Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 1950s

by admin - October 12th, 2017

By Sam Maglione

Rock ‘n’ roll had evolved in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was evolving from music styles such as rhythm and blues, jazz, and gospel. Typically in rock ‘n’ roll music the lead instrument is an electric guitar. One popular jazz song that was a start to the rock ‘n’ roll music was a song called Roll ‘Em Pete by Big Joe Turner. In the 1950s, rock ‘n’ roll music was considered to be for teenagers.

When rock ‘n’ roll first came out, many white artists were trying to cover R&B songs. But the problem was they weren’t catching on. Record producers such as Sam Phillips were in search of a white artist that could really help make rock ‘n’ roll popular. That’s when Elvis Presley was discovered.

Elvis Presley is referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll”. His music career began in 1954 after he recorded his first song. He had gone back to Suns Records to record a second time but unfortunately nothing had come out of that. Later he had gone to an audition for a quartet but it didn’t go well. Later, Elvis made his first appearance on the Milton Berle show and that sparked everything for Elvis. He started getting more appearances and becoming more popular. Elvis was considered to be a sex symbol later on as he became more popular especially to the teenage audience.

This is an image of Elvis Presley during his first appearance on television

Some people considered rock and roll to be “tasteless” while others enjoyed the new type of music. A lot of middle class white citizens did not enjoy the music but the teenagers along with lower classes did. Younger generations thought of rock and roll as a way to sort of let go a little bit and just be themselves. “By 1954, musical tastes among young consumers were shifting. The phenomenon that Freed had noticed, in which young white audiences were favoring R&B music by black artists over pop music by white artists such as Perry Como and Eddie Fisher, had become a national trend” (271). The younger generation was starting to like newer and different music even though their parents weren’t too thrilled about that. “Here, we knew, was a sonic cataclysm come bursting (apparently) out of nowhere, with the power to change our lives forever. Because it was obviously, inarguably our music. If we had any initial doubt about that, our parents’ horrified — or at best dismissive — reactions banished those doubts.” (RollingStone). No one really knew what this new type of music was but they listened to it anyways because it was something different and they weren’t used to it.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America in the fifties. Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Palmer, Robert. “The 50s: A Decade of Music That Changed the World.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 19 Apr. 1990,

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