The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll

Published: 2004-07-05
Over the past 50 or so years artists and songs have come and gone, but the term rock 'n' roll – supposedly coined by DJ Alan Freed in 1951 as another term for R&B – is here to stay. The fact that rock began about 50 years ago is not so much in dispute as the exact date it all began. But 50 years ago today on July 5, 1954 a young unknown boy from Memphis, Tennessee by the name of Elvis Aaron Presley stepped into a studio at Sun Records and recorded "That's All Right"- a cover of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. So the date of July 5, 1954 is the date that is considered the birth of rock 'n' roll as we know it. Elvis was one of the first artists to cross borders and mix musical styles. His music opened to a broader audience music that had only been heard in the segregated communities of non-whites.

Alan Freed first went on the air in Cleveland, Ohio – the home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame – in 1951 playing R&B and the music of black artists. For some this was the beginning of a new era, but in segregated America the artists of the day had little hope of crossing the colour lines. It was not until after Elvis that the colour lines began to fade – at least on the radio.

Rock was not born, it evolved over time and it is still evolving.

Writer: Sherrill Fulghum



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