Rock n' Roll Begins
In the early 1950s, several bands started experimenting with a new style of music. This music merged the blues structure with the faster-style popular music of big bands. This was the beginning of Rock n' Roll.
Bill Haley & the Comets
Rock Around the Clock
Rock Around the Clock - Bill Haley & the Comets
In 1954, a band called Bill Haley and the Comets launched a smash hit called Rock Around The Clock. This is often referred to as the beginning of Rock n' Roll. The song was included as a soundtrack to the movie Blackboard Jungle, and when the music began during the film, audience members couldn't help but stand up in the aisles and dance along to the brand-new sound.
Rock n' Roll was all about having fun. Performs would often have as much fun as the audience; dancing around, striking poses, using their instruments as props - anything goes!
Early Rock n' Roll borrowed the blue progression
If you listened closely to Rock Around the Clock, you may have noticed that the chords are the same as the 12 bar blues progression, only at a faster tempo (speed).
Chuck Berry's top songs:
- Johnny B. Goode
- Rock n' Roll Music
- Run Rudolf, Run
In America at this time, it was still uncommon for white families to even speak to their black neighbors. While Bill Haley was introducing the white American teenage population to this new Rock n' Roll craze, artist such as Chuck Berry were introducing it to the black American population.
Here is Chuck Berry performing his most popular song, Johnny B. Goode:
Chuck Berry's "Duck Walk" and legacy
Chuck Berry is best known for his witty lyrics, his trademark sound and his unique "Duck Walk". You can see a brief example of the "duck walk" in the video above around halfway through.
Berry's best songs were written and recorded in the mid to late 1950's, with his first #1 smash hit, Maybelline in 1955. Some of his other hit songs were Johnny B. Goode, Rock n' Roll Music and Run Rudolf, Run.
Today, Chuck Berry's music is still a source of inspiration for many rock bands worldwide. Over the years, hundreds of films, artists and songwriters have used his songs and lyrics as inspiration for their own work.
Back to the Future!
Watch this clip from the 1985 film "Back to the Future". In the movie, the main character Marty finds himself trapped in the past, and the only way he can save himself is by getting his mom and dad to fall in love with each other again. This scene is close to the end of the film; Marty is performing for his parent's prom. Do you recognize the song he plays in the beginning?
Complete the "How did Rock and Roll Begin?" worksheet. If you need an extra copy, print it out below.