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The Golden  Decade 1954 -1963

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This web page attempts to explore the roots of rock in such a way as to illuminate the natural progression of musical styles. Too often the study of rock begins with Bill Haley and His Comets and includes scant information about the blues and rhythm records that he, and others, used as a model. A musical genre does not simply appear, it gradually evolves to a point in time when some event-performance, publication, or  recording allows listeners to perceive its unique qualities and apply a label. Wynonie Harris' 1947 recording of "Good Rocking Tonight" was one of many "rhythm records" made during the late 1940s, however when it was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1954 it seemed like a new and different approach. What made it seem new and different was its context. Without exploring the history of black popular music, country and western music, race relations, technical developments, and the music business one can be led easily to the conclusion that rock and roll was some new and different music which appeared suddenly.

This page begins with the African musical traits brought here beginning in 1619 and attempts to trace their fusion with the European music brought here by the colonists. The story of this musical interaction is also the story of American popular music and includes the plantation songs of Stephen Foster, the ragtime of Scott Joplin, the blues of Bessie Smith, the jazz of Count Basie, and the jump bands of Louis Jordan. The knowledge of the stream of American popular music allows one to understand that rock and roll was a natural result of the combined forces that affected the music.

The House Of the Rising Sun
There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I'm one

My mother was a tailor
She sewed my new bluejeans
My father was a gambling man
Down in New Orleans

Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and trunk
And the only time he's satisfied
Is when he's on a drunk

Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun

Well, I got one foot on the platform
The other foot on the train
I'm goin' back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chain

Well, there is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I'm one

David Townsend's - Changing the World: Rock and Roll Culture and Ideology