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Amazing Rock and Roll Facts

Key Recordings: Early 1950sAlan's Rock & Roll FUN Trivia.  Trivia powered by ABE.

  • …that "Boogie in the Park" by Joe Hill Louis, recorded in July 1950 and released in August 1950. It featured Louis as a one-man band performing "one of the loudest, most overdriven, and distorted guitar stomps ever recorded" while playing on a rudimentary drum kit at the same time. It was the only record ever released on Sam Phillips' early Phillips label before founding Sun Records. Louis' electric guitar work is also considered a distant ancestor of heavy metal music.

  • …that "Hot Rod Race" recorded by Arkie Shibley and His Mountain Dew Boys in late 1950, another early example of "rockabilly", highlighted the role of fast cars in teen culture.

  • …that "Sixty Minute Man" by the Dominoes, recorded on December 30, 1950, was the first (and most sexually explicit) big R&B hit to cross over to the pop charts. The group featured the gospel-style lead vocals of Clyde McPhatter, and appeared at many of Alan Freed's early shows. McPhatter later became lead singer of The Drifters, and then a solo star.

  • …that "Rocket 88" was recorded on March 5, 1951 by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats - actually Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm - and covered later in the year by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen. Brenston's version - produced in Memphis, Tennessee by Sam Phillips and leased to Chess Records - was highly influential for its sound and lyrical content, and was a big hit. It reached #1 on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart on 9 June 1951, and set Phillips on the road to success by helping to finance his company, Sun Records. Haley's version was one of the first white covers of an R&B hit. The song also features an early example of distortion, or fuzz guitar, played by the band's guitarist Willie Kizart.

  • …that "How Many More Years" recorded by Howlin' Wolf in May 1951. Robert Palmer has cited it as the first record to feature a distorted power chord, played by Willie Johnson on the electric guitar.

  • …that "Cry" by Johnnie Ray was recorded on October 16, 1951. Ray's emotional delivery - he was mistaken for a woman, as well as for a black man - set a template for later vocal styles and, more importantly, showed that music could cross racial barriers both ways, by topping the R&B chart as well as the pop chart.

  • …that "Hound Dog", by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, was recorded on August 13, 1952. A raucous R&B song recorded with Johnny Otis' band (uncredited for contractual reasons), it was written by white teenagers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, covered four years later by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, and then in turn, more famously, by Elvis Presley.

  • …that "Love My Baby" and "Mystery Train" were recorded by Junior Parker with his electric blues band, the Blue Flames, in 1953, "contributing a pair of future rockabilly standards" that would later be covered by Hayden Thompson and Elvis Presley, respectively. For Presley's version of "Mystery Train", Scotty Moore also borrowed the guitar riff from Parker's "Love My Baby", played by Pat Hare.

  • …that "Gee" by The Crows was recorded on February 10, 1953. This was a big hit in 1954, and is credited by rock n’ roll authority, Jay Warner, as being "the first rock n' roll hit by a rock and roll group".

  • …that "Crazy Man, Crazy" by Bill Haley and his Comets, recorded in April 1953, was the first of his recordings to make the Billboard pop chart. This was not a cover, but an original composition, and has been described as "the first white rock hit".

  • …that "Mess Around" by Ray Charles was recorded in May 1953, one of his earliest hits. The writing credit was claimed by Ahmet Ertegün, with some lyrics riffing off of the 1929 classic, "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie". "I've Got a Woman", recorded in November 1954 and first performed when Charles was on tour with T-Bone Walker, was a bigger hit, and is also widely considered to be the first soul song, combining gospel with R&B; its tune was derived from the gospel song "My Jesus Is All The World To Me" by Alex Bradford.

  • …that "The Things That I Used to Do" by Guitar Slim was recorded on October 16, 1953. It was an electric blues song that had a major impact on rock & roll and featured distorted overtones on the electric guitar a full decade before Jimi Hendrix. It is listed as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

  • …that "Work With Me, Annie" by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, was recorded on January 14, 1954. Despite, or because of, its salacious lyrics, it was immediately successful in the R&B market, topping the R&B chart for seven weeks, and led to several sequels, including Ballard's "Annie Had A Baby" and Etta James' first hit "The Wallflower", also known as "Roll With Me, Henry". Although the records were banned from radio play and led to calls for rock and roll itself to be banned, the lyrics were soon rewritten for a more conservative white audience, and Georgia Gibbs topped the pop charts in 1955 with her version, "Dance With Me, Henry".

  • …that "Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Big Joe Turner was recorded on February 15, 1954, and was covered later that year by Bill Haley and his Comets. Turner's version topped the Billboard R&B chart in June 1954. Haley's version, which was substantially different in lyric and arrangement, predated his success with "Rock Around the Clock" by several months even though it was recorded later. Elvis Presley's later 1956 version combined Haley's arrangement with Turner's lyrics, but was not a substantial hit.

  • …that "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets (recorded on April 12, 1954) was the first number one rock and roll record on the US pop charts. It stayed in the Top 100 for a then-record 38 weeks. The record is often credited with propelling rock into the mainstream, at least the teen mainstream. At first it had lackluster sales but, following the success of two other Haley recordings, "Shake Rattle and Roll" and "Dim, Dim The Lights", was later included in the movie Blackboard Jungle about a raucous high-school, which exposed it to a wider audience and took it to worldwide success in 1955. The song itself had first been recorded in late 1953 by Sonny Dae & His Knights, a novelty group whose recording had become a modest local hit at the time Haley recorded his version.

  • …that James Cotton's "Cotton Crop Blues" and Pat Hare's "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" (both recorded in May 1954), were electric blues records which feature heavily distorted, power chord-driven electric guitar solos by Pat Hare that anticipate elements of heavy metal music. The other side of Cotton's "Cotton Crop Blues" single, "Hold Me in Your Arms," also featured a heavily distorted guitar sound by Hare that resembles the "distorted tones favored by modern rock players."

  • …that "That's All Right" by Elvis Presley, was recorded on July 5, 1954. This cover of Arthur Crudup's tune was Elvis' first single. Its b-side was a rocking version of Bill Monroe's bluegrass song "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", itself recognized by various rock singers as an influence on the music.

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