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"Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:31 pm

This article recently appeared on the Atlantic's website. I'm interested in hearing what FECC makes of it. If you have something especially important to say, consider commenting on the original website (http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/07/whats-so-great-about-elvis-he-didnt-invent-or-steal-anything/374081/).

Getting Elvis's Legacy Right
He didn't invent rock and roll. He didn't steal it from black people, either. What did he do?


By Noah Berlatsky

Last weekend was the 60th anniversary of Elvis Presley's most famous early recordings in Memphis, including the Arthur Crudup cover "That's All Right." July 5, 1954 was an important moment in American musical history—and it's also one of the most consistently overhyped dates in rock. The latest example: Variety’s article that went up with a headline declaring that Elvis "invented rock n' roll." That headline was eventually changed, and the text is a bit more sober, but still claims that "That's All Right" touched off "the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll as a cultural force."

Elvis was innovative, popular, influential, and a great performer. But he didn't invent anything. By the time Elvis showed up at Sun Records, numerous other performers like Ike Turner, Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, Big Mama Thornton, and Fats Domino had already released early rock songs.

Nor did Elvis make the music popular. While rock initially was black music, with a limited profile among white audiences, by the early 1950s it was achieving widespread success. The vocal group the Dominoes, led by the prodigiously talented Clyde McPhatter, scored a major pop crossover hit when "Sixty Minute Man" went #1 in R&B and #17 pop in 1951. The song used the phrase "rock and roll", which was often used in R&B and jump blues to describe sex, dancing, music, and/or some combination of all three. "Sixty Minute Man" probably inspired DJ Alan Freed to call his popular radio show Moondog's Rock 'n' Roll Party, where he played songs by black artists for a large mixed audience. The show began in 1951; by 1954 it was a smash success. Elvis and Sam Phillips didn't have to guess that rock and roll by black artists had crossover potential. They just needed to look at what the kids, of every race, were already listening to. So Presley wasn't an innovator, he was simply chasing a trend.

In reaction to the transparently false claim that Elvis invented rock and roll, an equal and opposite meme holds that Elvis stole rock from its original black performers—that he put a white face on black music and then unjustly profited from white America's clueless and racist marketing preferences. But, again, looking at the actual landscape of ‘50s rock and roll, this narrative doesn't really work. In the first place, Elvis was not the first white rock and roll star. Bill Haley had already recorded the original song "Crazy, Man, Crazy" in 1953; his version of "Rock Around the Clock" was recorded a couple of months before Elvis's famous Sun session. Moreover, white performers in the hillbilly boogie tradition like Moon Mullican and the Maddox Brothers and Rose had long been making music strongly influenced by the beat and spirit of R&B.

Nor was this influence one way. Rock-and-roll performers like Ray Charles and Chuck Berry were fans of and strongly influenced by country music. Black performers regularly performed songs by white songwriters like Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Some even covered country hits—especially at King records, where African-American producer Henry Glover oversaw both R&B and country divisions. Rock and roll wasn't black music, and it wasn't white music; it was an integrated form drawing from other integrated forms including country, country blues, R&B, boogie woogie, jump blues, Western swing, and more. America's pop-music marketing categories are often shamefully segregated, but the music itself has never been.

So, what's so special about Elvis then? He wasn't the first person to play rock and roll; he wasn't the first white person to play rock and roll; he didn't make rock and roll popular. He invented nothing and popularized nothing. It's true he was an extremely talented performer whose early records especially are original, exciting, and hugely influential. But you could say the same for the work of contemporary performers like Etta James, Jackie Wilson, LaVern Baker, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Rosetta Tharpe, and Howlin' Wolf. Elvis was great, but he wasn't greater than a host of other rock and roll greats. Why do we call him the King, exactly?

There seem to be a couple of answers. First, Elvis is the King because he's the King. It's tautological. A combination of talent, being the right color, physical attractiveness, and being in the right place at the right time meant he achieved massive, ridiculous popularity. Pop enthusiasms are by their nature unpredictable and a bit random. If things had been a little different, it could have been Buddy Holly or Bill Haley who captured the national imagination, and Variety would be posting headlines about how one or the other of them invented rock and roll.

But while it could have been others, I think it's also the case that Elvis retains his iconic appeal in part because of the racial dynamics of American music. Elvis was not actually a white man playing black music, as Sam Phillips suggested he was; again, rock and roll, like all American music, has no color. But the image of a white man playing black music, the idea that a white person could shuck off the bonds of race and become black, has long had a transgressive, sexy, exciting pop appeal. Elvis certainly capitalized on this through his choice of material and performance style—his sexualized scandalousness was linked in large part to the fact that he was imitating, or referencing, black performers, who (because of racism) were seen as innately sexual and scandalous.

"To put on the cultural forms of blackness was to engage in a complex affair of manly mimicry," Eric Lott argued in his famous book Love and Theft—or as Stefan L. Brandt writes "Elvis absorbed as much ‘blackness’ as possible to embark on the popular trends of musical hipness and as much ‘whiteness’ as necessary to cater to the consciousness of the majority." These comments echo Sam Phillips himself, who, before Elvis arrived on his door, was supposed to have remarked wistfully, "If I could find a white boy who could sing like a deleted - see guidelines #2, I'd make a million dollars." Criticisms of Elvis often were shot through with racism; the New York Daily News said his dancing was "tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos," while the New York Journal-American actually compared Presley's performance to "an aborigne's mating dance." Such a shocked reception only made Elvis more exciting to a younger audience

Elvis was not necessarily a pioneer here either; performers like Bing Crosby or Jimmie Rodgers or, for that matter, Jack Keruoac, had long used black performance and musical styles as a way to signal cool counter-culture cred. But Presley was certainly an iconic precedent for many, many after him, from the Rolling Stones to Madonna to Miley Cyrus.

Presley by all accounts was quick to acknowledge his debt to African-American performers, and scholars have even argued that, by playing multi-racial music for multi-racial audiences, he helped to point the path away from segregation. "That's All Right," drawn from both blues and country sources, can certainly be celebrated as one, hugely popular, superbly realized, moment of pop integration, like Chuck Berry's fusion of blues and country in "Maybellene," or the collaboration between Big Mama Thornton, Leiber, and Stoller on "Hound Dog," or Howlin' Wolf's repurposing of Jimmie Rodgers's yodel, or any number of others.

But the eagerness to see Elvis as scandalous inventor or scandalous thief feeds a narrative about how white people are always in the process of heroically discovering black people, always mining that mysterious, authentic source for earthy sensuality and innovative awesomeness. It's a poisonous story to keep telling. Which is why, though I love Elvis, I wish pop culture could find a way to make some other session our big, iconic rock-and-roll moment—Ray Charles's "What'd I Say," or Ike Turner's "Rocket 88," or even Moon Mullican's integrated country/R&B performance with some of the original Tiny Bradshaw Orchestra musicians on "Well Oh Well." And if celebrating some of these other lesser-known gems means we miss the next go-round for Presley's anniversary—that would be all right.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:18 pm

I take issue when he said that Elvis didn't popularize rock n' roll.

He damn well did.

Also some of the songs he's talking about and calling them rock n' roll aren't rock n' roll songs.

Not by my definition.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:26 pm

I've never heard of this Noah Berlatsky person but sure does talk out of it's backside.....

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:33 pm

What seems to be objected to here (and we see it on this board many times) is someone coming along and challenging the established viewpoint or narrative. It appears that many simply can't handle that, which is a shame.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:36 pm

poormadpeter wrote:What seems to be objected to here (and we see it on this board many times) is someone coming along and challenging the established viewpoint or narrative. It appears that many simply can't handle that, which is a shame.


That's not it at all.

He said a couple of things that aren't true and I said so.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:17 pm

Just the title of the article sucks big time.

Now, who this Berlatsky kid thinks he is ? Will Friedwald ?

I'm going to blast "Milkcow Blues Boogie" right now, just to get this laughable garbage out of my head.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:19 pm

poormadpeter wrote:What seems to be objected to here (and we see it on this board many times) is someone coming along and challenging the established viewpoint or narrative. It appears that many simply can't handle that, which is a shame.

No. You have got it wrong. There are a few points from the writers summarisation that need readdressing but i can't be bothered at this moment to run them all down, but i will say this:

The songs mentioned by the writer (before the recording of "Thats All Right") things like "Rocket 88", "Sixty Minuate Man" & "Well Oh Well" are not classed as Rock'n'Roll, they are classic uptempo R&B songs, but they were certainly the inspiration of what was come, like Rock'n'Roll. Just became a recording exists (before Elvis) that as a fast beat doesn't mean it's R'n'R. I'm not saying Elvis invented R'n'R (he almost did) but he was certainly one of the benefactors of it and helped contribute to what R'n'R is.....

In the OP's original link to the article, the thing that puzzled me is - why have a photo of impersonators to introduce the article?

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:50 pm

mysterytrainrideson wrote:The songs mentioned by the writer (before the recording of "Thats All Right") things like "Rocket 88", "Sixty Minuate Man" & "Well Oh Well" are not classed as Rock'n'Roll, they are classic uptempo R&B songs, but they were certainly the inspiration of what was come


But "Rocket 88" has been often referred to as the first rock'n'roll song, and it raises a question: what exactly differentiates rock'n'roll from uptempo r&b? "Sixty Minute Man" sounds more like rock'n'roll to me than "Heartbreak Hotel," and had it been released after 1956 it would almost certainly have been classified as rock'n'roll.

In the OP's original link to the article, the thing that puzzled me is - why have a photo of impersonators to introduce the article?


I suspect that was a decision by the editors, rather than the author.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:07 pm

The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular". The artists quoted in the article weren't heard of by the mainstream public. I don't suppose many outside of the southern states had ever heard of Rocket 88 at the time. Fats Dominoes The Fat Man was not that far removed from his rock'n'roll hits of a few years later, but again not too many heard it. Bill Haley was the first to make rock'n'roll popular on the world stage.

However, it is a fact that Elvis took the popularity of it to unprecedented heights, throughout the entire world. It is Elvis who almost all, from Tommy Steel, Cliff Richard, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and countless others, onto The Beatles, Rolling Stones and, again, countless others, who state that it was through Elvis that they started performing rock. Not through some obscure record (however good) such as Rocket 88, which has become popular arguably because of Elvis popularising rock music.

It was also Elvis who made the basic rock band of bass, rhythm and lead guitar, together with drums the blueprint of many of those that followed.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:08 pm

I'm not sure about Sixty Minute man being classified as a rock n' roll song if it had came out during 1956.

Because there were some uptempo R&B songs that came out in 1956 and 1957 that weren't put into the rock n' roll category.

If Elvis had recorded Sixty minute man or even Rocket 88 they would have had a faster tempo.

I always thought of Heartbreak hotel as a ballad.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:19 pm

Revelator wrote:
mysterytrainrideson wrote:The songs mentioned by the writer (before the recording of "Thats All Right") things like "Rocket 88", "Sixty Minuate Man" & "Well Oh Well" are not classed as Rock'n'Roll, they are classic uptempo R&B songs, but they were certainly the inspiration of what was come


But "Rocket 88" has been often referred to as the first rock'n'roll song, and it raises a question: what exactly differentiates rock'n'roll from uptempo r&b? "Sixty Minute Man" sounds more like rock'n'roll to me than "Heartbreak Hotel," and had it been released after 1956 it would almost certainly have been classified as rock'n'roll.

In the OP's original link to the article, the thing that puzzled me is - why have a photo of impersonators to introduce the article?


I suspect that was a decision by the editors, rather than the author.

"Rocket 88" was not classed as a "Rock'n'Roll" song at the time it was released in 1952, it was just an R&B song. It has only been classed as the first R'n'R song by writers AFTER the invention of R'n'R.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:23 pm

Revelator wrote:
mysterytrainrideson wrote:The songs mentioned by the writer (before the recording of "Thats All Right") things like "Rocket 88", "Sixty Minuate Man" & "Well Oh Well" are not classed as Rock'n'Roll, they are classic uptempo R&B songs, but they were certainly the inspiration of what was come


But "Rocket 88" has been often referred to as the first rock'n'roll song, and it raises a question: what exactly differentiates rock'n'roll from uptempo r&b?


The beat. And where the beat is placed. The very DNA of black music such as gospel, blues, jazz, soul/R&B include drummers playing behind the beat. It creates a funky, lazy, very loose, laid back groove to dance to which is the very essence of black music. There is no way around this fact: it's black music's sole fingerprint that identifies their music. Country music and Celtic music and most music played primarily by white people is characteristically played on the beat. Duke Ellington explains this perfectly:

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"Of course no one ever snaps one's fingers on the beat. It's considered aggressive. You don't push it, you just let it fall."

The music Elvis created at Sun was aggressive. It's played on the beat. It pushes the music, thrusting it forward, sacrificing groove and feel for power and a demanding beat. It was this fusion that created a completely brand new language of music: a country beat topped with round and curved blues notes on top. Although "Rocket 88" is largely considered rock and roll because it's 1) uptempo, 2) has all the instruments of a rock and roll band (drums, bass, piano, sax), and 3) a splicing vocal delivery---all the ingredients are still dripping of R&B. It may sound like rock and roll but it just isn't. The DNA isn't there. Rock and roll as a genre, as a separate entity only could have been born with the fusion of white music. That fusion is rock and roll. A quick test that always works: if you're listening to a tune and you find yourself swinging your hips or moving horizontally like swaying your body side to side: it's r&B. If you find yourself moving horizontally like nodding your head (thinking of head banging in heavy metal)..you're listening to rock and roll.

Bill Haley had the beat but not the curved blues/gospel notes. "Rocket 88" has the energy and the notes---just not the beat. "That's All Right" had the beat of country and the notes of blues/gospel. Bingo. Recipe perfected. There's your rock and roll.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:24 pm

Id say Rock Around The Clock was really the first true rock and roll song to be popular, but Haley did not have the appeal for the teenagers. Elvis did, and with great songs and TV appearances, certainly DID make rock and roll immensely popular. Thats a fact that cannot be disputed. I agree he did not invent it per se, but he invented a style, a cultural trend for many to follow and emulate in and out of show business. None of the other performers really did that,

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:35 pm

Chris Roberts wrote:The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular".


Elvis did NOT make it popular - he gave it staying power. Rock Around the Clock might not have been a big hit when first released, but when used in The Blackboard Jungle it had a huge effect in the popularity of rock n roll - BEFORE most people had ever heard of Elvis Presley.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:56 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
Chris Roberts wrote:The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular".


Elvis did NOT make it popular - he gave it staying power. Rock Around the Clock might not have been a big hit when first released, but when used in The Blackboard Jungle it had a huge effect in the popularity of rock n roll - BEFORE most people had ever heard of Elvis Presley.


If you re-read my post this is exactly what I said - Bill Haley was the first artist to make rock'n'roll popular on a world stage. Please re-read the whole of my contribution.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:01 am

Chris Roberts wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Chris Roberts wrote:The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular".


Elvis did NOT make it popular - he gave it staying power. Rock Around the Clock might not have been a big hit when first released, but when used in The Blackboard Jungle it had a huge effect in the popularity of rock n roll - BEFORE most people had ever heard of Elvis Presley.


If you re-read my post this is exactly what I said - Bill Haley was the first artist to make rock'n'roll popular on a world stage. Please re-read the whole of my contribution.


So your comment about the quote being incorrect...is incorrent. You state yourself that Elvis didn't make it popular. So why say the author is incorrect in saying so?!

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:14 am

It's all true, Elvis was rubbish, it was only by a trick of fate that we missed out on a Bill Haley Mr Potato Head...

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:22 am

"Rocket 88" was an R&B song that we later recognise being in a Rock & Roll style. There are multiple similar examples.

"That's All Right" was too white to be R&B and too black to be C&W. And it sure wasn't Pop or Gospel.

Nobody knew what to classify it as at the time and here we are 60 years later still not entirely sure. The importance of Elvis, Elvis' legacy is that we no longer look at music in such clearly defined genres.

Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" is the only other example that matches this feat from that time frame and was recorded and released just a couple of months before "That's All Right". But it didn't seem to cause a stir until one year later and also lacked one important ingredient in what I define as Rock & Roll...sex appeal.

But as mentioned, the great irony is that the legacy of Rock & Roll was simply to say that music can no longer be categorised. After 1954, music could no longer be defined as either black or white.

Yet if pressed to pin down the true first Rock & Roll record, I couldn't really call it because music is an art that evolves with each new song, slowly morphing from one thing to another. Just like in science it is impossible to say when the first Homo sapien came into being from it's predecessor. Us humans slowly evolved from one species to another. There was no first human being.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:29 am

When I listen to Bill Haley, I hear big band swing from a combo. It also reminds me of some of the "rock n roll" music used for the Flintstones.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:42 am

A search through BIllboard shows that the term "rock n roll" was used regularly from Jan 1955 onwards. In 1952, Anita O'Day recorded Rock 'n' Blues, a track which shows that most of the attributes of the music were already in place even then - especially during the chorus (and O'Day and the musicians on the recording were all from jazz). Meanwhile, Billboard even referred to Old Ship of Zion by the Original Five Blind Boys in 1951 as "rock-and-roll," and one listen to it shows that there was very little development between that the classic rock 'n' roll love songs of, say, The Platters.

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Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:50 am

poormadpeter wrote:
Chris Roberts wrote:The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular".


Elvis did NOT make it popular - he gave it staying power. Rock Around the Clock might not have been a big hit when first released, but when used in The Blackboard Jungle it had a huge effect in the popularity of rock n roll - BEFORE most people had ever heard of Elvis Presley.


He made it popular because most of the popular rock n' roll acts of the 1950s and 1960s have stated that if it wasn't for Elvis they wouldn't have become rock musicians.

Bill Haley's Rock around The Clock was popular before Elvis hit the national scene but it probably would have ended up being a fad without him if even that.

Bill Haley never had a huge hit in America after Rock Around the Clock and he didn't really inspire people.

Therefore Elvis did make it popular and the writer of the article is incorrect to say he didn't.

You know that.

One song being popular doesn't mean that a whole genre of music suddenly becomes popular.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:59 am

brian wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Chris Roberts wrote:The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular".


Elvis did NOT make it popular - he gave it staying power. Rock Around the Clock might not have been a big hit when first released, but when used in The Blackboard Jungle it had a huge effect in the popularity of rock n roll - BEFORE most people had ever heard of Elvis Presley.


He made it popular because most of the popular rock n' roll acts of the 1950s and 1960s have stated that if it wasn't for Elvis they wouldn't have become rock musicians.

Bill Haley's Rock around The Clock was popular before Elvis hit the national scene but it probably would have ended up being a fad without him if even that.

Bill Haley never had a huge hit in America after Rock Around the Clock and he didn't really inspire people.

Therefore Elvis did make it popular and the writer of the article is incorrect to say he didn't.

You know that.

One song being popular doesn't mean that a whole genre of music suddenly becomes popular.


Exactly. No teen tried to emulate Bill Haley, Fats, Ike Turner, Ray Charles or any of the other great artists that came before. Therefore I stand by my statement. He DID make it popular when you consider more than the just the music iteslf. A look, a trend , a vibe, or whatever else you want to add to the music, Elvis did make the whole thing popular. After Elvis became popular, there were countless artists trying to emulate his look and style. Also most teenagers tried to copy his look. This only happened one other time, 1964 by some group.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:03 am

brian wrote:He made it popular because most of the popular rock n' roll acts of the 1950s and 1960s have stated that if it wasn't for Elvis they wouldn't have become rock musicians.


Not quite. Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry undoubtedly had their later sales helped by Elvis, but they were cutting rock'n'roll records before Elvis hit it big, and they would have entered the field regardless. The same goes for most of Elvis's black contemporaries. But Elvis and Sam Philips were undoubtedly the creators of rockabilly and cleared the path for Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and so on.
Last edited by Revelator on Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:11 am

brian wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Chris Roberts wrote:The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular".


Elvis did NOT make it popular - he gave it staying power. Rock Around the Clock might not have been a big hit when first released, but when used in The Blackboard Jungle it had a huge effect in the popularity of rock n roll - BEFORE most people had ever heard of Elvis Presley.


He made it popular because most of the popular rock n' roll acts of the 1950s and 1960s have stated that if it wasn't for Elvis they wouldn't have become rock musicians.

Bill Haley's Rock around The Clock was popular before Elvis hit the national scene but it probably would have ended up being a fad without him if even that.

Bill Haley never had a huge hit in America after Rock Around the Clock and he didn't really inspire people.

Therefore Elvis did make it popular and the writer of the article is incorrect to say he didn't.

You know that.

Thank you Brian, at least you know what I was saying.

One song being popular doesn't mean that a whole genre of music suddenly becomes popular.

Re: "Getting Elvis's Legacy Right" -- New Atlantic Article

Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:13 am

brian wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Chris Roberts wrote:The most blatant incorrect quote is "Nor did Elvis make it popular".


Elvis did NOT make it popular - he gave it staying power. Rock Around the Clock might not have been a big hit when first released, but when used in The Blackboard Jungle it had a huge effect in the popularity of rock n roll - BEFORE most people had ever heard of Elvis Presley.


He made it popular because most of the popular rock n' roll acts of the 1950s and 1960s have stated that if it wasn't for Elvis they wouldn't have become rock musicians.

Bill Haley's Rock around The Clock was popular before Elvis hit the national scene but it probably would have ended up being a fad without him if even that.

Bill Haley never had a huge hit in America after Rock Around the Clock and he didn't really inspire people.

Therefore Elvis did make it popular and the writer of the article is incorrect to say he didn't.

You know that.

One song being popular doesn't mean that a whole genre of music suddenly becomes popular.


No, Elvis didn't make it popular. It was popular before Elvis. And the name "rock n roll" was established certainly by 1955 - AND the music was popular enough to ensure that a novelty song such as Rock And Roll Waltz hit the top of the US charts (for six weeks) when it was released in the first week of 1956 (a number of weeks before Heartbreak Hotel, although whether HH should be viewed as rock n roll is debatable anyway). Whether rock n roll would have REMAINED popular without Elvis is another thing altogether - although a listen to popular music from 1950-55 show that the rock n roll sound was where popular music was heading with or without him.

As has been pointed out, Chuck Berry, Little Richard etc would have carried on regardless of whether Elvis appeared or not. Even an artist such as Bobby Darin was making records for a major label as early as March 1956. Gene Vincent's Be Bop a Lula was released in April 1956. Eddie Cochran was releasing records in early 1956. Decca signed Buddy Holly in February 1956. These artists would have come through WITHOUT Elvis - they were signed up and recording and releasing material BEFORE Heartbreak Hotel was even released in most cases, let alone before Elvis became the King of Rock n Roll.
Last edited by poormadpeter on Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:21 am, edited 1 time in total.