Rock and roll is a music genre that emerged during the close of 1940s and the dawn of early 1950s in the southern region of the United States (Aquila 46). The originators of rock and roll combined blues of African American origin, country music, gospel music and jazz to come up with the popular genre. Though certain aspects of rock and roll were evident in country and blues music of 1930s, rock and roll did not emerge until the 1950’s (Hatch and Millward 76).The term rock and roll has two meanings. The first one defines it as present day rock music. The second definition gives a broader and historical definition. It defines rock and roll as a music genre that emanated in the 1950’s and that later developed into rock music that has an international appeal today (Aquila 54).
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In the initial development period, rock and roll was different from what it developed into a few years later. In the 1940s, the lead instrument in the making of rock and roll music was the piano or the saxophone (Hatch and Millward 86). As it evolved further, the guitar replaced the saxophone and the piano as the lead instruments. However, the three of them were sometimes used together to supplement each other. This happened in the onset of the 1950s.At the early stage the music was not played in radio stations. The beat of rock and roll is composed of a rhythm adapted from blues music with a backbeat from a drum. Today, rock and roll production is different because the drum is rarely used and the electric guitar is the leading instrument. In the 1950s, the electric bass guitar had the name string bass guitar (Aquila 49). Each of the two electric guitars serves a different purpose. One guitar serves as the lead instrument and the other guitar provides rhythm to music that has a backbeat supplement from the drum.
Rock and roll did not gain popularity until the 1960’s.The newly gained fame and worldwide recognition gave it a special appeal to many. This greatly contributed to social impact at the time (Campbell and James 143). The impacts made by rock and roll involved various aspects of life. It influenced fashion, language, attitude to music and lifestyle of people in that period. As rock and roll evolved, several sub-genres emerged. These genres eventually evolved into rock music that lacks the backbeat that was characteristic of the rock and roll of olden days.
Rock and roll emerged at a time when technology had immensely grown. This was after the development of several music production instruments. That period saw the rise of many recording companies and radio stations that played the music (Campbell and James 152).The realization that white teenagers from rich families were listening to the music brought mainstream fame to rock and roll. This prompted its development as an independent genre of music.
This music genre got its name from the slogan ‘rocking and rolling’ that was widely used at the time. It defined the movement of a ship and was used by gospel and blues music artists (Bogdanov et al 87). Alan Freed was the first person to popularize rock and roll music. He started playing it on radio in the year 1951and this marked its advent into the mainstream music industry. The evolution of rock and roll was steady and took a long time to reach a well-defined stage. Some of the pioneer rock and roll musicians include Jackie Brenston and Bill Haley. The song rock around the clock by Bill Haley recorded in 1954 had a big impact in boosting the popularity and acceptance of rock and roll (Bogdanov et al 87). It played in many radio stations and had widespread cultural impact.
In the year 1956, there emerged a sub-genre called rockabilly. It referred to rock and roll music made by white singers that included Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Rockabilly played in many radio stations compared to the original rock and roll (Fisher 87). Because of the great airplay it received, rockabilly was the most successful sub-genre of rock and roll music. After this, there emerged another sub-genre known as Doo wop.It did not receive much airplay and therefore lasted for a short period. As a result, most musicians were one- hit wonders and few achieved commercial success.
Rock and roll’s popularity waned in the 1960’s.This was after the death of some musicians and the departure from music by others. From this period, rock and roll music rarely played in radio stations (Fisher 97). However, it influenced the formation of garage rock and led to the rise of twist dance and soft music. Rock and roll saw the development of many dance styles. Among them, twist, funk, techno and house. Eventually rock and roll evolved into rock music that though popular, does not receive widespread airplay compared to other music genres.
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In conclusion, rock and roll evolved gradually in terms of the airplay it received. Since its development, rock and roll received much airplay in the 1950’s.As years moved along, this airplay decreased up to a level that it became unpopular. It later evolved to rock music and started receiving airplay once again.Presently, rock music receives a considerable amount of airplay considering that it has not been fully accepted and embraced in many parts of the world.
Aquila, R. That old-time Rock & Roll: a Chronicle of an Era. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.Print.
Bogdanov, V., Woodstra, C., and Erlewine, S. All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul.Ontario: Backbeat Books, 2002. Print.
Campbell, M., James, B. Rock and Roll: An Introduction. New York: Schirmer Books, 1999. Print.
Fisher, M. Something in the Air: Radio, Rock, and the Revolution that Shaped a Generation. New York: Schirmer Books, 2007.Print.
Hatch, D., and S. Millward. From Blues to Rock: an Analytical History of Pop Music Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987.Print.