charts again. Suddenly it was "hip" to wear old teddy-boy clothes again, and all the clubs were playing rock 'n' roll. Many bands imitated the old “heroes” of the 1950s and played rock 'n' roll, including groups from the glam rock scene such as Mud , Rubettes or Showaddywaddy . Shakin 'Stevens & The Sunsets have been in the limelight since 1969 . That was the beginning of a new generation of rock 'n' roll. This is known as a "rock 'n' roll revival".

In the mid-1970s, bands like Crazy Cavan or Matchbox changed the old rock 'n' roll playing style and created their own. The guitar was more in the foreground. The rhythm got faster. Half of all songs dealt with the old teddy boy scene from England. This new way of playing rock 'n' roll is also called "Teddy Boy Rock 'n' Roll". German bands playing this style include: Foggy Mountain Rockers, Black Raven or Lou Cifer and the Hellions .

In the early 1980s, a band that made music history suddenly appeared, namely the Stray Cats . They covered old rockabilly classics (e.g. Baby Blue Eyes by Johnny Burnette) and played their own. They changed the original rockabilly from the 1950s and played old classics with their own style. This new rockabilly variety is now also known as "Neo Rockabilly". The appearance of Neo Rockabilly by the Stray Cats is also known as Rockabilly Revival .

It was only with the rock 'n' roll and rockabilly revival that bands began to play rock 'n' roll and rockabilly again.

The style of music that strictly adheres to the style of the 1950s is described as "Authentic Rockabilly". Many also refer to "Teddy Boy Rock 'n' Roll" as "British Rockabilly".

In addition, another new style was invented by the rockabilly revival, namely " Psychobilly ", a mixture of " Punk " and "Neo Rockabilly" (or, depending on the bands, influences from rockabilly bands of the 50s). The Cramps and The Meteors exerted a decisive influence . The surf rock band Trashmen also influenced the Psychobilly with their sound and their hit Surfin 'Bird, which was covered by some Psychobilly bands. Furthermore, Screaming Jay Hawkins and Screaming Lord Sutch particularly influenced the Cramps.

In addition to Psychobilly, other styles of Neo-Rockabilly have emerged: Hellbilly or Horrorbilly, Punkabilly (is often used synonymously with Psychobilly), Alkabilly, Gothbilly, Speedbilly. The boundaries are quite fluid, so that some of these terms are controversial. In addition, psychobilly is mostly used as an umbrella term and also changes into varieties influenced by old-time country. z. B. Hillbilly Moon Explosion or Sparky (from Demented are go) and the Deathbillys.

Representatives: Meteors , Nekromantix , Demented Are Go , The Cramps , King Kurt .

In Germany, too, people returned to rock'n'roll. Singer Ted Herold made his come back and Peter Kraus sang more rock 'n' roll songs again. Most important, however, was the Spider Murphy Gang , which did rock 'n' roll in Bavarian dialect and with it others like Niki or the Zillertaler Laid a foundation stone for the philanderers. The album Tutti Frutti also adopted elements of punk. The Ace Cats made it into the charts, e.g. B. with the song Linda .

Use of the term "rock 'n' roll" for later trends

In the 1970s, a new use for the term "rock 'n' roll" emerged. As a demarcation from currents such as progressive rock and glam rock , "rock 'n' roll" has since been a form of rock music or hard rock that relies on composition , instrumentation (vocals, guitar, electric bass, drums) and stage appearance that have been kept simple ( Stage design and outfit). The Motörhead group traditionally opened its gigs with the phrase “ We are Motörhead and we play Rock 'n' Roll! "; a Motörhead album is also entitled Rock 'n' Roll (1987). The Rolling Stones released the album It's Only Rock 'n Roll in 1974 . The expression "Rock 'n' Roll" is also present in various AC / DC song titles , e.g. B. in It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll) , Rock 'n' Roll Singer , Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution and Rock 'n' Roll Train .


  • Glenn C. Altschuler : All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America . Oxford University Press, New York 2003.
  • Capple, Steve, and Reebee Garofalo: Rock and Roll Is Here to Pay . Nelson-Hall Inc., Chicago 1977; German edition: Steve Chapple / Reebee Garofalo: Who owns rock music? History and Politics of the Music Industry . German by Teja Schwaner. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg 1980. ISBN 3-499-17313-1 .
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  • Friedlander, Paul: Rock and Roll. A social history, Boulder 1996.
  • Gillet, Charlie: The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Outerbrdige & Dienstfrey , New York 1970; German edition: Charlie Gillett: The Sound Of The City. The history of rock music . German by Teja Schwaner. Two thousand and one, Frankfurt / Main 1979.
  • Hopkins, Jerry: The Rock Story , New York 1970.
  • Jones, LeRoi: Blues People , New York 1963.
  • Wedge, Charles: Urban Blues , Chicago 1966.
  • Miller, Jim (Ed.): The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock & Roll . Random House, New York 1978. ISBN 0-394-40327-4 ; German edition: Jim Miller (Ed.): Rolling Stone. Pictorial history of rock music . 2 volumes. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1979. Vol. 1: From Sonny Boy Williams to the Beach Boys (295 pages) ISBN 3-499-17283-6 ; Vol. 2: From the Searchers to Bruce Springsteen (419 pages) ISBN 3-499-17284-4 .
  • Oliver, Paul: The Story of the Blues , Chilton 1982.
  • Shaw, Arnold: The Rockin '50s. Hawthorne Books, New York 1974; German edition: Arnold Shaw: Rock 'n' Roll. The stars, the music and the myths of the 50s . German by Teja Schwaner. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg 1978 ISBN 3-499-17109-0 .
  • Shaw, Arnold: Honkers and Shouters: The golden years of Rhythm & Blues , New York 1978.
  • Rüdiger Blomeke: Roll over Beethoven - How Rock 'n' Roll Came to Germany , Hannibal Verlag, St. Andrä-Wierter 1996, ISBN 3-85445-122-9
  • Stefan Blankertz, & Götz Alsmann : Rock 'n' Roll Subversiv , Verlag Büchse der Pandora, Wetzlar 1979 ISBN 3-88178-030-0
  • Röglin, Claus-D .: Record Hops - Ducktails and Petticoats, A Brief History of Rock & Roll and its Great Hits, Convent Verlag 1993, ISBN 3-921781-08-6
  • El-Nawab, Susanne: Rockabillies - Rock 'n' Roller - Psychobillies, Portrait of a Subculture , Archive of Youth Cultures Verlag KG, Berlin 2005 ISBN 3-86546-035-6
  • Stobbe, Britta: Keep on rockin '- A life in rock'n'roll , Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2008 ISBN 978-3-8370-3369-4

Web links

Wiktionary: Rock 'n' Roll  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. LEO Dict: rock, roll
  2. But the song that is usually recognized as the first true rock'n'roller is Rocket 88, recorded by Mississippi-born saxophonist / vocalist Jackie Brenston.