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This Day in Music – March 5, 1951 – The First Rock”n” Roll Recording?? – “Rocket 88”

Rockett 88So on this date March 5, 1951 several months before I was born, Ike Turner recorded the song “Rocket 88″ a song that many musicologists regard as the first rock”n” roll record!! The song was recorded for Sam Phillips at his Memphis Recording Service, which would later become Sun Records, in Memphis , Tennessee.  The record was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Kings of Rhythm but that band did not actually exist! The song had been put together by Ike Turner… From Wikipedia:

... and his band in rehearsals at the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and recorded by Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. Brenston, who was a saxophonist with Turner, also sang the vocal on “Rocket 88”, a hymn of praise to the joys of the Oldsmobile“Rocket 88” automobile, which had recently been introduced

The song rose to number 1 on the Rhythm & Blues Charts and many consider it to be the first Rock “n” Roll recording, but here’s what Ike says about the recording….from an interview with Holger Petersen

..Anyway, we recorded “Rocket 88” and you know that’s why they say “Rocket 88” was the first rock’n’roll song (well, they use the language “It’s been said about ‘Rocket 88′”), but the truth of the matter is, I don’t think that “Rocket 88” is rock’n’roll. I think that “Rocket 88” is R&B, but I think “Rocket 88” is the cause of rock and roll existing… Sam Phillips got Dewey Phillips to play “Rocket 88” on his program – and this is like the first black record to be played on a white radio station – and, man, all the white kids broke out to the record shops to buy it. So that’s when Sam Phillips got the idea, “Well, man, if I get me a white boy to sound like a black boy, then I got me a gold mine”, which is the truth. So, that’s when he got Elvis and he got Jerry Lee Lewis and a bunch of other guys and so they named it rock and roll rather than R&B and so this is the reason I think rock and roll exists – not that “Rocket 88” was the first one, but that was what caused the first one.

One way or the other the recording was influential in the founding of Rock”n” Roll…’s the original recording…..

After listening to the recording I think that it really does have more of a jump blues feel to it than Rock”n” Roll and agree with what Michael Campbell wrote, in Popular Music in America: And The Beat Goes On:

Both the distortion and the relative prominence of the guitar were novel features of this recording – these are the elements that have earned “Rocket 88” so many nominations as “the first” rock and roll record. From our perspective, “Rocket 88” wasn’t the first rock and roll record, because the beat is a shuffle rhythm, not the distinctive rock rhythm heard first in the songs of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Still, the distortion and the central place of the guitar in the overall sound certainly anticipate key features of rock style.

What do you think??

Read the complete story of “Rocket 88” here at Wikipedia.