During the late 1930s, the young saw their fathers and brothers enrobed in uniforms and disappeared to places far away while their mothers left the primacy of home to fill the void in the work force created by Dad s departure. After the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fathers and brothers returned home around 1945. Society became more advance and people were anxious to build homes and raise families in the world to which they had given so dearly to make free. The products of these desires began to come of age in the mid-to-late 1950s and with them came the glorious roar of rock & roll.
During the early 1950s the music of black rhythm-and-blues artists became known as rock and roll. But white musicians, such as Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, brought rock music to the American mainstream. The 1955 release of Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets met with resounding success, especially among teenagers. Rock and roll emerged at a time when the phonograph disc had finally replaced sheet music as the chief medium of circulation of popular music in the United States. It is often considered to have begun in 1955, when in the week beginning 29 June Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets was judged by Billboard magazine to be the most popular recording in the United States on the basis of sales and radio play. The term Rock and roll was claimed to have coined by a disc jockey named Alan Freed in 1951. Rock and roll of the mid 1950s evolved from the rhythm and blues of a few years earlier.
From the unique synthesis of musical traditions of the United States rock and roll began as an American phenomenon and grew to international proportions. Of the several traditions that led to the development of rock music, the most important were the blues and its related style, rhythm & blues, such country music styles as western swing and honky tonk, and pop vocal and instrumental styles of the 1940s. The very phrase rock and roll was a slang expression for lovemaking used in many blues songs dating back to the 1930s. Depending on the regional and musical backgrounds of the performers, early rock music tended to emphasize one or another of those styles while at the same time, incorporating characteristics of one or more of the others.
The development of rock music required a certain amount of interracial communication and understanding as the music combined stylistic elements from both black and white American musical traditions. Racial barriers that had existed since black people were first brought to the new world as slaves began to wear away in the late 1940s when white teenagers listened and danced to rhythm and blues. At first, many white radio stations and record company owners resisted making music by black performers widely available, but by 1951 the smooth rhythmic sounds of black vocal groups reached white teens through radio programs hosted by disc jockeys who refused to continue the racial discrimination. Car radio became less expensive in the 1950s and the portable transistor radios were important in bringing both rhythm and blues and rock music to the teen audience.
The 1950s were a time of prosperity, and teens had more leisure time and money to spend than ever before. The entertainment industry provided movies geared to appeal to the growing teenage market. In fact, some of those movies actually created the rebellious-teen images that were later affected by rock musicians. For example, in The Wild One (1954) Marlon Brando played a rebellious, leather-jacketed biker. In the movie Rebel Without Cause (1955) James Dean played a misunderstood teen who had been victimized by his parents. However, not all 1950 s rock performers projected a rebellious image. Buddy Holly s music was influenced by both country music and rhythm & blues without copying either very closely. His appearance and music were that of a “clean-cut” youth singing and playing simple. The Everly Brothers also had a non-rebellious image and they recorded hit after hit about teen romances and other concerns of young people.
By the late 1950s rock and roll had developed into several separate and distinctive styles. Little Richard and Chuck Berry played a style of rock that was based on the traditional blues while at the same time, being fun and danceable party music. Rhythm and blues and black-gospel styles were the principal musical roots of the smooth dance songs by artists like Fats Domino and other musical groups. Hillbilly and country music contributed to the development of rockability, the style that tended more towards rebellion than most other 1950 s rock styles. Rock and roll became the general term used to characterize all of those diverse types and styles developed at that time.
The most successful early rock and roll perform was Elvis Presley who made his first discs in Memphis for Sun Records in 1954. He signed a recording contract with RCA Victor in 1955, and in early 1956 his song Heartbreak Hotel not only rose to the top of the Billboard pop chart but also successful on the “black” (rhythm and blues) and country music charts. His Hound Dog and Don t be cruel, released on the two sides of a single a few months later, became the fist recording ever issued to reach no. 1 on all three charts. His recordings in 1957 of Teddy Bear and Jailhouse Rock did the same. At least briefly, one strain of popular music cut across racial, social and geographical lines. Most of Presley s early hits were in a fast, driving rock and roll style, in twelve bar blues form, and which instrumentation similar to that employed by Haley. But Presley was a better musician and a more dynamic personality; he became the most commercially successful figure in rock and roll s brief history, and later achieved further popularity as a film star. His words and actions were unceasingly reported in the press, and he was idolized by millions of young people, his immense popularity swept away much resistance to the new style of popular music that was opposed by the people and organizations of old traditions. His popularity even rose to a higher level in the 1960s.