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Ch. 09: Rockabilly – Country meets R & B

Louis Jordan: “Father of Jump Blues”

The evolution of rockabilly dates back to the final years of the big band era and swing jazz. Small combos called “jump” bands, led by artists like Louis Jordan in the late ’30s, influenced the beginning of “rhythm & blues” in the early ’50s. They were built on a type of “hot” jazz, which emphasized a shuffle-eighth note rhythm and a driving beat fit within a twelve bar blues format. It was energy, rhythm, humor and a catchy melody and lyric. Songs like “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” and “Saturday Night Fish Fry” were Louis Jordan hits in the late ’40s.

A new, “cool” language known as “jive” evolved with the “jump” style.  It was built on metaphors and terms that seemed obtuse to those on the outside, but to those in the know, its definitions and meanings were clearly understood. The African-American culture was quickly building its own language, clothes, identity and music. Rhythm & Blues, or R&B, was an earthy, sensual combination of the beat of the jump bands and the passion of the blues.

As radio stations that were either owned by blacks or dedicated to playing black music began to pop up throughout the East and the South, young white audiences were discovering rhythm and blues. The big band era was over and the new generation wanted dance music that was theirs alone. The R&B, which they heard over stations like WLAC in Nashville, was just what they were looking for.

In an effort to create a “white” form of rhythm and blues, young singers from Philadelphia to Memphis to Texas were infusing their own styles with the energy of R&B. Western swing, hillbilly, R&B and a little gospel were melded together by artists like Bill Haley (“Rock Around the Clock”), Buddy Holly (“That’ll Be the Day”), Carl Perkins (“Blue Suede Shoes”), Eddie Cochran (“Summertime Blues”) and Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire”).

But the artist who popularized rockabilly more than any other was the one who was promoted in the mid-’50s first as The King of Western Bop and then as The Hillbilly Cat: Elvis Presley. Starting at Sun Records in Memphis in 1954 and moving to RCA in Nashville in 1956, Presley’s string of rockabilly hits over two years included “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “That’s Alright, Mama,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Hound Dog”.

Most of the early rockabilly artists were recording outside of Nashville, almost all in Memphis. More conservative Nashville record companies objected to this style that was too close to “race records” to receive airplay on typical country radio stations. But suddenly, when Elvis came to town in 1956 to record at RCA, many rockabilly artists like the Everly Brothers, Conway Twitty and Faron Young found recording time in Nashville studios.

But as Presley moved to RCA Records, he became more polished and more crossover-oriented, leaving his rockabilly roots to others.  Until rockabilly’s evaporation in the late ’50s, Perkins, Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty, Faron Young, and the Everly Brothers continued to produce hits in the high energy, country R&B style known as “rockabilly.”

 “Elvis is written all over me. I grew up doin’ Elvis’s music.He was two years older than me.He was nineteen years old,hottest thing in the world, and I was seventeen years old, coldest thing in the world. But I was havin’ to make a livin’ and if you didn’t know how to play Elvis Presley songs, you might as well go home.”  –Merle Haggard

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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