Rocket 88: Early Rock & Roll (1951)

Rocket '88
B-side: Come Back Where You Belong
Released: April 1951
Recorded: March 1951
Label: Chess
Jackie Brenston (credited), Ike Turner (uncredited)
Producer: Sam Phillips

The roots of rock and roll are in the rhythm and blues (then called "race music") and country music (then called "hillbilly music.") According to the writer Robert Palmer: 

"Rock 'n' 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, black pop-influenced jazz, and so on. But the most critical process was the influence of black music on white.

Read more: "Present Tense. Duke University Press. pp. 13–38.

Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm

Early Rock & Roll Records

Joe Hill Louis

Joe Hill Louis

In July of 1950, Sam Phillips was a record producer. "His first venture, the Phillips label, issued only one known release, and it was one of the loudest, most overdriven, and distorted guitar stomps ever recorded, "Boogie in the Park" by Memphis one-man-band Joe Hill Louis, who cranked his guitar while sitting and banging at a rudimentary drum kit.

Arkie Shibley

Arkie Shibley and His Mountain Dew Boys

Arkie Shibley was an American country singer who recorded the original version of "Hot Rod Race" in 1950. It's about an automobile race between a Ford and a Mercury; it's an early example of "rockabilly."The recording was the first in a series of hot rod songs. It's sometimes named one of the first rock and roll songs. The record was important because "it introduced automobile racing into popular music and underscored the car's relevance to American culture, particularly youth culture."

What Was the First Rock 'n Roll  Record by Jim Dawson (1992).

The Dominoes

The Dominoes

"Sixty Minute Man" by the Dominoes was the first big R&B hit to cross over to the pop charts. The Dominoes were led by their pianist, manager, and songwriter, Billy Ward. Ward was a black, classically trained vocal coach. He formed a business partnership with a white New York talent agent, Rose Marks.

They created a smooth vocal group to rival The Ink Spots and the Orioles. Similar groups won acceptance from white audiences. On December 30, 1950, they recorded "Sixty Minute Man." It was issued in May 1951 and reached number 1 on the R&B charts. It stayed in that position for an unprecedented 14 weeks. The single also made it to number 17 on the pop singles chart and was voted "Song of the Year" for 1951.

Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm

"Rocket 88" was recorded on March 5, 1951, under "Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats." The group was actually Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm. Sam Phillips produced the song in Memphis and leased it to Chess Records. It reached number 1 on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart. The financial success allowed Phillips to finance his second recording company, Sun Records. Bill Haley also recorded a version of the song. It was one of the first white covers of an R&B hit. 

Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm 
Rocket 88


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