The music of the early fifties was influence by the post-war; its sounds were slow and mostly ballads. This sound came to be known as bubblegum music. It was only until mid-fifties when rock broke out and gave birth to rock and roll, which exploded and created a new outrageous generation. The music of the fifties greatly impacted the generation of the fifties to what would become of them all the way to today. The beats made them want to dance, the words made them want to love and sexuality became a big part of rock and roll. Also another interesting factor was that rock and roll helped the black musician get more recognition, even when the whites covered their songs. The black musician would finally get a break, when radio disc-jockey Alan Freed protested against playing white «covers» of songs by black artists. This opened doors to many African-American singers and entertainers, even if it was just a crack of an entrance.
Music was not only the sound that came out of the jukeboxes; music was the center of life, especially for the youth. Music, even today, influences the way adolescences speak, dress, and act. So when the early fifties played what they called bubblegum music, teenagers acted sweet and innocent. For the older generations, the youth already started to dress a little inappropriate; at least the girls, with their above the ankle skirts and pony-tail hair. But now with Rock and Roll, there was this bigger pool of teenagers wanting to escape from their conservative American middle class mold. Rock n’ Roll was more than music and more than a style. Along with film, television and magazines, it created a generation previously ignored on the social maps of past. Rock and Roll hit the radios and things started to change. Now the lyrics were juicer and the beat enticing; this was the start of a new generation.
Alan Freed worked at WJW-AM a radio station in Cleveland in 1951. (He would come in at 11:15 P.M. through 2:30 A.M. on Saturdays.) He called himself Moondog and his radio show was called «House Rock and Roll Party.» But rock and roll referred to the show, rather then the music playing which was rhythm and blues. Many believed he coined the term «Rock and Roll» and if he didn’t he defiantly spread it. Still Freed was credited for popularizing the term «Rock and Roll» to describe a style of music. This term was commonly used in the black community to describe sex. This goes to show that those tunes of the late fifties weren’t so innocent. Freed started to become popular for the music and beats he mixed. He was off to a bigger market, New York City. Later on in his career though, he was found guilty on charges of payola and brought an end to his career. Freed died at the age of 43 from lung cancer.
Blacks were starting to gain popularity but yet did not win over the whites on the billboard charts. Yet the whites covered their songs and beat them to the #1 slot. Sam Phillips opened a recording studio in Memphis where black musicians could go and record. This was a first and was a great stepping stone to the rock and roll age. Blacks greatly influence the music of the fifties and no on could escape how popular the music was getting. So singers and songwriters took a hold of this new found beat.
Through the late 1940s and early 1950s, artist like Fats Domino and Johnny Otis with their R&B music started speeding up the tempos and increasing the backbeat to popular songs and newly made songs. R&B was very popular in the forties especially in the South and the only difference now was the fast pace, stronger beat and a wilder style. Before the efforts of Freed and others, black music was taboo on many white-owned radio outlets. However, savvy artists and producers quickly recognized the potential of rock and raced to cash in with white versions of this black music. White musicians also fell in love with the music and played it everywhere they could.
Rock and Roll was a type of genre that developed slowly, it didn’t just boom into mainstream. Many argue about who was the first to start Rock and Roll, choices between Fat Domino, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. But that isn’t what’s important, we understand that Rock and Roll was a genre that kept being developed and can even be heard a little in the late forties; the greatest importance is that it arrived. In the fifties there was still segregation, so even if a black musician started playing music known as Rock and Roll it only started becoming national and extremely popular after the whites took over. It’s also believed that Domino put a New Orleans-style spin on what came to be known as rock and roll. Domino sold more records (65 million) than any Fifties-era rocker except Elvis Presley. Rolling Stone magazine argued that, «That’s All Right (Mama)» (1954), Elvis Presley’s first single for Sun Records in Memphis, was the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song. (Since it consisted of an electric guitar along side this faster pace beat.) The following year’s «Rock Around the Clock» by Bill Haley & The Comets really sat the rock boom in motion. «Rock Around the Clock» was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll music. But as Robert Fontenot a journalist from Oldies Music says, «Elvis did not invent rock and roll — no one did — but he gave it the world’s largest push, accidentally and offhandedly creating rockabilly as a byproduct of the original experiment.» Elvis Presley promoted not only Rock and Roll but along with stars like James Dean, pushed flaunting sexuality and sexual attitudes that was the highlight of the fifties era.
The fifties carried a lot of changes, from the expected family life to the movies playing in drive in theater. Things seemed to be slowly falling apart; did Rock and Roll music have any part in that? Besides the fact that the music promoted sexual desires and violence by the end of the 60s, no. Rock and Roll did start off slightly innocent, with only some provocative lyrics, yet the music kept growing and the fans wanted more. Music was what promoted movies, magazines, radio and T.V into what they are, there is no way to escape the influence that music has on our culture. Elvis came on the screen and magazine covers all over the nation. Magazine’s showcased all the latest gossip on celebrities and «teen boppers». Radio played non-stop music with only five minutes a day newscast. Music grew tremendously for America at this decade, like no other decade.
Towards the late fifties, the British invaded the Rock ?n’ Roll scene. The Beatles, which came to be around 1957, began from skiffle music. Skiffle is a type of folk music with a jazz and blues influence. They use homemade or improvised instruments such as the washboard, tea chest bass, kazoo, cigar-box fiddle, comb and paper, as well as more conventional instruments such as acoustic guitar and banjo. Skiffle music started in the early 1900s in the United States, starting in New Orleans. It became very popular in England and paved the way for musician to acknowledge their talents. It was the popularity of simple skiffle music that opened the eyes of many young Britons to the idea that they could play music and have hit records. The result, several years later, was the musical explosion called the British Invasion (1964-66). You can see how America’s Rock ?n’ Roll impacted the globe; this was the first type of music that was originally started in America and became so popular around the world. The Rock and Roll decade did not just simply fade away; it is still hitting the billboard charts today, which can’t be said about other types of genres.
The teenagers of the fifties were identified as a separate group; they differentiated from their parents and younger siblings with their own style, tastes and marketing value. The anarchic attitude toward society created a generation gap that has yet to be filled. No other decade has captured such a wide divide of class and social structure.