THE EARLY YEARS
Well here we are again with ‘Jump Jive’, ‘Bebop’ and ‘Rhythm & Blues’ all being played live in clubs and ‘joints’ all over America especially in the South during the late 40’s. At the same time, swing music was being played by the ‘white’ musicians on the West Coast and being hailed as Western Swing.
Sam Phillips was to open his ‘Memphis Recording Service’ in 1950, which was later to become Sun Records (1952), and one of his main ambitions was to merge the two kinds of Southern music, white and black. He later said “I opened the Memphis Recording Service to record singers and musicians from the Memphis area, who I felt had something that people should be able to hear, I’m talking about ‘blues’, both the country style and the rhythm style and also about gospel music and white country music. I knew there were markets for this music both black and white”. Sun Records
and Sam Phillips were later to sign many of the rock ‘n’ roll greats of our time, showing that he achieved his ambition eventually. Starting with blues artistes, such as Joe Hill Louis , B.B.King and Rufus Thomas to country stars such as Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes), Roy Orbison (Ooby Dooby) and later Jerry Lee Lewis (1956 – 1963).
Jerry Lee Lewis along with Bill Haley, Elvis, Buddy Holly and many others were merging the various styles of music just like we did in the mid 50’s in Great Britain (it was then). The result was a mix of blues, country swing and jive later to be named by Alan Freed (Rock’n’Roll).
There are many artistes who can claim that they invented ‘Rock’n’Roll’ but I think we should lay the blame this time on just one of them, Bill Haley.
Although Buddy Holly was the main influence on the young Tremilos (more about that later, you’ll love the picture, little boys eh!!), the insurgence of ‘Rock’n’Roll’ can be traced most easily to the early influences which affected Bill Haley. He listened to and played as a DJ the rhythm and blues music of Louis Jordan (many) Sonny Til and the Orioles (Cryin’ in the Chapel), The Drifters (Money Honey), The Crows (Gee), The Moonglows (Sincerely) and the country music of people such as Gene Autry. All that needed doing was for this ‘melting pot’ of music to be ‘popularised’ by an easily accepted artiste. ‘Air time’ for records was becoming more and more important, so the sanitisation of black, jive, R&B, country music and swing became imperative. The music’s universal appeal was about to be accomplished in the unlikely shape of Bill Haley. After being in several country bands, such as the ‘Downhomers’, the ‘Four Aces of Western Swing’ and the ‘Saddlemen’, Haley dropped the ‘country style’ and in 1951 recorded the R&B style ‘Rocket 88’, a cover of the Jackie Brenston/Ike Turner song which Sam Phillips and many other ‘Rock’n’Roll’ officianados regard as the first ever ‘Rock’n’Roll’ record.
After calling his band The Comets and completely changing his style he recorded Rock Around the Clock using all the aforementioned musical influences, and then a cleaned up cover of Joe Turner’s ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’, with all the sexual innuendos taken out to gain maximum ‘airplay’.
In Great Britain (it was then), we were listening, forming our own bands and adding to the ‘melting pot’ of early ‘Rock’n’Roll’.