Submitted by Emily Molina – SHMA Liaison to the Friends of the Steilacoom Library.
Rock ‘N’ Roll historian, and former Bay area broadcaster John Jensen opened his presentation at the Steilacoom Historical Museum by playing a little game with audience members, “to make sure we have the right crowd here today,” he said. Let’s see how many of the photos YOU can name. Ready, GO!
Rock ‘N’ Roll music created a profound shift in our culture, according to Jensen. It came at a time when the nation was awakening to a more working-class ideology, and moving away from previous elitist attitudes. Sentiments began to change from adult-oriented to having a greater focus on Americas youth. Music began to take on a rustic, backwoods feel.
Jensen shared how it unfolded from a conflux of earlier musical genres. A kaleidoscope of rhythm, blues, country, gospel, jazz, and all that had come before it. Influenced by what was happening around it. Altering social norms, and the invention of new technologies, like radio and television broadcasting had a huge impact. The pre-broadcasting years of Tin Pan Alley, an area in New York City where some of the earliest sheet music publishing companies, and songwriters, had ebbed.
And then, he hit us with the audio clip:
“One, Two, Three o’clock, Four o’clock, ROCK! Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock, ROCK! Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, ROCK! We’re gonna ROCK around the clock tonight…”
A little “B” side song by Bill Hailey and the Comets (“A” side was normally the “hit” song on a record) that spent seven weeks at number one here in 1955. Jensen interjects, “It was on the soundtrack of 14 different movies, and to date, has sold more than 25 million copies!”
He went on to give us a listen to rare clips of even earlier versions of the song, all interconnected and sounding very similar. Artists like Jimmy Preston, with his, ‘Rock This Joint’, in 1949, and even as early as 1929, with Arthur Blake’s, ‘Diddy Wah Diddy.’ However, it was Bill Hailey that made it a hit.
With only six record companies, it was no easy feat to get on one of the major labels. Rock music wasn’t being played on mainstream radio quite yet, and neither were black artists. In fact, many of the early black artists songs were only played on the radio after white artists did covers of them.
It wasn’t until another disc jockey, pioneer Alan Freed, bridged the gap. First in Cleveland, Ohio, and later New York, by playing black musicians, and promoting rock music, and live shows on the radio.
Thank you, Mr. Jensen. Your years in radio broadcasting and expertise as a musical historian took us on a winding melodic journey, tracing the roots of legends, and this legendary musical genre.
More information about talks offered by John Jensen can be found at: www.johnjensentalks.com/
Please join us at the museum on February 14, 3 p.m. for our next Explorations Speaker Series event: Life at Ft. Nisqually, with Lane Sample
Steilacoom Historical Museum 1801 Rainier Street
Friends of the Steilacoom Library sponsor these FREE events in partnership with the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association.Print This Post