by: Harry Hepcat
Copyright 1996 Harry Hepcat

"Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets was considered by many to be the "first" rock and roll record, but there are other contenders. For example, some of the contenders are: "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino (1949), "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston (1951) and "Sh-Boom" by The Cords (March, 1954).

In July of 1954, Bill Haley and his Comets recorded a song written by a 63 year old Tin Pan Alley composer and his partner. They were Max Freedman and Jimmy DeKnight. The record didn't do much for sales until it was tacked onto the opening credits of the film, "Blackboard Jungle," in 1955. It soon became the national anthem of rock & roll.. In 1956, it was the theme song of an Allan Freed film also called, "Rock Around the Clock." In the 1970's, Rock Around the Clock, also became the theme of the film, "American Graffiti," the theme song of the television show, "Happy Days" and was featured in the film, "Superman." Besides, it had a good beat and you could dance to it.

Decca RecordsHollywood in 1954 provided teenagers with the look and attitude of the new rebellion. Marlon Brando mumbled and brooded his way through a motorcycle gang's night of terror in, "The Wild One." He wore the new teen uniform: motorcycle jacket, tee shirt and blue jeans. His sneering face was framed in sideburns. When a blond asked him what he was rebelling against, Brando replied, "What do ya got?"

July of 1954 also saw a sideburned 19 year old sing his first sessions for the Sun recording company of Memphis. By August, Elvis Presley had his first local hit, "That's All Right." He was quickly becoming a sensation in the South. Sun Records

On September 8, 1954, Alan Freed moved his radio rock and roll program to station WINS in New York City. His programs were also broadcast in Europe. Freed again organized legendary rock and roll shows, now in the northeast of the country. September also saw the release of, "Work With Me Annie," and its logical sequel, "Annie Had A Baby," by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.

In October, Elvis had his second single, "Good Rocking Tonight," released by Sun Records. Some used the term rock-a-billy for this type of music (rock sung by a hillbilly). It sure was rock and roll to most listeners.

November of that first big year for rock provided several songs for couples in the back seats of parked cars or in dimly lit rooms of houses devoid of parents. The Moonglows came out with, "Sincerely," and a California group called, The Penguins, provided a rock and roll standard, "Earth Angel."

Was something evil on the rise ????
In what year was a bill proposed in Congress to ban rock and roll in the United States, the country of its birth? Who was the first female to break into rock and roll?

Find out in Part III of the History of Rock and Roll.

HINT: One year before the introduction of a bill to ban rock and roll, Atlantic Records introduced the first successful female artist in this field.

Back to Part I.

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