The Music

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British Skiffle

The first British recordings of skiffle were carried out by Colyer’s new band in 1954, but it was the release by Decca of two skiffle tracks by Barber’s Jazz Band under the name of “The Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group” in late 1955 that transformed the fortunes of Lonnie Donegan, the most commercially successful skiffle artist,photographed in the relatively obscure genre, skiffle might have been largely forgotten if not for its revival in the United Kingdom in the 1950s and the success of its main proponent, Lonnie Donegan. British skiffle grew out of the developing post-war British jazz scene, which saw a move away from swing music and towards authentic trad Jazz. Among these bands were Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen, whose banjo player Donegan also performed skiffle music during intervals. He would sing and play guitar with accompaniment of two other members, usually on washboard and tea-chest bass. They played a variety of American folk and blues songs, particularly those derived from the recordings of Leadbelly, in a lively style that emulated American jug bands. These were listed on posters as “skiffle” breaks, a name suggested by Ken Colyer’s brother Bill after recalling the Dan Burley Skiffle Group. Soon the breaks were as popular as the traditional jazz. After disagreements in 1954 Colyer left to form a new outfit, and the band became Chris Barber’s Jazz Band. Donegan’s high-tempo version of Leadbelly’s “Rock Island Line”, featuring a washboard (but not a tea-chest bass), with “John Henry” on the B-side, was a major hit in 1956. It spent an eight months in the Top 20, peaking at #6 (and #8 in the U.S.). It was the first début record to go gold in Britain, selling over a million copies worldwide.It was the success of this single, and the lack of a need for expensive instruments, or high levels of musicianship, that set off the British skiffle craze. A few bands enjoyed chart success in the skiffle craze, including The Chas McDevitt Group, Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boys and The Vipers, but the main impact of skiffle was as a grassroots amateur movement, particularly popular among working class males, who could cheaply buy, or build their own instruments and who have been seen as reacting against the drab austerity of post-war Britain. The craze probably reached its height with the broadcasting of the BBC TV programme Six-Five Special from 1957. It was the first British youth music programme, using a skiffle song as its title music and showcasing many skiffle acts. Liverpool skiffle group The Quarrymen playing their first full show in 1957: John Lennon is centre stage.It has been estimated that in the late 1950s there were 30-50,000 skiffle groups in Britain. Sales of guitars grew rapidly and other musicians were able to perform on improvised bass and percussion in venues such as church halls and ‘cafe’s, and in the flourishing coffee bars of Soho, London, like The 2i’s Coffee Bar, The Cat’s Whisker and nightspots like Coconut Grove and Churchill’s, without having to aspire to musical perfection or virtuosity. A large number of British musicians began their careers playing skiffle in this period and some became leading figures in their respective fields. These included leading Northern Irish musician Van Morrison, British blues pioneer Alexis Korner as well as Ronnie Wood, Alex Harvey and Mick Jagger; folk musicians Martin Carthy, John Renbourn and Ashley Hutchings; rock musicians Roger Daltrey, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Robin Trower and Dave Gilmour; and popular beat music successes Graham Nash and Alan Clarke of The Hollies. Most notably The Beatles evolved from John Lennon’s skiffle group The Quarrymen.After splitting from Barber, Donegan went on to make a series of popular records as “Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group”, with successes including “Cumberland Gap” (1957), “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour” (1958), and “My Old Man’s a Dustman” (1960). However, the British rock and roll scene was starting to take off, producing home grown stars like Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard and The Shadows (themselves originally involved in skiffle). Donegan was the only skiffle act to make a serious impact on the charts and even he began to look outmoded. The skiffle craze was largely over by 1958 as its enthusiasts either abandoned music for more stable employment, or moved into some of the forms of music it had first suggested, including folk, the blues and rock and roll. As a result it has been seen as a critical stepping stone to the second British folk revival, blues boom and British Invasion.Donegan continued his career in skiffle until his death in 2002.[10] Several bands have taken up the form (such as The Ugly Dog Skiffle Combo and The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra) or returned to it, but attempts at a skiffle revival have failed to reach anything like the heights of the initial craze.  

Then Came Rock n Roll

Origins of rock and roll

​The origins of rock and roll have been fiercely debated by commentators and historians of music.There is general agreement that it arose in the southern United States of America – the region which would produce most of the major early rock and roll acts – through the meeting of the different musical traditions which had developed from transatlantic African slavery and largely European immigration in that region.The migration of many freed slaves and their descendants to major urban centers like Memphis and north to New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Buffalo meant that black and white residents were living in close proximity in larger numbers than ever before, and as a result heard each other’s music and even began to emulate each other’s fashions.Radio stations that made white and black forms of music available to both groups, the development and spread of the gramophone record, and musical styles such as jazz and swing which were taken up by both black and white musicians, aided this process of “cultural collision.”The immediate roots of rock and roll lay in the so-called “race music” and hillbilly music (later called rhythm and blues and country and western) of the 1940s and 1950s. Particularly significant influences were jazz, blues, boogie woogie, country, folk and gospel music.

Rock and roll arrived at a time of considerable technological change, soon after the development of the electric guitar, amplifier and microphone, and the 45 rpm record. There were also changes in the record industry, with the rise of independent labels like Atlantic, Sun and Chess servicing niche audiences and a similar rise of radio stations that played their music.It was the realization that relatively affluent white teenagers were listening to this music that led to the development of what was to be defined as rock and roll as a distinct genre.

The phrase “rocking and rolling” originally described the movement of a ship on the ocean, but was used by the early twentieth century, both to describe the

Commentators differ in their views of which of these forms were most important and the degree to which the new music was a re-branding of African American rhythm and blues for a white market, or a new hybrid of black and white formsIn the 1930s jazz, and particularly swing, both in urban based dance bands and blues-influenced country swing, was among the first music to present African American sounds for a predominately white audience. The 1940s saw the increased use of blaring horns (including saxophones), shouted lyrics and boogie woogie beats in jazz based music. During and immediately after World War II, with shortages of fuel and limitations on audiences and available personnel, large jazz bands were less economical and tended to be replaced by smaller combos, using guitars, bass and drums. In the same period, particularly on the West Coast and in the Midwest, the development of jump blues, with its guitar riffs, prominent beats and shouted lyrics, prefigured many later developments.

spiritual fervor of black church rituals and as a sexual analogy. Various gospel, blues and swing recordings used the phrase before it became used more frequently – but still intermittently – in the mid to late 1940s, on recordings and in reviews of what became known as “rhythm and blues” music aimed at a black audience.In 1951,

Cleveland, Ohio, disc jockeyAlan Freed began playing this music style while popularizing the term “rock and roll” to describe it. Because the development of rock and roll was an evolutionary process, no single record can be identified as unambiguously “the first” rock and roll record.One contender for “first rock and roll record” is “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (actually an alias for Ike Turner and his band The Kings of Rhythm), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in March 1951.In terms of its wide cultural impact across society in the US and elsewhere, Bill Haley‘s “Rock Around the Clock“, recorded in April 1954 but not a commercial success until the following year, is generally recognized as an important milestone, but it was preceded by many recordings from earlier decades in which elements of rock and roll can be clearly discerned.

Rockabilly

Rockabilly” usually (but not exclusively) refers to the type of rock and roll music which was played and recorded in the mid 1950s by white singers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, who drew mainly on the country roots of the music.[Many other popular rock and roll singers of the time, such as Fats Domino and Little Richard, came out of the black rhythm and blues tradition, making the music attractive to white audiences, and are not usually classed as “rockabilly”. In July 1954, Elvis Presley recorded the regional hit “That’s All Right (Mama)” at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio in Memphis.[35] Three months earlier, on April 12, 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded “Rock Around the Clock”. Although only a minor hit when first released, when used in the opening sequence of the year later, it really set the rock and roll boom in motion. The song became one of the biggest hits in history, and frenzied teens flocked to see Haley and the Comets perform it, causing riots in some cities. “Rock Around the Clock” was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll music. If everything that came before laid the groundwork, “Rock Around the Clock” introduced the music to a global audience.[ In 1956 the arrival of rockabilly was underlined by the success of songs like “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Perkins and “Heartbreak Hotel” by Presley.For a few years it became the most commercially successful form of rock and roll. Later rockabilly acts, particularly performing songwriters like Buddy Holly, would be a major influence on British Invasion acts and particularly on the song writing of The Beatles and through them on the nature of later rock music.

Doo wop

Doo wop was one of the most popular forms of 1950s rock and roll, with an emphasis on multi-part vocal harmonies and meaningless backing lyrics (from which the genre later gained its name), which were usually supported with light instrumentation.Its origins were in African American vocal groups of the 1930s and 40s, like the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, who had enjoyed considerable commercial success with arrangements based on close harmonies.They were followed by 1940s R&B vocal acts like The Orioles, The Ravens and The Clovers, who injected a strong element of traditional gospel and, increasingly, the energy of Jump blues. By 1954, as rock and roll was beginning to emerge, a number of similar acts began to cross over from the R&B charts to mainstream success, often with added honking brass and saxophone, with The Crows, The Penguins, The El Dorados and The Turbans all scoring major hits.Despite the subsequent explosion in records from doo wop acts in the later 50s, many failed to chart or were one-hit wonders. Exceptions included The Platters, with songs including “The Great Pretender” (1955) and The Coasters with humorous songs like “Yakety Yak” (1958), both of which ranked among the most successful rock and roll acts of the era.Towards the end of the decade there were increasing numbers of white, particularly Italian American, singers taking up Doo Wop, creating all-white groups like The Mystics and Dion and the Belmonts and racially integrated groups like The Dell Vikings and The Impalas.Doo wop would be a major influence on vocal surf music, soul and early Merseybeat, including The Beatles.

The Decline

Commentators have traditionally perceived a decline of rock and roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s.By 1959, the death of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in a plane crash, the departure of Elvis for the army, the retirement of Little Richard to become a preacher, prosecutions of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, and the breaking of the payola scandal (which implicated major figures, including Alan Freed, in bribery and corruption in promoting individual acts or songs), gave a sense that the initial rock and roll era had come to an end.There was also a process that has been described as the “feminisation” of rock and roll, with the charts beginning to be dominated by love ballads, often aimed at a female audience, and the rise of girl groups like The Shirelles and The Crystals.Some historians of music have pointed to important and innovative developments that built on rock and roll in this period, including multitrack recording, developed by Les Paul, the electronic treatment of sound by such innovators as Joe Meek, and the Wall of Sound productions of Phil Spector, continued desegregation of the charts, the rise of surf music, garage rock and the Twist dance craze.

British rock and roll

​In the 1950s, Britain was well placed to receive American rock and roll music and culture.It shared a common language, had been exposed to American culture through the stationing of troops in the country, and shared many social developments, including the emergence of distinct youth sub-cultures, which in Britain included the Teddy Boys.Trad Jazz became popular, and many of its musicians were influenced by related American styles, including boogie woogie and the blues.The skiffle craze, led by Lonnie Donegan, utilised amateurish versions of American folk songs and encouraged many of the subsequent generation of rock and roll, folk, R&B and beat musicians to start performing.At the same time British audiences were beginning to encounter American rock and roll, initially through films including Blackboard Jungle(1955) and Rock Around the Clock (1955).Both movies contained the Bill Haley & His Comets hit “Rock Around the Clock“, which first entered the British charts in early 1955 – four months before it reached the US pop charts – topped the British charts later that year and again in 1956, and helped identify rock and roll with teenage delinquency.American rock and roll acts such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly thereafter became major forces in the British charts.The initial response of the British music industry was to attempt to produce copies of American records, recorded with session musicians and often fronted by teen idols.More grassroots British rock and rollers soon began to appear, including Wee Willie Harris and Tommy Steele.During this period American Rock and Roll remained dominant, however, in 1958 Britain produced its first “authentic” rock and roll song and star, when Cliff Richard reached number 2 in the charts with “Move It“.At the same time, TV shows such as Six-Five Specialand Oh Boy! promoted the careers of British rock and rollers like Marty Wilde and Adam Faith.Cliff Richard and his backing band The Shadows, were the most successful home grown rock and roll based acts of the era.Other leading acts included Billy Fury, Joe Brown, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, whose 1960 hit song “Shakin’ All Over” became a rock and roll standard.

​ Information taken from Wikipedia,

Last modified on October 28, 2014

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