For those of you who are new with my posts, I am a record collector, a rock and roll historian, and a former disc jockey. In this post, we will try to track down the elusive first rock and roll song.
There has been many attempts to place the first rock and roll song, but rock historians are widely in disagreement with that one song. There are many songs in the running, but before we get to that, what exactly constitutes a rock and roll song?
Black rhythm and blues is well known to be the cradle of rock and roll. It is distinguished by it’s 4/4 time, an up tempo beat, and an emphasis on the saxophone to carry the solo on the middle eight bars. Rock and roll is barely discernable from rhythm and blues, except rock and roll uses the guitar to play the middle eight solo rather than the saxophone. At least that’s my definition. The electric guitar is responsible for the emergence of rock and roll.
If you read any of the histories of rock and roll, the distinguished first song of rock and roll falls to one of the following: Wynonie Harris, with “Good Rockin' At Midnight” (1953), “Sh Boom”, by The Chords, (1954), (the first “race” record to break the white top 10); and “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets (1954).
While these are all ground breaking songs, in one way or the other; they do not measure up to be the first rock and roll song. First of all, they all use the saxophone to carry the middle eight, and secondly, they post date the song I believe to be the “first” rock and roll song.
This song is “Saturday Night Fish Fry” pts. 1 and 2, by Louis Jordan (1949). Louis Jordan, was probably the first black man to gain wide acceptance by the white public. While mostly known as a black rhythm and blues star in the forties, he was the first to use the guitar as a solo instrument. His song repeatedly uses the phrase “it was rockin’ ”, and it was a huge hit, in the top ten jukebox singles for the year.
For the first Rockabilly song ever, I nominate “We’re Going To Roll and Rock” by Eddie Zack and his cousin Ritchie in 1953. If there is an older rockabilly song, I am not aware of it.
I am proud to state that I own 78rpm copies of both of these songs. (We’re Going To Roll and Rock” is very rare.)
If you have a different opinion, please leave a comment.