“Rock and Roll or Rockabilly, which came first?” Feb. 2012

By: Dave Crimmen


Greetings all you Rock ‘n Roll History buffs. I’m Dave Crimmen and this is my first Article/Blog for This Day In Rock. A little bit about me; I am a Rock ‘n Roll Vocalist, Musician, Songwriter, Recording Artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though I’ve played many styles of music to pay the mortgage; my artistic heart is in Rock ‘n Roll. My specialty is R&R from the 1950’s the real roots of this music. The guys in my band refer to me as the “Encyclopedia of Rock ‘n Roll” as I work hard through my music to educate folks on the history of a true American Art Form.
The phrase Rockabilly has been used quiet liberally over the years as a “Sub-Genre” of Rock ‘n Roll. There’s even a song out, ironically written by Carl Perkins that states in the lyrics “They called it Rockabilly before they called it Rock ‘n Roll”. Now Mr. Perkins recorded for Sun records, wrote and sang the hit “Blue Suede Shoes” and is one of my Idols, yet this lyric while sentimental is historically incorrect.

The phrase “Rockabilly” came from the song “Rock Billy Boogie” written and recorded by a band that, as Irony would have it, was originally called the “Rock ‘N Roll Trio”. Written by Johnny & Dorsey Burnette, it was a spoof on their two sons Rocky & Billy who are recording artists and musicians in their own right. Over the years it has come to represent Rock ‘n Roll music with more of a swing/country feel to it rather than the R&B side of the road. The song was released as the “B” side of single December 16th, 1957 (Coral 61918).

Now mariners have used the phrase “Rocking and Rolling” as early as the 1600’s to describe a ship at sea. It was also used in Sailor’s songs of the 1800’s to have a sexual reference to it. Also in the 1800’s Gospel hymns such as “Rocked In The Cradle Of The Deep” partially used the phrase. 1922 saw the commercial release of the recording “My Baby Rocks Me (With One Big Roll)” by Trixie Smith.The Phrase “Rock ‘n Roll” or “Rock And Roll” referring to a style of music made popular in the 1950’s is, arguably, credited to both Disc Jockey, Alan Freed and musician Bill Haley. I have played shows and I’m also a friend of the Original Comets who have told me that the phrase came up in a Alan Freed interview of Bill Haley in 1952. It was a bit of a joke as this music was, at the time, referred to as Rhythm and Blues or “Race” music, in other words, African American. Wanting to find a way to market this music to the main stream, a new phrase had to be applied to make the music more palatable to the then prevailing attitudes towards race in the United States. Attitudes towards sexual relations in the U.S. were even more conservative thus calling this music “Rock ‘n Roll’ was, morally speaking, worse than calling it “Race” music, thus the joke among the musicians and D.J.s.By the time the establishment found out about the true meaning of the phrase, songs like “Ain’t That A Shame ” (Fats Domino), “Maybellene” (Chuck Berry), “Only You” (The Platters) and “Rock Around The Clock” (Bill Haley and his Comets) had made Billboard’s Top – 10 and the rest, is History.

Final note, in the late 1960’s the music had come to be known as “Rock Music”. To quote comedian George Carlin “What happened to the Roll man?” Thanx to early 1970’s album titles like “Rock and Roll Over’ by Kiss and other artists and also an early 1970’s nostalgia revival of Rock ‘n Roll music from the 1950’s, the complete phrase has “Rolled” back into the main stream.

’nuff said.


I’ll plant you now and dig you later


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