Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rockabilly Origins

I rarely discuss music in bars anymore. I've wasted too many nights on the stool talking to some classic rock lovin', mullet sportin', air guitar playin' lout who keeps goin' on about "the blooz, man".

I just can't seem to get my point across, because these people have formed their own opinion as to the roots of music as seen through the narrow lens of their local classic rock station. Spewing forth the same 500 tired old rock songs ad nauseam , numbing minds and keeping them closed forever, these stations have long abandoned any connection to the true meaning of rock 'n' roll.

Without seeming preachy or overly academic, I will give you a short synopsis on the roots of Rockabilly. Long lost over the years in the sands of time, the origins have remained, for the most part, obscure.

There is enough material on the internet to do your own research and come to your own conclusions, but here goes.

Pinetop's boogie woogie by Pinetop Smith is considered to be first recording of this emerging musical genre.

It didn't exactly take the world by storm, but would be catalyst for many exciting things to come.

Fast forward to December 1938. Record producer John Hammond (John Hammond Jr.'s father) organized a show at New York's Carnegie Hall called From Swing To Spirituals.
This seminal event featured two young piano players, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson along with up and coming blues shouter, Big Joe Turner.
Playing back to back grand pianos, they proceeded to blast out some the fastest and smoking- hot Boogie Woogie ever heard. They brought the house down and set the tone for Big Bands that would adopt the sound several years later. Check out Youtube for a clip from an old movie
to see these cats in action.

During WW II, the Big Band craze came to crescendo. The popular bands began integrating Boogie Woogie into their sound, sending the wild jitterbuggers into a frenzy. Check out Jimmy Dorsey's JD Boogie Woogie,

During that same period, the hillbilly bands also began to take notice. They melded western swing with that 8 to the bar swinging rhythm and Country Boogie was born. 1945's Guitar Boogie by Arthur Smith is considered to be one of the first of this hybrid style.

Other cats to check out for prime examples of Country Boogie, or Hillbilly Boogie as some called it, are Merle Travis, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Delmore Bros., and Moon Mullican ( who heavily influenced Jerry Lee Lewis).

As hillbilly music grew out of favor for seeming to rural and unsophisticated, Country audiences leaned towards the urban sounds of Honky Tonk coming out of Nashville. Hillbilly Cats in Memphis began looking elsewhere for their music.

In the early fifties they began to hear rumblings about a new music that had no name yet. I think you know the rest of the story. Sun Record, Memphis, part hillbilly part rock 'n' roll, then some skinny hillbilly cat with a sneer and greasy pomp took the nation by storm.

This ain't him. This Ersel Hickey. Probably the quintessential Rockabilly, but definitely the most obscure. He recorded a handful of songs , but to this day this photo remains the epitome of Rockabilly.

Hope this helps
Adios for now

No comments:

Post a Comment