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article imageWorld's first rock-and-roll song identified, claims researcher

By Subir Ghosh     Nov 20, 2010 in Entertainment
"That's All Right Mama" by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup is the world's oldest rock-and-roll song. Southeastern Louisiana University rock historian Joseph Burns claims it was the first to contain all of the elements that are associated with rock and roll.
Burns, who hosts the weekly radio program "Rock School" on Southeastern’s KSLU 90.9 FM radio station, cites the following elements to be identified as a rock and roll number:
* It is music that draws heavily from blues and country in a hit form that's often danceable.
* There should be hints of jazz, gospel or folk influence.
* There should also be some technology influence.
He adds, “It’s a lot to ask of one song. Few fit the bill.”
Though there were other candidates, Burns says "That's All Right Mama" fitted the bill more than others. The other numbers in the race were "How High the Moon" by Les Paul and Mary Ford; "The Honey Dripper" by Joe Liggens; "Boogie Chllen'" by John Lee Hooker; "Saturday Night Fish Fry" by Louis Jordan; "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino; "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets; and "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats.
Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right Mama" was released in September 1946. “It’s sung with power, may contain the first guitar solo break, and, as a remake, became one of Elvis’ first singles,” Burns said.
Burns explains the origin of rock and roll:
“It started as a nautical phrase meaning the movement of the boat up and down and back and forth,” he said. “Sometime in the late 1800s to early 1900s, gospel and jubilee music co-opted the term and used it to mean being rocked and rolled in the arms of the Lord. In fact, the first recorded use of the term in a song was ‘Camp Meeting Jubilee’ in 1916.”
Sometime between that recording and the early 20s, according to Burns, the term “rock ‘n’ roll” started to leave the church and began to be used in blues and vaudeville music as a euphemism for sex. He cites as examples Trixie Smith’s “My Man Rocks Me with One Steady Roll” in 1922, “Rock That Think” by Lil’ Johnson and “Rock Me Mama” by Banjo Ikey Robinson.
The researcher argues that using the term alone is not enough to give a song the title of being the first rock ‘n’ roll record. He said:
“Too often rock ‘n’ roll is described as the coming together of blues and country, but that’s too simplistic. Rock ‘n’ roll is a much more complex music that draws from six forms of music, three dominant and three sub-dominants.”
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