Lecture 3 - R&B and the Beginnings of Rock n Roll (1)

Lecture 3 - R&B and the Beginnings of Rock n Roll...

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1 L ECTURE 3. R&B AND THE B EGINNINGS OF R OCK N R OLL Rhythm and Blues Becomes Rock ‘n’ Roll So we were talking briefly yesterday about the transition from blues to rock ‘n’ roll. This was not a smooth transition, and not an inevitable one but one that, between 1945 and 1954, did happen, and did result in the first major explosion of youth music and youth culture. I said that the kind of Chicago blues typified by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf inspired a related splinter form called rhythm-and-blues. And that rhythm-and-blues was the catalyst for rock ‘n’ roll. It’s probably more accurate to say that rhythm -and-blues IS rock ‘n’ roll – because “rock and roll” is a label given to rhythm -and-blues by white DJs on the radio, and white listeners. One notable R&B producer, speaking no doubt with the bitterness of seeing white people make more money with his songs, said, “We had rhythm -and-blues for many a year, and here come a couple of white people and they call it rock and roll, but it was rhythm and bl ues all the time!” So the first, simplest answer to the question, “What is rhythm -and- blues like?” is, “It’s like early, 50s rock ‘n’ roll.” Chuck Berry, technically, is rhythm -and-blues. So is Little Richard. And so are people like Elvis, although obviou sly, their rock ‘n’ roll is influenced by country, as well as by rhythm-and-blues. We’ll talk now about what that means more specifically – and what rhythm-and-blues was like before it became rock and roll. There were basically two variants of rhythm-and-blues that mattered: There was up-tempo rhythm-and-blues, the recipe for which was take Chicago blues, speed it up a bit, add horn sections, and emphasize the piano parts even more than usual. And there was also a style called “doo - wop,” which blends pop music and gospel music that is, church singing with a somewhat lighter rhythm-and-blues sound. Technological Developments LPs Throughout this course, there are going to be quite a few times where changes in technology really make a difference to the development of the music. The post-World War II, early 1950s period was one such time. The first technological change was one of record album formats. Prior to 1948, records were called “78s.” This is because they went around the turntable at 78 revolutio ns per minute. “78s” had certain serious drawbacks that prevented them from selling in large numbers, or being the treasures they’d become to enthusiasts: They were big heavy things, made of shellac. They were expensive, because they were fragile and made of expensive material. Also, they were big, thick and heavy, so let’s just say they weren’t that portable. And if you dropped them, you were screwed. (See point #2 about their fragility.) Oh, and finally, they only held about 3-4 minutes of music, so they were singles.
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2 But in 1948, Columbia Records started producing records made out of vinyl. They were the same width, but thinner, eminently more portable, and much more affordable. They were
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