MIRST Competitors Release (1 of 13): The World Before Rock And Roll, 1900-1955

Note: All information below is based on my notes from my History of Rock course. The songs found at the bottom will be competing in our “Most Influential Rock Song of all Time” (MIRST) tournament, which will begin here at LivingTheDream.org on Sunday, August 20th.

Bing Crosby

Before the blending into what we’ve come to know today as the start of rock and roll in 1955, music existed in three distinct markets.

  1. Mainstream Pop (generally catered to the average middle class white consumer)
    • Bing Crosby, or “America’s Favorite Uncle”, was the big one here- first singer to use a microphone in recording and use it to allow for intimacy and additional vocal techniques
    • Also prominent in this group: the Big Bands, harmony vocalists, and Frank Sinatra (i.e., the first teen idol.)
  2. Country & Western (generally catered to rural white farm communities)
    • Country refers to the southeast Appalachian region, whereas Western refers to Texas, Oklahoma, and California
    • Early country pioneers included The Carter Family and Roy Acuff

    Hank Williams

    • Western music itself split between “Western Swing,” which employed big bands with the addition of fiddles, and “Cowboy” music.
    • First big Western star was Jimmie Rodgers, projected an image of authenticity in being a real cowboy singing real songs
    • Nashville was THE city that brought together Country and Western into one genre, thanks to The Grand Ole’ Opry. And Hank Williams was the guy to popularize C&W in the late 40s.
    • Bluegrass, i.e. the “bebop jazz of country western,” shunned technology. Only used one microphone. Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and Lester Flatt are the guys here.
  3. Rhythm & Blues (generally catered to urban African-American audiences)

    Robert Johnson

    • Before 1945, R&B was referred to as “race records.” The music business itself didn’t foster racism but did accept it.
    • Early pioneers: W.C. Fields, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson
    • Jump Blues emerges in 1945, big band style within R&B with horns
    • Starting in 1945, independent labels emerge within regional radio markets, which drives commercialization of music (e.g. Chess Records in Chicago, Atlantic Records in New York, etc.)
    • Post World War II, Doo Wop emerges as a capella vocal singing with black males.
    • Hokum Blues- overtly sexual lyrics meant for an adult audience

We’re making the leap to Spotify- check out the songs that will be competing below! Note: please comment below if you have problems with the playlist. I want to get feedback now as opposed to when the tournament starts to make sure I’ve got the kinks worked out for a clean start.

About g-mo

The day I was born, Michael Jackson's Thriller album was at the top of the Billboard 200. I've been trying my best to live up to that expectation ever since.
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