‘Rocket 88’: The Story Behind The First Rock’n’Roll Record? (2023)

The first rock’n’roll record was ‘Rocket 88’, recorded byJackie Brenston And His Delta Cats at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Jackie Brenston and co were, however, Ike Turner And His Kings Of Rhythm, and rock’n’roll was little more than a euphemism among the African-American population in early 20thcentury America.

There are some that think it was also a dance, but for some the difference between sex and dancing is as thin as the line between love and hate. Nor is it true that Alan Freed, the Cleveland DJ invented the term… but more of that later.

“My man rocks me with one steady roll.” – Trixie Smith, 1922

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Nearly 90 years ago in September 1922 in New York City 27 year old Trixie Smith along with the Jazz Masters went into the studio to cut a couple of sides. Who made up the Jazz Masters have been lost down the crack in the shellac, all except one – Fletcher Henderson a name ubiquitous within jazz circles and whose band Louis Armstrong joined in 1924. One of the sides Trixie and the boys cut was ‘My Daddy Rocks Me (with one steady roll); as clear evidence as you can get for the link between rock and roll, and sex…

My daddy rocks me with one steady roll.
There’s no slippin’ when he once takes hold.
I looked at the clock and the clock struck one.
I said “Now Daddy, ain’t we got fun.”
He kept rockin’ with one steady roll.

Now hold those lyrics in your head because we’ll return to them soon enough. Four years after Trixie was rockin’ and rollin’ a man got around to it too; Blind Blake, whose Christian name may or may not have been Arthur, was the first to use the word ‘rock’ in a song. His earliest record for the Paramount label in August 1926 had ‘West Coast Blues’ on one side of it.

It opens with the lines…

Now we gonna do the old country rock.
First thing we do, swing your partners.

It’s a lot less sexy than Trixie and certainly seems to relate to some kind of dance, which is possibly evidence for the whole thing being a mix of both sex and dancing. Later in the song he even does a little advertising, “Good to the last drop. Just like Maxwell House Coffee, yes.” When President Theodore Roosevelt visited the manufacturer of Maxwell House in 1907, had a cup of their coffee, saying “It’s good to the last drop”; probably the only time a US President has been an advertising copy writer. There again it may also take us back towards the sex angle!

Three years later, in 1929, a twenty-five year old by the name of Tampa Red, who seems to have hailed from Florida, but grew up in Georgia and was a bit of a whizz on the kazoo, as well as piano and guitar decided to do a little rocking of his own. Tampa recorded such risqué songs as ‘It’s Tight Like That’ and ‘Jelly Whippin’ Blues’ but he also fronted the Hokum Jug Band. One weekend in April 1929 Tampa and his band recorded several tunes including ‘She is Hot’ which sounds like the perfect rock ‘n’ roll title and they also covered Trixie’s ‘’My Daddy Rocks Me (with one steady roll)’. Now, Tampa being a man doing a song about his Daddy rocking him with one steady roll obviously poses some questions, but on this occasion it wasn’t Tampa singing – it was instead the cross-dressing Frankie ‘Half-Pint’ Jaxon.

Frankie put his own slant on Trixie’s lyrics…

My Man rocks me with one steady roll.
It makes no difference if he’s hot or cold.
When I looked at the clock, clock struck one.
I said honey oh let’s have some fun.
But you rock me with one steady roll.

Frankie also goes in for some no holds barred, nor blushes spared, heavy breathing just in case anyone was in any doubt about what his song was all about. While the content, the words and the feel may all have some of the feel of rock ‘n’ roll about them the music for all this and the songs that went before did not. They were all very much in the blues idiom.

Rolling forward through the jazz age, the big bands, and generally the fuller sounds that became popular with black musicians and their audiences we get to 1945 and a man named Wynonie Harris. Harris had sung with Lucky Millinder’s Orchestra, one of the swingiest, rockiest of the black big bands. In 1941, before Harris had joined them Millinder, who was a regular at the Apollo and the Savoy in Harlem, released ‘Big Fat Mama’ (“with meat shaking on her bones”) which was one of a number of his songs that pointed the way towards rock ‘n’ roll.

Harris took what he had learned with Millinder and distilled it into something all together more rock ‘n’ roll in the way it sounded. In July 1945, along with a band put together by Johnny Otis, Wynonie recorded ‘Around the Clock parts one and two’; compare their lyrics with Tampa’s…

Sometimes I think I will, sometimes I think I won’t.
Sometimes I believe I do, and then again I believe I won’t.
Well I looked at the clock, the clock struck one.
She said come on Daddy let’s have some fun.
Yes we were rolling, yes we rolled a long time.

Musically there was little rock ‘n’ roll about ‘Around The Clock’ but come 1957 and the great Chuck Berry recorded ‘Reelin’ and Rockin’. As we all know he, “looked at his watch and it was 9.21”. The fact is that what had gone before all led to that moment. So much music, black or white, was all about influences, acknowledged and otherwise, and the development of rock ‘n’ roll, as a concept, goes way back. As a sound it definitely had it’s origins in the jump music and R & B of the 1940s.

There are also those that think Alan Freed ‘invented’ rock ‘n’ roll. There’s no question that Freed was a key player in the development of the music. On 11 July 1951, Freed started broadcasting on Cleveland’s WJW, calling his show The Moondog House. He played jump and R & B records and began calling it rock ‘n’ roll music; he also started promoting live shows featuring the artists he played like Tiny Grimes and Paul ‘Hucklebuck’ Williams. Given the reach that his radio show gave him, even more so when he switched to WINS in New York City, it’s unsurprising that Freed has been so closely associated with the music, and its naming. But mentions of rocking and rolling were not the sole preserve of the black blues singers or the DJs that played the music. In 1934 the Boswell Sisters, a middle class, close harmony group from New Orleans released ‘Rock and Roll’, but theirs is a song of the high seas – “the rolling rocking rhythm of the sea”.

“So won’t you satisfy my soul with the rock and roll” – Teddy Grace, August 1937

In 1939, Western Swing star Buddy Jones released ‘Rockin’ Rollin’ Mama’. Two years earlier Teddy Grace recorded ‘Rock it For Me’, a couple of months later Chick Webb’s Orchestra with their singer Ella Fitzgerald did it too, like others they used the term in their own way, “So won’t you satisfy my soul with the rock and roll” Even Hollywood got in on the act when Betty Grable’s film, Wabash Avenue was promoted by calling her, ‘The First lady of rock and roll’. The point of it all? It was very much in the zeitgeist; it just needed Freed to bring it altogether.

So, how come many think that Jackie Brenston made the first rock ‘n’ roll record? Well for a start, Sam Phillips was fond of telling people that it was. But it’s just another record from the hundreds, thousands even, which came out in the post war years that had the feel of proto rock about them. Interestingly Wynonie Harris’ ‘Around the Clock’ while having the lyrical heritage does not sound much like a rock ‘n’ roll record – there are many others of his that definitely do. ‘Good Rocking Tonight’ from 1946 and so did ‘Lollipop Mama’ from 1948, with its fast walking bass line. There are hundreds of records that a case could be made for naming them as ‘The First Rock ‘n’ Roll record’. Here’s a list of ten records that could claim the title…in no particular order, other than the date they were recorded!

Rock, Daniel – Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra with Rosetta Tharpe (June 1941)
Be-Babba Leba – Helen Humes (August 1945)
My Gals A Jockey – Big Joe Turner (January 1946)
Choo Choo Ch’Boogie – Louis Jordan (July 1946)
The House of Blue lights – Ella Me Morse with Freddie Slack and his Orchestra (February 1946)
Gotta Gimme Whatcha Got – Julia Lee and her Boyfriends (September 1946)
He’s A Real Gone guy – Nellie Lutcher (July 1947)
Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee – Sticks McGhee and his Buddies (February 1949)
Rock the Joint –Jimmy Preston & His Prestonians (May 1949)
Teardrops From My Eyes – Ruth Brown (October 1950)

Format: ‘Rocket 88’: The Story Behind The First Rock’n’Roll Record? (1)UK English



Why is Rocket 88 considered the first rock and roll song? ›

On the trip Kizart's amplifier fell out of the trunk, and Sam Phillips said he stuffed the amp's broken speaker cone with brown wrapping paper in the studio; many historians opine that the distorted buzz in the guitar sound and the song's raw, youthful energy and driving boogie rhythm qualified it as the first example ...

How did Rocket 88 influence rock and roll? ›

Ike Turner's piano intro on "Rocket 88" influenced Little Richard who later used it for his 1958 hit song "Good Golly, Miss Molly." Sam Philips, the founder of Sun Records and Sun Studio, and many writers have suggested that "Rocket 88" has strong claims to be called the first rock'n'roll record.

What was the first rock and roll record ever recorded? ›

The first rock'n'roll record was 'Rocket 88', recorded by Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats at Sam Phillips' Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

What is the meaning of Rocket 88? ›

The song is about a car. The Oldsmobile "Rocket 88" came out in 1949 and was the fastest car on the road at the time. A small car with a big, overhead valve V8 engine, it was one of the first muscle cars and dominated NASCAR races in the '50s.

What did rock N Roll originally mean? ›

From rock (move back and forth) + and + roll; originally a verb phrase common among African Americans, meaning "to have sexual intercourse"; it was a euphemism that appeared in song titles since at least 1914 (Trixie Smith's "My Man Rocks Me With One Steady Roll").

Is Rocket 88 simple verse? ›

A formal diagram breaks a song into sections to show its form; Jackie Brenston's “Rocket ‛88' ” is in simple verse form, and the diagram labels the verses.

Who had the biggest influence on early rock & roll? ›

Two black artists still appear amongst the official inventors of rock, however: the undisputed giants named Little Richard and Chuck Berry, who had both started singing and playing in the very early 1950s.

Who created Rocket 88? ›

The original version of the twelve-bar blues song "Rocket 88", which hit number one on the R&B charts, was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. Brenston was Ike Turner's saxophonist and the Delta Cats were actually Turner's Kings of Rhythm back-up band.

What was a factor that led to the rise of rock n roll? ›

It derived most directly from the rhythm and blues music of the 1940s, which itself developed from earlier blues, the beat-heavy jump blues, boogie woogie, up-tempo jazz, and swing music. It was also influenced by gospel, country and western, and traditional folk music.

Who had the first #1 rock and roll? ›

The most widely held belief is that the first rock'n'roll single was 1951's Rocket 88, written by Ike Turner, sung by Jackie Brenston (the saxophone player from Turner's backing band The Kings of Rhythm), and recorded by Sam Phillips, who later went on to found Sun records and discover Elvis Presley.

Who had the first rock and roll song to hit 1? ›

1 success of “(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets. The single was the first rock 'n' roll track to top Billboard's leading pop singles chart, then known as the Best Sellers in Stores chart, and spent eight weeks atop the list, first hitting No. 1 on the tally dated July 9 of that year.

What was recorded in 1955 the first rock and roll song was considered to be? ›

Everyone knows about “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets, the 1954 classic that is likely regarded by the general public as the first rock and roll record. The inclusion of the song in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle (starring a young Sidney Poitier) is what truly made it a hit.

How much is a Rocket 88? ›

The Oldsmobile Rocket 88 has a current value close to $96,250 at some auctions. It has gained popularity among young muscle car lovers. Vintage lovers are ready to spend any amount of money to get hold of a Rocket 88 of 1949. It has been noted to go up to $100,000 at some auctions.

What does the 88 mean in Oldsmobile? ›

Oldsmobile introduced the 88 badge in 1949. It was named to complement the already-existing 76 and 98, and took the place of the straight-8 engined 78 in the model lineup.

When was Rocket 88 originally released? ›

What is the real meaning of rock? ›

: a concreted mass of stony material. also : broken pieces of such masses. 3. : consolidated or unconsolidated solid mineral matter. also : a particular mass of it.

Who named rock and roll? ›

Alan Freed, a disc jockey in Cleveland, Ohio used the phrase, “The Rock and Roll Session” to describe the amalgamation of rhythm and blues and country music he played during his show. As his radio show gained popularity, so too did the phrase.

Who founded rock and roll? ›

Chuck Berry did in fact invent rock'n'roll. Of course similar musics would have sprung up without him. Elvis was Elvis before he'd ever heard of Chuck Berry. Charles' proto-soul vocals and Brown's everything-is-a-drum were innovations as profound as Berry's.

What is the shortest verse in the book of James? ›

"Jesus wept" (Koinē Greek: ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, romanized: edákrusen ho Iēsoûs, pronounced [ɛˈdakrysɛn (h)o i. eˈsus]) is a phrase famous for being the shortest verse in the King James Version of the Bible, as well as in many other translations.

How does Rocket 88 break with standard blues practices? ›

How does Jackie Brenston's "Rocket '88'" break with standard blues practices? It does not follow a question/question/answer pattern.

What is the original key of Rocket Man? ›

Rocket Man is written in the key of B♭ Major. According to the Theorytab database, it is the 8th most popular key among Major keys and the 13rd most popular among all keys.

Who was Elvis favorite singer? ›

Elvis held Roy Orbison is very high regard, publicly stating that Roy had ' most perfect voice' and referring to him as the 'greatest singer in the world' during one of his Vegas concerts. And Roy's respect was mutual, he went to Elvis' concerts from 1954 to 1976.

Who is the grandfather of rock and roll? ›

Along with the legend of how he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his talent, the musical legacy of Robert Johnson has entranced later generations of rock and blues musicians such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Fans and experts alike call him the "grandfather of rock and roll".

Who was the first rock star? ›

How Franz Liszt Became The World's First Rock Star : NPR. How Franz Liszt Became The World's First Rock Star The classical pianist, who turns 200 today, changed the art of performance forever with his over-the-top concerts, creating a craze that historians have dubbed "Lisztomania."

How fast was the Rocket 88? ›

The Rocket 88 was capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in a bit over 12 seconds and could reach an absolute top speed of 97 mph (156 km/h). Sure, some later competitors were a bit faster all-out and a few could beat the Olds off the line, but the 88 was a record breaker for America in 1949.

Who was the first band? ›

The original Dixieland Jazz Band was the first ever music band which first recorded a song in 1916.

How can you describe rock and roll? ›

Rock 'n' roll is a popular music genre that combines elements of rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, and country music with the addition of electric instruments. Originally associated with youth revolt and transgression, the genre is known for energetic performances, catchy melodies, and often insightful lyrics.

Who was one of the most significant contributors to the development of early rock and roll? ›

Well, in the — if you are looking at the history of rock 'n' roll, it's impossible to overstate the significance of what Chuck Berry accomplished. I mean, more than anybody, this was the guy who really defined and staked out what rock 'n' roll would become.

Why was rock and roll crucial to the civil rights movement? ›

The impact of rock In' roll was first felt by the masses in the 1950s. During this time rock In' roll became a dividing and uniting force. It pitted parents, the mass media, and the government against teenagers, and at the same time helped erode some of the prejudices felt towards African Americans.

What was the first song ever? ›

Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world's earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman's gravesite in Turkey.

What was the first hard rock song? ›

Early forms of hard rock can be heard in the work of Chicago blues musicians Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf, the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie" (1963) which made it a garage rock standard, and the songs of rhythm and blues influenced British Invasion acts, including "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks ( ...

Who was the king of rock? ›

Elvis Presley is, quite simply, the King of Rock & Roll. In 1954, the performer kicked off a musical revolution by modernizing traditional genres such as blues, country and bluegrass for contemporary (and more youthful) audiences.

What was the first song to hit number 1? ›

The first number-one song of the Billboard Hot 100 was "Poor Little Fool" by Ricky Nelson, on August 4, 1958.

Who has the most number one hits in rock and roll? ›

The Beatles, unsurprisingly, lead the way with a record 20 No. 1s, all earned between 1964 and 1970.

Who has written the most number one songs in rock? ›

The most successful songwriters in terms of number one singles are John Lennon (1940-80) and Paul McCartney (b. 18 Jun 1942). McCartney is credited as the writer on 32 number one hits in the US to Lennons 26 (with 23 co-written), whereas Lennon authored 29 UK number ones to McCartney's 28 (25 co-written).

Why is rock and roll important in 1955? ›

​​1955 brings Rock and Roll's first #1 hit - as Bill Haley and His Comets top the Pop Chart with the single "Rock Around The Clock". Teenagers are quick to pick up on the new "rock" sound. Top 40 radio and the Pop Music Charts are still dominated by "parents music" and rock n' roll is considered a novelty for the kids.

What is rock n roll the first popular music in the United States? ›

rock and roll, also called rock 'n' roll or rock & roll, style of popular music that originated in the United States in the mid-1950s and that evolved by the mid-1960s into the more encompassing international style known as rock music, though the latter also continued to be known as rock and roll.

What was the first song to top the rock and roll charts in the 1950's? ›

Rock & Roll's first #1 hit is Bill Haley and His Comets single "Rock Around The Clock".

How much horsepower does a 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 have? ›

For the Rocket 88, Oldsmobile came up with a 303 cubic inch V8 capable of a maximum 135 hp and 283 lb-ft of torque. The overhead valve engine concept offered both power and efficiency, with an improvement in fuel economy (estimated at about 10 percent better than prior engine designs).

Is the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 a muscle car? ›

The Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is often credited with being the original muscle car. The Oldsmobile 88 hit showrooms in 1949, and might have been fairly unremarkable had Oldsmobile's engineers not fitted it with a powerful V8 engine originally destined for its bigger saloon cars.

What is the biggest model rocket ever? ›

The rocket was 36 feet (11 m) tall and weighed 1,648 pounds (748 kg). On Saturday April 25, 2009 Eves launched the 1/10 scale replica of the Saturn V rocket 4,441 feet (1,354 m) into the air, and successfully recovered it.

What is the rarest Oldsmobile? ›

But we also get to look at the incredibly rare Calais Quad 442, a car of which only 200 units were ever made, making it one of the rarest Oldsmobile models ever produced.

What does w31 mean in Oldsmobile? ›

The W-31 actually started out in 1968 and was the Cutlass-based Ram Rod 350. Oldsmobile Division only made 500 of those cars, and all of them were four-speeds. The following year the car was changed to the W-31. W-31s have a lot of rare engine parts on them. The engine balancer is big and as rare as hen's teeth.

What is the difference between a 1955 Oldsmobile 88 and a Super 88? ›

The Oldsmobile 88 remained the entry-level model, with two- and four-door sedans, and a two-door Hollywood hardtop. The Super 88 was the mid-line model, and it added a convertible to the same lineup.

Why is Rocket 88 considered the first rock song? ›

Larry Birnbaum, a respected rock historian, argued that one of the reasons that 'Rocket 88' is considered the first-ever rock and roll song, is that “Kizart's broken amp anticipated the sound of the fuzzbox, which was in its heyday when 'Rocket 88' was rediscovered”.

Why is Rocket 88 important? ›

ROCKET “88” - Lyon. The 1951 classic Rocket “88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats has often been cited as the first rock 'n' roll record. Waxed at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service, it was also the first No. 1 rhythm & blues hit for Chicago-based Chess Records.

What is considered the first rock song? ›

The most widely held belief is that the first rock'n'roll single was 1951's Rocket 88, written by Ike Turner, sung by Jackie Brenston (the saxophone player from Turner's backing band The Kings of Rhythm), and recorded by Sam Phillips, who later went on to found Sun records and discover Elvis Presley.

What was the first rock and roll radio station? ›

“Moondog” Alan Freed in 1951 at Cleveland radio station WJW where he called the new music he played, “rock 'n roll.” The broadcasting business at that time was in the midst of major technological change, as the new medium of television had arrived.

Who invented rock n roll music? ›

Chuck Berry did in fact invent rock'n'roll. Of course similar musics would have sprung up without him. Elvis was Elvis before he'd ever heard of Chuck Berry. Charles' proto-soul vocals and Brown's everything-is-a-drum were innovations as profound as Berry's.

Who was the first rock supergroup? ›

Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner credited British rock band Cream, which came together in 1966, as the first supergroup.

Who is the real father of rock and roll? ›

But there was 'definitely' no one like Chuck Berry." Rolling Stone called him "the father of rock & roll" who "gave the music its sound and its attitude, even as he battled racism - and his own misdeeds - all the way," reporting that Leonard Cohen said, "All of us are footnotes to the words of Chuck Berry."

Why is rock called rock? ›

Rock is derived from the Old English roccain, related to the Old Nordic rykkja meaning, “to pull, tear, move.” The earliest recorded use of the term in literature can be found in the lullaby “Rock-a-bye Baby” from 1805.

What is the oldest song on the radio? ›

On the evening of December 24, 1906, Reginald Fessenden used the alternator-transmitter to send out a short program from Brant Rock. It included a phonograph record of Ombra mai fu (Largo) by George Frideric Handel, followed by Fessenden himself playing the song O Holy Night on the violin.

What is the oldest rock radio station? ›

St. Louis. KSHE 95, “Real Rock Radio,” is the longest-running rock station in the world! Known as one of the first stations to play rock music on the FM band, KSHE has also been credited for launching the careers of countless rock legends.

What is the oldest radio channel? ›

world's first commercial radio station, KDKA, began broadcasting in Pittsburgh in 1920.

What is the origin of rock music? ›

rock and roll, also called rock 'n' roll or rock & roll, style of popular music that originated in the United States in the mid-1950s and that evolved by the mid-1960s into the more encompassing international style known as rock music, though the latter also continued to be known as rock and roll.

Where did rock and roll begin? ›

Through a series of interesting personalities and promotions, rock 'n' roll was invented in Cleveland in the early 1950s. In the late 1940s, LEO MINTZ, the owner of Record Rendezvous, saw the decrease in sales of big band records.

What is the oldest current rock band? ›

The Who - established 1964

They changed their name to The Who in February '64 and have been playing in some shape or form ever since. The band had to reschedule some shows intended to mark their first album in 13 years to Spring 2021, but the ongoing pandemic meant the whole tour was called off.

Who is the best supergroup of all time? ›

The 14 best rock supergroups of all time
  • Killer Be Killed. ...
  • Audioslave. ...
  • OFF! ...
  • Tomahawk. ...
  • Dead Cross. ...
  • Temple Of The Dog. ...
  • Velvet Revolver. ...
  • A Perfect Circle.
Feb 27, 2019

Who played the first rock concert? ›

Described as the “Big Bang of rock 'n' roll”, the concert was organized by DJ Alan Freed (1921–65) and music store owner Leo Mintz (1911–76) and was headlined by saxophonist Paul Williams (1915–2002) and his Hucklebuckers (all USA).


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