Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in America in the 1950s, though elements of rock and roll can be seen in rhythm and blues (R&B) records as far back as the 1920s. Early rock and roll combined elements of R&B, blues, boogie woogie and jazz, and is also influenced by traditional folk music, gospel music, and country and western.Origins of the name rock and roll
The first coupling of the words "rock" and "roll" on record came in 1916, in a recording of a spiritual, "The Camp Meeting Jubilee," by an unnamed vocal "quartette" issued by Little Wonder Records. The lyrics include "We've been rocking and rolling in your arms / Rocking and rolling in your arms / In the arms of Moses." In 1922, blues singer Trixie Smith recorded "My Man Rocks Me (with One Steady Roll)," first featuring the two words in a secular context. Twelve years later, The Boswell Sisters had a hit with "Rock and Roll" (1934).
However, for many years and probably centuries previously, the term "rocking and rolling" had been used as a nautical term to denote the side-to-side and forward-and-backward motion of ships on the ocean. This meaning was used metaphorically in such records as Buddy Jones' "Rockin' Rollin' Mama" (1939) - "Waves on the ocean, waves in the sea/ But that gal of mine rolls just right for me/ Rockin' rollin' mama, I love the way you rock and roll".
Rocking was a term also used by gospel singers in the American South to mean something akin to spiritual rapture. A double, ironic, meaning came to popular awareness in 1947 in blues artist Roy Brown's song "Good Rocking Tonight" (also covered the next year by Wynonie Harris in an even wilder version), in which "rocking" was ostensibly about dancing but was in fact a thinly-veiled allusion to sex. Such double-entendres were nothing new in blues music (which was mostly limited in exposure to jukeboxes and clubs) but were new to the radio airwaves. After the success of "Good Rocking Tonight" many other R&B artists used similar titles through the late 1940s including a song called "Rock and Roll" recorded by Wild Bill Moore in 1949. These songs were relegated to "race music" (the music industry code name for R&B) outlets and were barely known by mainstream white audiences.
In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio, disc jockey Alan Freed would begin playing this type of music for his white audience, and it is Freed who is credited with coining the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the rollicking R&B music that he brought to the airwaves. The term, with its simultaneous allusions to dancing, sex, and the sound of the music itself, stuck even with those who didn't absorb all the meanings.
Originally Freed used the name Moondog for himself and any concerts or promotions he put on. This arose from the fact he used a piece of music called "Moondog Symphony" by the street musician Moondog as his repeated opening music for his radio show. Moondog subsequently sued Freed on grounds that he was stealing his name. Since Freed was no longer allowed to use the term Moondog he needed a new catch phrase. After a night of heavy drinking he and his friends came up with the name "The Rock and Roll Party" since he was already using the phrase "Rock and Roll Session" to describe the music he was playing on his radio show. Since his show was extremely popular the term caught on and the subsequent public used it to describe a certain form of music.
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