Dear Friends,

I started to roll this project around in my feeble mind after watching the recent broadcast of the Ken Burns history of Country Music documentary. I thought that they got some things wrong, but many things I believe they got right. One of those things I thought they got right was that the two most important and indispensable instruments in the development of Country Music were: the Fiddle and the Banjo. Not the Guitar, but the Banjo. In fact, the Mandolin is probably more important to Country Music than the Guitar. From the beginning, both the vocal phrasing and instrumental licks heard in Country music were taken from Jazz, Blues, Pop and Folk Music. I believe that the vocal styles and phrasing heard in country has not been influenced very much by either Southern Gospel Music or Black Gospel.

It seems to me that the story is very different when we look at the pre-1954 musical influences on Rock & Roll Music. There, the two most important and indispensable instruments are: the piano, and the amplified, Electric Guitar. The instrumental and vocal influences heard in Rock & Roll, as it developed from 1954 through 1959, come from Boogie, Blues, Jazz, Country, Pop, and, prominently, from Gospel, both Southern Gospel and Black Gospel.

I believe that after 1959, Rock & Roll all but disappeared in its pure, wild, untamed, politically incorrect, take no prisoners state. Corporate America and the American cultural hall monitors tried to ignore it for the first two or three years, hoping it would pass away. It didn’t. After 1959, the economic and cultural powers intimidated the musical establishment into taming it and domesticating it (in other words, killing it). Now we are left with the pure form in a six year time capsule. Since that time, a gleam or a glimmer of real Rock & Roll has been captured on record occasionally, but it does not ever happen unless the singers and players reach back and tap the 1954 to 1959 root. That is what the best young British musicians did in the early ‘60s, and that it is still what the best so-called Rock acts have to do today if they want to produce Real Rock & Roll.

In its pure 1950s form, Rock & Roll Music was made, mostly, by talented, poor, rural, white redneck American guys and gals who soaked up and appropriated the musical licks and riffs that they heard on the radio, in the juke boxes, and in the churches and the honky tonks. There were a few very important Black Rock & Rollers who were also talented, mostly poor, and who listened to and soaked up the same influences from the same places. Thank God that the radio dial could not be segregated.

I will begin to send via email one or two musical files a week as we move through this little project. If I miss your favorite record, I apologize. The selections are not meant to be exhaustive, only representative. We will begin with about 20 pre-1955 records that contain musical things that influenced the birth and development of Rock & Roll Music. Then, we will hear the real thing, beginning in 1954.

If you like what you are receiving and you think it is worthwhile to forward it on to others, please feel free to do so, or not, as you please.

Rock on!


Leave a Reply