“Rock and roll is a river of music which has absorbed many streams. Rhythm & blues, jazz, rag time, cowboy songs, country songs, folk songs: all have contributed greatly to the big beat.”

Alan Freed, in the 1956 film Rock, Rock, Rock


 “It is possible, with the help of a little hindsight, to find rock roots at almost every stratum of American folk and popular music during the mid-Thirties. …Rock and roll was an inevitable outgrowth of the social and musical interactions between blacks and whites in the South and Southwest.  Its roots are a complex tangle.  Bedrock black, church music influenced blues, rural blues influenced white folk songs, and the black popular music of the Northern ghettos – blues and black pop — influenced jazz, and so on.  But the single most important process was the influence of black music on white.”

Robert Palmer, Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll



The advent of the recording industry accelerates the blending of musical genres. By the mid-1920s there are over a thousand radio stations across the U.S. For the first time, white guitar players from Kentucky listen to black blues men of Texas, and rural medicine show entertainers hear the latest cabaret hits from New York City.



The Grand Ole Opry, originally named the “WSM Barn Dance” begins broadcasting on Nashville, Tennessee radio station WSM.


Blind Lemon Jefferson travels to Chicago and records his first songs. Over a three-year period, until his death, Jefferson, “Father of the Texas Blues,” records over 100 songs for Paramount Records, becoming one of the first commercially successful solo blues recording artists.



Clarence “Pinetop” Smith, an Alabama born pianist, records and releases Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie. Considered a “race record,” this is the first hit with a boogie beat and inspires future blues, pop, and country-western performers.

Jimmie Rodgers records and releases, The Soldier’s Sweetheart and Sleep Baby Sleep, which sells a million copies and establishes Rodgers’ reputation as one of the most popular performers in pop music history.  In 1930, Rodgers records with black jazzmen Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines.  His recordings sell in the millions in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  Known as “America’s Blues Yodeler” and “The Singing Brakeman”, Rodgers is a forefather of rock ‘n roll, influencing hundreds of future country and rock ‘n roll singers with his twangy voice and bluesy guitar picking.



The 15-minute film, The Singing Brakeman, shows Jimmie Rodgers’ talent to theater audiences across America.


Bessie Smith appears in the movie St. Louis Blues. Smith’s million-selling record Down Hearted Blues was released in 1923, and she became the one of the most popular and influential blues singer of the era.


Charlie Patton records for Paramount Records.  He becomes commercially successful during the early 1930s and is one of the first blues musicians to earn a living strictly from music.  His popularity extends to both black and white audiences.  Patton’s unique way of entertaining includes playing his guitar behind his back or while lying on the ground.  Known for the songs Mississippi Bo’ Weevil Blues, Frankie and Albert, and Spoonful Blues, historians regard Patton as one of the most talented all-around artists the blues genre ever produced.



Folklore historian John Lomax records folksinger Lead Belly, who is serving time in a Louisiana prison.  As early as 1916, Lead Belly and Blind Lemon Jefferson were playing on the street corners of Dallas.  Known as the “King of the 12-String Guitar,” Lead Belly’s bluesy, gospel folk music has made him one of the most revered musicians in music history.  His best known songs include Goodnight Irene, Rock Island Line, and The Midnight Special.



Bob Wills moves to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he forms the Texas Playboys, performs daily on radio station KVOO, and builds a reputation for having one of the best bands in the country. Known as the “Father of Western Swing,” his music combines old time Western fiddling, blues, country, and jazz into a danceable hybrid of sounds.  Wills’ music later influences countless rock ‘n roll performers including Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Bill Haley.  His best known songs include Faded Love, San Antonio Rose, and Deep in the Heart of Texas.



Your Hit Parade makes its radio debut and quickly achieves wide influence.  The program ranks song popularity according to sheet music and record sales, radio requests, dance hall and jukebox play, although the analytic methods are keep secret.   



Robert Johnson records 16 tracks in San Antonio, Texas.  Johnson is often called “The King of the Delta Blues.”  His unique guitar playing later influences countless rock ‘n roll musicians including Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Jimmy Page, and Keith Richards.


Singer Hank Snow makes his first recordings, Lonesome Blue Yodel and The Prisoned Cowboy. Snow’s most famous tunes include Rhumba Boogie and I’m Movin’ On.



Robert Johnson records 13 songs in Dallas, Texas, including Hellhound on My Trail, Me and the Devil Blues, Love in Vain, and Traveling Riverside Blues.


Woody Guthrie moves to California and becomes a regular on Los Angeles radio station KFVD. Guthrie, best known for his folk songs portraying the Depression and the hard life of people he encountered on the road, is often referred to as the “Dust Bowl Balladeer.” Some of his best known songs include This Land Is Your Land, So Long It’s Been Good to Know Yuh, and This Train is Bound for Glory.


Bill Monroe forms the Blue Grass Boys with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. This group has a profound effect on the history of rock ‘n roll. Known as the “Father of Bluegrass,” a music genre distinguished by its unique blend of vocal harmonies and folk-oriented instrumentation, Monroe’s tunes include Mule Skinner Blues and Blue Moon of Kentucky.



T-Bone Walker, a blues-based electric guitarist, joins Les Hite’s jazz orchestra and records the hit T-Bone Blues for Varsity Records.  In reviewing one of the live shows, Downbeat magazine calls Hite’s guitarist a “new star.”  Later Walker has solo hits Call It Stormy Monday and I’m Gonna Find My Baby.


Woody Guthrie meets folk singer Peter Seeger and they form one of the first folk supergroups, The Almanac Singers.



Blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter, Muddy Waters, is recorded for the Library of Congress by historian Alan Lomax, in Stovall, Mississippi.



Muddy Waters, moves to Chicago, Illinois, and quickly becomes a popular attraction, earning himself the title, “King of the Chicago Blues.” Waters is one of the first to play an amplified electric guitar in the blues format.  He is known for such songs as Rollin’ Stone, Got My Mojo Working, Mannish Boy, and Hoochie Coochie Man.



In December, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys play the Grand Ole Opry.  Ordered to keep his drummer behind a curtain, Wills refuses and moves the drums onto the stage.


Louis Jordan, regarded by many as the “Father of Modern Rhythm & Blues,” is the first rhythm & blues performer to achieve crossover chart success.  Jordan’s music and wacky stage antics influence early rock ‘n roll musicians.  Some of his best known numbers include Saturday Night Fish Fry, Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, and Choo Choo Ch’boogie.



Willie Dixon forms The Big Three Trio, a blues combo, with Bernardo Dennis and Leonard Caston.


Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup records his composition, That’s All Right, using traditional blues lyrics first recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1926.



Hank Williams is signed to MGM Records and records Move It on Over, the first of many hit songs.  Williams is one of the most important country and western performers of his time, and the most influential country artist in the emergence of rock ‘n roll.  His powerful melodies and heartfelt singing influence countless performers including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Van Morrison.  Some of his most popular songs include Your Cheating Heart, Cold Cold Heart, Jambalaya, and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

LaVern Baker, performing in a Chicago nightclub under the name Little Miss Sharecropper, catches the attention of bandleader Fletcher Henderson, who convinces OKeh Records to record her.  Some of Baker’s best known songs include Jim Dandy, Voodoo Voodoo, and I Cried a Tear.


Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs leave Bill Monroe’s band to form the Foggy Mountain Boys.  The band’s unique form of southern-flavored bluegrass will influence folk and rock ‘n roll music, and Scruggs will inspire countless banjo players with his three-finger technique.  They release such favorites as Foggy Mountain Breakdown, ‘Tis Sweet to Be Remembered, and Salty Dog Blues.


Hank Williams joins the Louisiana Hayride out of Shreveport, becoming one of the radio show’s most popular artists.


Muddy Waters is signed to the Aristocrat Label (which later becomes Chess Records). He releases the singles I Feel Like Goin’ Home and I Can’t Be Satisfied.


Columbia Records begins distribution of 33 1/3 rpm LP (“long play”) albums.


Toast of The Town makes its television debut.  A variety show featuring the latest talent, musicians and singers, the program is renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955.



Jerry Lee Lewis makes his first public appearance at age fourteen, playing piano at a car dealership.


RCA introduces the 45-rpm single record.



Fats Domino releases The Fat Man, which sells a million copies by 1953.  Fats Domino becomes one of the first artists to focus on piano-playing in the rock ‘n roll format.


Sam Phillips opens Phillips Recording Service in Memphis and advertises, “We record anything—anywhere—anytime.”



The Kings of Rhythm, featuring Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner, release Rocket 88, which is often cited as the very first “official” rock ‘n roll song.


The Dominoes’ rhythm & blues hit, Sixty Minute Man, is a significant precursor to rock ‘n roll music.


Howlin’ Wolf is recorded by Sam Phillips. How Many More Years and Moanin’ at Midnight are released by Chess Records, and reach #4 and #10 on the R & B charts. Wolf’s emotive voice is one of the most recognizable in the history of popular music.  Some of his best known songs include Back Door Man, Ain’t Superstitious, and Little Red Rooster.


Willie Dixon becomes a full-time producer, session musician, talent scout and songwriter for Chess Records.  Known for writing I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Wang Dang Doodle, and Spoonful, Dixon’s songs are recorded by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Otis Rush, as well as by rock ‘n roll artists including The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin.


The Clovers land a recording contract with Atlantic Records.  Considered the most successful rhythm & blues group of the 1950s, their hits include Don’t You Know I Love You, Ting-A-Ling, and Fool, Fool, Fool.


Billboard #1 songs of 1951:

Rhythm & Blues

The Dominoes, Sixty Minute Man; Charles Brown, Black Night; The Clovers, Fool, Fool, Fool and Don’t You Know I Love You; Jackie Brenston, Rocket 88; Earl Bostic, Flamingo; John Lee Hooker, I’m In The Mood; The Five Keys, Glory Of Love; Amos Milburn, Bad, Bad Whiskey; “Peppermint” Harris, I Got Loaded; Lloyd Glenn, Chica Boo; Tab Smith, Because Of You; Jimmie Nelson, “T” 99 Blues.


Perry Como, If; Mario Lanza, Be My Love; Les Paul & Mary Ford, How High The Moon; Nat “King” Cole, Too Young; Rosemary Clooney, Come On-A My House; Tony Bennett, Because Of You and Cold, Cold Heart; Eddy Howard, Sin; Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads, Cry.

Country & Western

Pee Wee King, Slow Poke; Tennessee Ernie Ford, The Shot Gun Boogie; Lefty Frizzell, Always Late, I Want To Be With You Always, and I Love You a Thousand Ways; Eddy Arnold, I Want To Play House With You, There’s Been A Change In Me, and Kentucky Waltz; Carl Smith, Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way; Hank Snow, Rhumba Boogie and The Golden Rocket; Hank Williams with His Drifting Cowboys, Hey, Good Lookin’ and Cold, Cold Heart.



Disc Jockey Alan Freed hosts the Moondog Rock ‘N Roll Party on WJW in Cleveland, Ohio.  He is usually credited as being the person who coined the phrase “rock ‘n roll” to describe the music he features on his radio show.


Billboard #1 songs of 1952:

Rhythm & Blues

The Dominoes, Have Mercy Baby; Johnny Ace, My Song; Little Walter & His Night Cats, Juke; Willie Mabon, I Don’t Know; Lloyd Price, Lawdy Miss Clawdy; Jimmy Forest, Night Train; Ruth Brown, 5-10-15 Hours; Eddie Boyd, Five Long Years; B.B. King, 3 O’Clock Blues and You Know I Love You; The Four Blazes, Mary Jo; Griffin Brothers, Weepin’ & Cryin’; Fats Domino, Goin’ Home; Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads, Cry; The Clovers, Ting-A-Ling; Roscoe Gordon, Booted.


Jo Stafford, You Belong To Me; Kay Starr, Wheel Of Fortune; Patti Page, I Went To Your Wedding; Vera Lynn, Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart; Georgia Gibbs, Kiss Of Fire; Joni James, Why Don’t You Believe Me; Leroy Anderson, Blue Tango; Mills Brothers, The Glow-Worm; Rosemary Clooney, Half As Much; Al Martino, Here In My Heart; Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys, Slow Poke; Johnny Standley, It’s In The Book; Jimmy Boyd, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus; Eddie Fisher, Wish You Were Here; Percy Faith, Delicado; Doris Day, A Guy Is A Guy.

Country & Western

Hank Thompson, The Wild Side of Life; Hank Williams, Jambalaya; Carl Smith, Don't Just Stand There and Are You Teasing Me; Kitty Wells, It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels; Webb Pierce, Wondering, Back Street Affair, and That Heart Belongs to Me; Eddy Arnold, A Full-Time Job and Easy On The Eyes; Lefty Frizzell, Give Me More, More, More; Skeets McDonald, Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes; Slim Willet, Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.




A young Elvis Presley pays four dollars to make his first recording, My Happiness, at Memphis Recording Service.


Bill Haley and The Comets is formed and the group releases Crazy Man, Crazy.


Clyde McPhatter forms the vocal group, The Drifters, with the help of music executive Ahmet Ertegun.  They record the chart-topping and million-selling Money Honey.


In September, country radio station KDAV opens in Lubbock, Texas. Buddy Holly and Jack Neal are given a weekly show and perform on-air every Sunday as “Buddy and Jack.”


Billboard #1 songs of 1953:

Rhythm & Blues

Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters, Money Honey; Faye Adams, Shake A Hand; Joe Turner, Honey Hush; Willie Mae Thornton, Hound Dog; The Orioles, Crying In The Chapel; Ruth Brown, (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean; The “5” Royales, Help Me Somebody and Baby, Don’t Do It; Johnny Ace, The Clock; B.B. King, Please Love Me; Willie Mabon, I’m Mad.


Les Paul & Mary Ford, Vaya Con Dios; Percy Faith, Song From Moulin Rouge; The Ames Brothers, You You You; Tony Bennett, Rags To Riches; Patti Page, The Doggie In The Window; Teresa Brewer, Till I Waltz Again With You; Eddie Fisher, I’m Walking Behind You; Perry Como, Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes and No Other Love; Stan Freberg, St. George and The Dragonet.

Country & Western

Hank Williams, Kaw-Liga, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Take These Chains From My Heart, and I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive; Webb Pierce, There Stands The Glass and It’s Been So Long; Jim Reeves, Mexican Joe; Carl Smith, Hey, Joe; Davis Sisters, I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know; Jean Shepard w/ Ferlin Husky, Dear John Letter; The Carlisles, No Help Wanted; Hank Locklin, Let Me Be The One; Hank Thompson, Rub-A-Dub-Dub; Eddy Arnold, Eddy’s Song; Goldie Hill, I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes; Mitchell Torok, Caribbean; Marty Robbins, I’ll Go On Alone; Red Foley, Midnight.



Elvis Presley records Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right and Bill Monroe’s Blue Moon Of Kentucky.  Sam Phillips finds that special “something” he has been searching for in Presley’s vocal style.


Bill Haley and The Comets release some of their best known songs, Rock Around The Clock and Shake Rattle and Roll.


The Midnighters, featuring singer Hank Ballard, release the risqué series Work With Me Annie, followed by Annie Had A Baby.  Despite being banned for radio play by the FCC, the songs reach No. 1 on the Rhythm & Blues charts, and will inspire numerous artists, including Buddy Holly.


Ray Charles records the hit single It Should Have Been Me for Atlantic Records.


Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery form the country duo, Buddy and Bob, and perform weekly on The Sunday Party, a program hosted by Lubbock’s KDAV radio.


Clyde McPhatter is drafted into the army and becomes an entertainer in the Special Services. He continues to record with The Drifters when on leave.


Alan Freed moves to WINS radio station in New York City.  He is the regular host of live shows at the Paramount Theater and appears in the movies Rock Around The Clock and Don’t Knock Rock.  Freed stands out as one of the most important non-musician figures in the history of rock ‘n roll.



Billboard #1 songs of 1954:

Rhythm & Blues

Guitar Slim, The Things That I Used To Do; The Charms, Hearts Of Stone; Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters, Honey Love; Roy Hamilton, You’ll Never Walk Alone; Ruth Brown, Oh What A Dream and Mambo Baby; The Midnighters, Work With Me Annie and Annie Had A Baby; Faye Adams, Hurts Me To My Heart and I’ll Be True; Joe Turner, Shake Rattle and Roll; B.B. King, You Upset Me Baby.


Kitty Kallen, Little Things Mean A Lot; The Crew-Cuts, Sh-Boom; Perry Como, Wanted; Eddie Fisher, Oh! My Pa-Pa and I Need You Now; Jo Stafford, Make Love To Me!; The Chordettes, Mr. Sandman; Rosemary Clooney, Hey There and This Ole House; Doris Day, Secret Love; The Four Aces, Three Coins In A Fountain.

Country & Western

Hank Snow, I Don’t Hurt Anymore; Webb Pierce, Slowly, More and More, and Even Tho; Jim Reeves, Bimbo; Hank Thompson, Wake Up, Irene; Johnnie & Jack, I Get So Lonely; Kitty Wells & Red Foley, One By One; Eddy Arnold, I Really Don’t Want To Know.



Elvis Presley plays his second show at Fair Park Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas, where the opening act is the country duo of Buddy and Bob. His introduction to Elvis will have a dramatic influence on Buddy Holly’s music.


Elvis Presley auditions for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and is rejected.


Bill Haley and The Comets’ version of Rock Around The Clock is featured in the teenage angst film, Blackboard Jungle, and becomes a No. 1 single.  It is one of the first rock ‘n roll songs to gain mass appeal.


Chuck Berry meets Muddy Waters who puts him in touch with Leonard Chess of Chess Records.  His first hit single is Maybellene.


A Billboard Disc Jockey poll names Fats Domino the country’s Favorite Rhythm & Blues artist.


The vocal group, The Coasters, forms under the direction of songwriters/producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.


In September, Little Richard records his trademark, Tutti Frutti, which becomes a top twenty hit in 1956 and goes on to sell over three million copies.  While touring, he begins to hone his showbiz act with heavy makeup, gelled hair, and wild antics both on and off the stage.


Guitarist Bo Diddley signs with Chess Records’ subsidiary label, Checker, and releases Bo Diddley, which goes to No. 2 on the Rhythm & Blues charts.  The song introduces what will become known as the “Bo Diddley beat.”  He appears on The Ed Sullivan Show.


Buddy and Bob open for Bill Haley and The Comets in Lubbock.  The performance is watched closely by Eddie Crandall, a Nashville agent, who eventually brokers a recording contract with Decca Records for Holly.


Ray Charles releases I Got A Woman, which included a mixture of gospel, jazz and blues elements.


Billboard #1 songs of 1955:

Rhythm & Blues

Fats Domino, Ain’t That A Shame, All By Myself, and Poor Me; Chuck Berry, Maybellene; Johnny Ace, Pledging My Love; The Platters, Only You; Little Walter, My Babe; Etta James, The Wallflower; The Penguins, Earth Angel; Jay McShann, Hands Off; Roy Hamilton, Unchained Melody; Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley; The Moonglows, Sincerely; Ray Charles, I’ve Got A Woman and A Fool For You; Al Hibbler, Unchained Melody; The Drifters, Adorable.


Joan Weber, Let Me Go Lover; The Fontane Sisters, Hearts Of Stone; The McGuire Sisters, Sincerely; Bill Hayes, The Ballad Of Davy Crockett; Perez Prado, Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White; Georgia Gibbs, Dance With Me Henry; Les Baxter, Unchained Melody; Bill Haley and The Comets, Rock Around The Clock; Frank Sinatra, Learnin’ The Blues; Mitch Miller, The Yellow Rose Of Texas; Pat Boone, Ain’t That A Shame; The Four Aces, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing; Roger Williams, Autumn Leaves; Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons.

Country & Western

Webb Pierce, In The Jailhouse Now, Love, Love, Love, and I Don’t Care; Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons; Carl Smith, Loose Talk; Porter Wagoner, A Satisfied Mind; Faron Young, Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young; Eddy Arnold, The Cattle Call and That Do Make It Nice; Hank Snow, Let Me Go, Lover!




Elvis Presley releases his signature song, Heartbreak Hotel.  Presley’s performance on NBC’s The Milton Berle Show draws an estimated 40 million viewers.  His self-titled debut album becomes the first million dollar album.  A Billboard magazine poll names Presley the most played artist of 1956.  On his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Presley sings Love Me Tender and Don’t Be Cruel.  In December he records the Million Dollar Quartet sessions with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis.


Decca Records signs Buddy Holly to a recording contract.  During three different sessions Holly records 12 songs including Blue Days Black Nights and That’ll Be The Day


Atlantic Records signs The Coasters, and release Down In Mexico, written and produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the first of 24 Coasters’ songs written by Leiber and Stoller to hit the U.S. charts.


James Brown’s first chart entry Please, Please, Please debuts on the Rhythm & Blues chart.


Fats Domino performs Blueberry Hill on The Ed Sullivan Show.  The song reaches No. 3 on the Pop charts and No. 1 on the Rhythm & Blues charts.


Eddie Cochran sings Twenty Flight Rock and Gene Vincent sings Be-Bop-A-Lula in the movie, The Girl Can’t Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield.


Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps appear on The Perry Como Show.  Vincent’s signature song Be-Bop-A-Lula hits No. 7 on the Pop charts.  Throughout his career Vincent fosters the image of the leather-clad outlaw rocker.


Clyde McPhatter is discharged from the Army and leaves The Drifters for a solo career.


Little Richard releases Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, and Reddy Teddy, all of which make the Top 40.  Pat Boone records his toned-down version of Tutti Frutti.


CBS Radio network premieres the Rock ‘N Roll Dance Party with Alan Freed as the host.


Jerry Lee Lewis shows up at Sun Records hoping for an audition.  When he discovers the owner is out of town, he threatens to wait on the doorstep.  He records a demo tape and returns a month later to record Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On and Crazy Arms.


LOOK Magazine features an article, The Great Rock ‘N Roll Controversy.  Swing band leader, Benny Goodman, comments about rock ‘n roll:  “I guess it’s okay, man.  At least it has a beat.”


At Johnny Cash’s suggestion, Roy Orbison auditions for Sun Records and records Ooby Dooby.  Orbison and his short-lived band, The Teen Kings, tour briefly with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.


Carl Perkins is the first country and western artist to make the Rhythm & Blues charts with Blue Suede Shoes. The song hits the Pop charts at No. 3 and sells over a million copies. Later Elvis Presley sings his version on national TV giving the song a much wider exposure. Perkins and his brother both sustain serious injuries in an automobile accident while on their way to New York to appear on The Perry Como Show.


At the age of 14, Aretha Franklin releases her first recording for the Checker label, Songs of Faith.  Franklin later gains the reputation of being “The Queen of Soul.”


Billboard #1 songs of 1956:

Rhythm & Blues

Bill Doggett, Honky Tonk; Fats Domino, Blueberry Hill and I’m In Love Again; The Platters, The Great Pretender and My Prayer; Little Richard, Long Tall Sally and Rip It Up; Elvis Presley, Don’t Be Cruel and Hound Dog; Little Willie John, Fever; Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, Why Do Fools Fall In Love; Shirley & Lee, Let The Good Times Roll; Ray Charles, Drown In My Own Tears; The El Dorados, At My Front Door; Clyde McPhatter, Treasure Of Love.


Dean Martin, Memories Are Made Of This; Kay Starr, Rock And Roll Waltz; The Platters, The Great Pretender and My Prayer; Nelson Riddle, Lisbon Antigua; Les Baxter, The Poor People Of Paris; Elvis Presley, Heartbreak Hotel, I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, Don’t Be Cruel, Hound Dog, and Love Me Tender; Perry Como, Hot Diggity; Morris Stoloff, Moonglow and Theme from Picnic; Gogi Grant, The Wayward Wind; Pat Boone, I Almost Lost My Mind;  Jim Lowe, The Green Door; Guy Mitchell, Singing The Blues.

Country & Western

Ray Price, Crazy Arms; Elvis Presley, Heartbreak Hotel, Don’t Be Cruel, I Forgot To Remember To Forget, and I Want You, I Need You, I Love You;  Marty Robbins, Singing The Blues; Johnny Cash, I Walk The Line; Red Sovine & Webb Pierce, Why, Baby, Why? Carl Perkins, Blue Suede Shoes; The Louvin Brothers, I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby.



Elvis Presley makes his second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Due to his suggestive hip motions on up-tempo songs, he is shown only from the waist up.  Presley stars in two movies, Loving You and Jailhouse Rock.  The song Jailhouse Rock goes to No. 1.  Presley receives his military draft notice.


Buddy Holly records the hit single That’ll Be The Day at Norman Petty’s recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico.  Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Joe B. Mauldin (bass), Jerry Allison (drums), and Niki Sullivan (rhythm guitar) are formed.  They appear on American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan ShowThat’ll Be The Day hits the charts at No. 3 in September and goes on to sell over a million copies within the month.


Bill Haley and The Comets become the first rock ‘n roll act to do an extensive tour of Australia, performing to sellout crowds all over the country.


“The Biggest Show of Stars For 1957” tour begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania featuring Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter, The Everly Brothers, Frankie Lymon, The Drifters, and Paul Anka.


The Coasters release Searchin’ which hits No. 5 on Billboard’s Top 100, and becomes their first million seller.  This song establishes them as one of the most engaging and imaginative vocal groups of the rock ‘n roll era.


The Everly Brothers release Bye Bye Love, which hits the charts at No. 2.  The brothers combine an Appalachian vocal harmonic style with rock ‘n roll beats, making them unique among rock ‘n roll artists.  The Everly Brothers appear on Alan Freed’s television premiere of The Big Beat.  They also appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing Bye Bye Love and Wake Up Little Susie.


Chuck Berry appears on The Big Beat program with Alan Freed and releases School Day.


Little Richard releases Lucille, Jenny Jenny, The Girl Can’t Help It, and Keep A Knockin’.  The latter is from the movie Mister Rock And Roll, which stars Alan Freed and features Richard, among other performers.


Jerry Lee Lewis, touring across the United States, enthralls audiences with his wild stage antics.  On the Steve Allen Show he performs Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.  The single goes to No. 3, with sales over six million.  It simultaneously tops the Country & Western and Rhythm & Blues charts.  Lewis joins Fats Domino, Buddy Knox, and Carl Perkins in the rock n’ roll movie, Jamboree.


Buddy Knox & The Rhythm Orchids release Party Doll, a song that Knox recorded a year earlier and wrote when he was 15.  Party Doll goes to No. 1 on the charts and sells over a million copies.  Knox joins the United States Tank Corps and becomes an Army Reserve lieutenant.


Carl Perkins performs Glad All Over in the movie, Jamboree.  He tours with Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.


Jiles Perry Richardson works as a disc jockey on KTRM in Beaumont, Texas.  He nicknames himself “The Big Bopper” and breaks the record for non-stop broadcasting when he is on the air for five days, two hours and eight minutes.


The all girl vocal group, The Shirelles, is formed by high school students to compete in their school’s talent show in Passaic, New Jersey. The group later places in the top 100 with I Met Him on A Sunday.


In October Elvis Presley releases Elvis’ Christmas Album, featuring a cover of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Berlin, offended by the version, has his staff launch a campaign to ban the song on radio. Most American stations ignore his request. In response to the controversy, a disc jockey in Kingston, Ontario polls his listeners.  Out of 800 callers, only 56 disapprove of the album. In what is later revealed to be a publicity stunt, a disc jockey at radio station KEX, in Portland, Oregon, is fired for playing Presley’s version of White Christmas.


In December, Ed Sullivan debuts three new rock ‘n roll acts on his show.  Buddy Holly and The Crickets perform That’ll Be The Day, Sam Cooke performs You Send Me, and The Rays perform their hit, Silhouettes.


Billboard #1 songs of 1957:

Rhythm & Blues

The Coasters, Searchin’ and Young Blood; Fats Domino, Blue Monday and I’m Walkin’; Sam Cooke, You Send Me; Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock, All Shook Up, Teddy Bear; Chuck Berry, School Day; The Bobbettes, Mr. Lee; Ivory Joe Hunter, Since I Met You Baby; Chuck Willis, C.C. Rider; Mickey & Sylvia, Love Is Strange; Nat “King” Cole, Send For Me; Little Richard, Lucille; Bobby “Blue” Bland, Farther Up The Road; Jimmie F. Rodgers, Honeycomb; Jerry Lee Lewis, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On; Paul Anka, Diana; LaVern Baker, Jim Dandy; Larry Williams, Short Fat Fannie; The Everly Brothers, Wake Up Little Susie; Clyde McPhatter, Long Lonely Nights.


Elvis Presley, Too Much, All Shook Up, Teddy Bear, and Jailhouse Rock; Pat Boone, Don’t Forbid Me, Love Letters In The Sand, and April Love; Sonny James, Young Love; Tab Hunter, Young Love; Andy Williams, Butterfly; Buddy Knox & The Rhythm Orchids, Party Doll; Perry Como, Round And Round; Charlie Gracie, Butterfly; Debbie Reynolds, Tammy; Paul Anka, Diana; Jimmie F. Rodgers, Honeycomb; The Crickets, That’ll Be The Day; The Everly Brothers, Wake Up Little Susie; Johnny Mathis, Chances Are; Sam Cooke, You Send Me.

Country & Western

Ferlin Husky, Gone; Sonny James, Young Love; Jim Reeves, Four Walls; The Everly Brothers, Wake Up Little Susie and Bye Bye Love; Johnny Cash, There You Go; Marty Robbins, White Sport Coat; Bobby Helms, Fraulein and My Special Angel; Ray Price, My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You; Jerry Lee Lewis, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On; Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock, Teddy Bear, and All Shook Up; Webb Pierce, Honky Tonk Song.




Peggy Sue hits No. 3 and sells a million copies.  Buddy Holly’s unique guitar playing and his horn-rimmed glasses make him one of the most recognizable performers in music history.  The Crickets appear for a second time on The Ed Sullivan Show performing Oh, Boy!, and during a 25-date tour of the United Kingdom, they perform on the BBC-produced, Off The Record. During a trip to New York City, Holly meets his future wife Maria Elena Santiago.  They marry on August 15th at the home of Holly’s parents. He produces the single, Jole Blon, by his friend Waylon Jennings.  In October, Holly ends his association with producer Norman Petty and subsequently The Crickets disband, leaving Holly as a solo artist.


Elvis Presley is sworn into the Army. The movie King Creole, starring Presley, is released to critical acclaim.


The 12-date, 6-city tour, Big Gold Record Stars, opens on February 20th in Orlando, Florida.  The tour includes Bill Haley and The Comets, Buddy Holly and The Crickets, The Everly Brothers, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others.


Chuck Berry releases his most popular song, Johnny B. Goode, which peaks on the charts at No. 8. One of the most covered of all rock ‘n roll songs, many guitarists will learn to play by listening to Johnny B. Goode.


Eddie Cochran releases his signature song, Summertime Blues.  It sells over a million copies and gains the No. 8 spot on the Pop charts.


The Coasters record their chart-topping signature songs Charlie Brown and Yakety Yak.


The Quarrymen, comprised of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Colin Hanton, and John Duff Lowe cut their first record, a cover of That’ll Be The Day, and an original song, In Spite Of All The Danger.


In early May, police are allegedly attacked with stones and bottles outside the Boston Arena after Alan Freed’s Big Beat show.  Injuries are reported and newspapers call the incident a riot. Boston’s mayor states he will ban rock n’ roll from public halls. Freed, host and promoter for the 44-day tour, is charged with inciting a riot, although charges are later dropped. Three other tour dates are canceled in response to the controversy.  Twenty performing groups are featured on the tour, including Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Lymon, and The Shirelles.


After quitting rock n’ roll music in the middle of a 1957 international tour, Little Richard enters Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, to study religion and theology.


Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire, stays on the Top 100 charts for three months.  He performs the title track for the movie High School Confidential. The media reveals Lewis is married to his 13 year-old second cousin, Myra Brown, which causes scandal in the United States and Great Britain.  While touring the United Kingdom, Lewis is booed off stage and forced to cancel 34 of 37 scheduled concerts. 


Ritchie Valens releases Come On Let’s Go and appears on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.  He also releases Donna and his signature song La Bamba.  He is cast in Alan Freed’s movie, Go Johnny Go, and is a guest on Freed’s Christmas show in New York, appearing alongside Bo Diddley, Eddie Cochran, and The Everly Brothers.


The Big Bopper’s self-penned Chantilly Lace becomes a top ten hit at No. 6 and goes on to sell over a million copies.


Fats Domino releases the million-selling Whole Lotta Loving.



Billboard #1 songs of 1958:

Rhythm & Blues

Jackie Wilson, Lonely Teardrops; The Coasters, Yakety Yak; The Silhouettes, Get A Job; Cozy Cole, Topsy II; Danny & The Juniors, At The Hop; The Everly Brothers, All I Have To Do Is Dream; The Elegants, Little Star; The Champs, Tequila; Tommy Edwards, It’s All In The Game; Bobby Day, Rock-in Robin; The Platters, Twilight Time; Chuck Berry, Sweet Little Sixteen; Elvis Presley, Wear My Ring Around Your Neck; Ernie Freeman, Raunchy; Perez Prado, Patricia; Bobby Darin, Splish Splash; Clyde McPhatter, A Lover’s Question; Chuck Willis, What Am I Living For; Jimmy Clanton, Just A Dream; David Seville, Witch Doctor; Bill Justis, Raunchy; Sam Cooke, I’ll Come Running Back To You; Kalin Twins, When.


Danny & The Juniors, At The Hop; Elvis Presley, Don’t and Hard Headed Woman; The McGuire Sisters, Sugartime; The Silhouettes, Get A Job; The Champs, Tequila; Perry Como, Catch A Falling Star; Laurie London, He’s Got The Whole World; The Platters, Twilight Time; David Seville, Witch Doctor; The Everly Brothers, All I Have To Do Is Dream and Bird Dog; Sheb Wooley, The Purple People Eater; The Coasters, Yakety Yak; Perez Prado, Patricia; Ricky Nelson, Poor Little Fool; Domenico Modugno, Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu; The Elegants, Little Star; Tommy Edwards, It’s All In The Game; Conway Twitty, It’s Only Make Believe; The Kingston Trio, Tom Dooley; The Teddy Bears, To Know Him Is To Love Him; The Chipmunks, The Chipmunk Song.

Country & Western

Ray Price, City Lights; Faron Young, Alone With You; Johnny Cash, Ballad Of A Teenage Queen and Guess Things Happen That Way; Don Gibson, Oh Lonesome Me and Blue, Blue Day; The Everly Brothers, Bird Dog and All I Have To Do Is Dream; Marty Robbins, The Story Of My Life and Just Married; Jerry Lee Lewis, Great Balls Of Fire.


Buddy Holly makes his last recordings in his Greenwich Village apartment in January.  He begins the 24-date Winter Dance Party tour with a new band, Carl Bunch on drums, Waylon Jennings playing bass, and Tommy Allsup on guitar.  The tour features Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson (“The Big Bopper”), and Dion and The Belmonts.  On February 2nd the show plays in Clear Lake, Iowa and Holly plays drums for several of the acts.  Following the show, Holly, Valens, Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson board a small aircraft chartered to take them to Fargo, North Dakota.  The plane crashes minutes after takeoff, eight miles northwest of the airfield, killing all aboard.


Elvis Presley is promoted by the U.S. Army to Specialist Fourth Class.


Hank Ballard and The Midnighters release the original version of The Twist, which becomes a No. 1 selling song when covered by Chubby Checker in 1960.


The Drifters release No. 2 hit There Goes My Baby with Ben E. King as lead vocalist.


The Everly Brothers appear on the UK television show, Cool for Cats.  They receive a New Musical Express award as the World No. 1 Vocal Group.


Eddie Cochran appears in Alan Freed’s film Go Johnny Go singing Teenage Heaven. The movie features Ritchie Valens in his only film role. Cochran records a cover of Tommy Dee’s tribute song Three Stars in honor of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. Cochran’s version will not be released until 1966, six years after his death in a car crash at age 21.


Billboard reports that the illegal practice of record companies paying radio stations for airplay, known as the payola scandal, “will substantially damage the careers of a least twenty-five DJ’s”.  Alan Freed is quoted as saying that his career “has gone down the drain.”


Billboard #1 songs of 1959:

Rhythm & Blues

Brook Benton, It’s Just A Matter Of Time, Thank You Pretty Baby, and So Many Ways; Wilbert Harrison, Kansas City; Lloyd Price, Stagger Lee, Personality, and  I’m Gonna Get Married; The Coasters, Poison Ivy; The Spacemen, The Clouds; Della Reese, Don’t You Know; James Brown, Try Me; The Drifters, There Goes My Baby; Ray Charles, What’d I Say; Fats Domino, I Want To Walk You Home; Phil Phillips, Sea Of Love; Jackie Wilson, You Better Know It.


The Platters, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; Lloyd Price, Stagger Lee; Frankie Avalon, Venus and Why; The Fleetwoods, Come Softly To Me and Mr. Blue; Dave "Baby” Cortez, The Happy Organ; Wilbert Harrison, Kansas City; Johnny Horton, The Battle of New Orleans; Paul Anka, Lonely Boy; Elvis Presley, A Big Hunk O’ Love; The Browns, The Three Bells; Santo & Johnny, Sleep Walk; Bobby Darin, Mack The Knife; Guy Mitchell, Heartaches By The Number.

Country & Western

Johnny Horton, The Battle Of New Orleans and When It’s Springtime In Alaska; The Browns, The Three Bells; Marty Robbins, El Paso; Johnny Cash, Don’t Take Your Guns To Town; Jim Reeves, Billy Bayou; Stonewall Jackson, Waterloo; George Jones, White Lightning; Faron Young, Country Girl; Ray Price, The Same Old Me.


Photo Tags

(Panel #1)

Photos, Clockwise from top left: Bessie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers, Lead Belly, Blind Lemon Jefferson.


(Panel #2)

Photos, Clockwise from top left: Charlie Patton, Woody Guthrie, Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.


(Panel #3)

Photos, Clockwise from top left: Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs.


(Panel #4)

Photos, Clockwise from top left: Chuck Berry, Alan Freed, Bill Haley and The Comets.


(Panel #5)

Photo: Elvis Presley


(Panel #6)

Photos, Clockwise from top left: Johnny Cash, The Coasters, The Midnighters


(Panel #7)

Photos, Clockwise from top left: Eddie Cochran, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins


(Panel #8)

Photos, Clockwise from top: Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Buddy Knox, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson


(Panel #9)

Photos, Clockwise from top: Ed Sullivan & Buddy Holly, The Shirelles, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps


(Panel #10)

Photos, Clockwise from top left: Waylon Jennings, Ritchie Valens, The Everly Brothers