Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll

Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll

by Larry Birnbaum

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Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll by Larry Birnbaum

An essential work for rock fans and scholars, Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘n’ Roll surveys the origins of rock ’n’ roll from the minstrel era to the emergence of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. Unlike other histories of rock, Before Elvis offers a far broader and deeper analysis of the influences on rock music. Dispelling common misconceptions, it examines rock’s origins in hokum songs and big-band boogies as well as Delta blues, detailing the embrace by white artists of African-American styles long before rock ’n’ roll appeared. This unique study ranges far and wide, highlighting not only the contributions of obscure but key precursors like Hardrock Gunter and Sam Theard but also the influence of celebrity performers like Gene Autry and Ella Fitzgerald.

Too often, rock historians treat the genesis of rock ’n’ roll as a bolt from the blue, an overnight revolution provoked by the bland pop music that immediately preceded it and created through the white appropriation of music till then played only by and for black audiences. In Before Elvis, Birnbaum daringly argues a more complicated history of rock’s evolution from a heady mix of ragtime, boogie-woogie, swing, country music, mainstream pop, and rhythm-and-blues—a melange that influenced one another along the way, from the absorption of blues and boogies into jazz and pop to the integration of country and Caribbean music into rhythm-and-blues.

Written in an easy style, Before Elvis presents a bold argument about rock’s origins and required reading for fans and scholars of rock ’n’ roll history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810886292
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 12/14/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 474
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

For some 35 years, Larry Birnbaum has written for periodicals ranging from Down Beat to the New York Times and edited books and magazines about music.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

1 That's All Right 1

A White Man Sounds Black 1

Rock 'n' Roll Arrives 7

The Meaning of Rock 17

The Revolution That Wasn't 21

2 The Train Kept A-Rollin' 29

Stroll On 29

Cow-Cow Boogie 35

Johnny B. Goode 44

Rolling On 50

3 One o' Them Things! 59

Big Bill 59

Handy vs. Morton 62

Birth of the Blues 68

Recording the Blues 73

Roots of the Blues 81

Africa, Britain, and Vaudeville 85

4 The Rocks 95

The Walking Bass 95

A Dash of Hokum 105

Big Band Boogie 107

Boogie-Woogie Fever 111

Coda 122

5 The Jumpin' Jive 125

Jump Jazz 125

The Backbeat and the Jitterbug 127

Jug Bands and Hokum 129

Scat, Jive, and Harmony Singing 134

Big Bands and Shuffle Rhythms 144

The Blues-Jazz Nexus 150

From Hokum to Rhythm-and-Blues 157

Jive 164

Big Band Jump 173

Jump, Jive, an' Wail 183

6 Get With It 189

Country Origins 189

Early Country Recordings 193

Blues and Hokum 197

Western Swing 207

Hillbilly Boogie 221

Country and R&B 232

7 Good Rockin' Tonight 237

R&B Is Born 237

The Door Opens 245

Horn Honkers 254

String Slingers 268

Shouters 278

Rhythm-and-Blues Women 283

Doo-Wop 294

The Crescent City 319

8 Rock Love 343

Blue-Eyed R&B 343

Rock Stars 351

Mystery Women 359

Vocal Groups 364

Caribbean Rhythms 372

Epilogue 377

Notes 381

Index 419

About the Author 463

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