Honors U.S. History Mr. Lucot
The Founders of Rock n’ Roll
The screaming vocals, rattling keyboard style and outrageous showmanship of Little Richard set the standard for the flamboyant excess rock 'n' roll has come to symbolize. Richard Wayne Penniman was born December 5, 1932 one of twelve children.
In 1955, Richard went to the Dew Drop Inn. With few people there and an old upright piano, Richard started playing like crazy, singing loud, lewd and hamming it up. Local lyricist was Dorothy LaBostrie was called to clean up the lyric. They went back to J&M and with only fifteen minutes left in the session. "Tutti Fruiti, good booty" became "Tutti Fruiti, aw-rootie" and the rest is history.
From the time he began with Specialty on September 13, 1955 until he left in October, 1957 Richard would record fifty songs, including alternate takes. From this wealth of material Specialty would release 9 singles and two albums. For eighteen months between early 1956 to the middle of 1957 everything he recorded was a hit and club dates were sellouts. He appeared in several movies including "The Girl Can't Help It' for which he recorded the title track. On October 12, 1957 he began a tour of Australia with Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. In 1957, in the midst of a sold-out tour, Richard quit rock 'n' roll, after a plane scare, to become a preacher in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Specialty wouldn't let him out of his contract without one last session. He entered Oakwood Seminary in Huntsville, Alabama where he began studies to become a Seventh Day Adventist Preacher. In the meantime Specialty had enough material to keep releasing singles and albums for another year. Sensing he was being cheated Richard hired a lawyer to collect back royalties from Specialty Records that he estimated at $25,000.
After three years of little success as a gospel performer Richard went back to Rock and Roll.. October, 1962 he began a tour of England and year later toured Europe with the Rolling Stones as his opening act. During this period Jimi Hendrix was briefly Richard's guitarists.
In 1986 he appeared in the hit movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which included his first hit in sixteen years, "Great Gosh a 'Mighty," and recorded Lifetime Friend for Warner Brothers. In 1993 Little Richard performed at Bill Clinton's presidential inaugural. Little Richard was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
On April 17, 1960 : Eddie Cochran dies at the age of 21.
The tragic end to Eddie Cochran's life in a 1960 car crash resulted in a rush on his record sales, just as it happened over a year earlier when Bubby Holly died. Cochran has come to symbolize the early rebel rocker, not only due to his demise, but his haunting skills as a guitarists and composer. Over the years, Eddie's records have remained popular. In 1987, he was elected to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. In only 21 years, Eddie created a style and an image that has lived on in lore and recordings. He was definitive proof that the power of rock and roll is in the attitude.
After two years in the recording business, Cochran's life hit a turning point beginning in March 1958 when he co-wrote "Summertime Blues." Released in May, the song hit number one of the pop charts and stayed there all summer long. Now considered a rock classic, the song is still often played on radio shows throughout the world. During the summer of '58, Eddie was on the threshold of becoming a superstar as the 1960s began. He already was as influential in Europe as Elvis had been at a similar stage in his career. He was booked for a major European tour with Gene Vincent and Billy Fury. The tour, while in England, were given a tumultuous welcome by fans, including future Beatle George Harrison who attended almost every performance. However, on April 17 Eddie, girlfriend Sharon Sheeley and Gene Vincent headed for the airport in a chauffeured limousine. On the way a tire blew out and the driver lost control. The car rammed into a lamp post and Eddie died within a few hours from multiple head injuries. The driver, Sharon and Gene were also hurt but recovered fully. Shortly after his death, Eddie's last hit topped the charts, "Lonely."
In the US his death attracted little attention, but in Britain it was traumatic, and served to solidify his reputation and influence in British rock. Kids like George Harrison had followed him from town to town, and his influence was felt throughout the 60s. That influence spread back across the water, and Eddie Cochran is now recognized worldwide as one of the most important figures of pre-Beatles music.
With his operatic voice and melodramatic lyrics, Roy Orbison pioneered a brand new style of rock in the early 1960's. He was one of the founding fathers of the rock and roll genre, and his influence is visible among subsequent generations of rockers, including Bruce Springsteen and Chris Isaak. He bounced from one studio to another, finally finding his voice at Monument Records in 1960 with "Only the Lonely". This song firmly defined Roy Orbison's style; melodramatic ballads telling the story of the underdog.
Orbison had 15 more Top 40 hits with Monument, including 1964's "Oh, Pretty Woman" which made it to the top of the charts at the height of the British invasion. After this success, however, his fortunes began to decline. Many felt his new songs were beginning to sound like inferior repetitions of his older recordings, and at the same time, new trends in rock and roll made his style sound somewhat antiquated.
Not only did he have hard times in the music business but in the late 60's his life became even more tragic than his lyrics. First, his wife died in a motorcycle accident, then his house burned down killing two of his sons. He experimented with a career in acting but failed miserably. Orbison did not come back to the music business until the mid 80's when one of his songs was featured on a movie soundtrack. He went on to create several new albums, one of which, Mystery Girl, was especially successful. Unfortunately, Orbison died before it hit the charts in early 1989. Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
During the decade of his most creative songwriting, Roy Orbison contributed greatly to the development of the rock and roll genre, infusing his music with the sound of country music and his vocals with operatic flair. His sound was original and unique and his effects have been lasting and great. Bob Dylan counted Orbison as one of his favorite artists. He wrote in his autobiography: "There wasn't anything else on the radio like him. I'd listen and wait for another song, but next to Roy the playlist was strictly dullsville...
Fats Domino exploded onto the rock-and-roll scene in 1955 when his song, "Ain't That A Shame," was covered by white recording artist Pat Boone. Boone's version went to number one, and Domino's version on Imperial went to number ten. The song established both artists as stars. Fats could be heard in the background on the records of other artists, such as Joe Turner and Lloyd Price. He continued to write songs with Dave Bartholomew, many of which became hits. In 1956 he put five songs in the top forty, including "I'm In Love Again" and Fats' rendition of a song that had reached number one for Glenn Miller in 1940, "Blueberry Hill". The latter went to number two and was Domino's highest charting record ever.
In the Fifties with a rockin' piano Fats Domino came out of New Orleans to become one of rock-and-roll's earliest and best stars. With 65 million record sales to his credit, Fats out sold every Fifties rock and and roll pioneer except Elvis Presley.
Fats Domino was very popular. In 1957 he appeared in a movie that many consider to be the best rock-and-roll film ever made, The Girl Can't Help It, singing his hit "Blue Monday." Another Fats Domino hit, "I'm Walkin'," was covered by Ricky Nelson in 1957 and helped to launch the teenage singing sensation's career. Other top ten songs followed in the late 50's for Domino: "Whole Lotta Loving," " I Want To Walk You Home," and "Be My Guest". The last song had a curious origin -- a teenager had been told by his father to get a job or get out of the house, so he wrote "Be My Guest" and waited in line for a chance to pass it on to Fats Domino. He was able to do so, and heard from Domino's agent some time later; thus was begun the songwriting career of Tommy Boyce.
Fats Domino had his final top ten song in 1960 with Walking To New Orleans.
He also made some more films along the way, including Shake, Rattle and Roll, The Big Beat, and Jamboree. Fats played Las Vegas frequently, and at the Royal Festival Hall in London in the 80's. Fats Domino still lives in New Orleans with his wife Rosemary, with whom he has had eight children. Fats Domino took his place in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1986.
Buddy Holly and the Crickets
One of the two great singer-songwriter guitarists of the'50s (the other being Chuck Berry), Buddy Holly was probably the first rock and roll artist to concern himself with virtually every aspect of his music including arranging and record production. On June 3, 1955 Buddy opened for a young Elvis at Connelly's Pontiac Showroom, in a free show to attract customers. After that gone was the country music, replaced by pure rock and roll.
He signed a contract to record country music on the Decca label in 1956 and recorded "That'll Be the Day" that in rock version would be a hit. At this time Holly began writing. One of the songs "Cindy Lou" which was to be one of his biggest hits. It would later be renamed "Peggy Sue" at the suggestion of band member Jerry Allison.
The Crickets soon signed a contract with Brunswick Records and Buddy signed a solo contract with Brunswick's Coral label. Holly's vocal style, with hiccup-like patterns, extra syllables, abrupt changes of pitch, and what one critic termed a playfully ironic, childlike quality. The Crickets first single, "That'll Be the Day," with "I'm Looking for Someone to Love" on the flip side, was released May 27, 1957. By June, it charted third on the pop charts and second on the rhythm and blues charts. It made Holly virtually an overnight success. His popularity quickly rivaled that of Elvis Presley.
Holly and his band were thought to be black by those who only heard them. In 1957, they traveled with black artists and performed at predominantly black theaters like the Apollo in New York and the Howard in Washington, D.C. The Apollo audience was indifferent at first. But on the third day there, the Crickets started with a "Bo Diddley" song which thrilled the crowd.
The band was soon on television's "American Bandstand," "The Arthur Murray Dance Party," and "The Ed Sullivan Show" and on tour with the biggest rock music acts. Holly's second solo single, "Peggy Sue," with "Everyday" on the flip side, topped out at third on the charts. The Crickets' second single, "Oh Boy!," with "Not Fade Away," sold nearly a million copies. In January 1959, Holly was accompanied on a tour by Allsup, bassist Waylon Jennings, an old Lubbock friend who became a country music star, and drummer Charlie Bunch. Promoters falsely billed them as the Crickets.
After a February 2 show in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly and his band, along with Ritchie Valens, and J. P. (the Big Bopper) Richardson, were to take a tour bus on a 430-mile trip to Moorhead, Minnesota, but Holly chartered a plane to fly him and his band to Fargo, North Dakota, near Moorhead. Jennings and Allsup gave up their seats to Richardson and Valens. The red Beechcraft Bonanza, named "Miss American Pie,"took off from Mason City, ten miles east of Clear Lake, at around 1:50 AM on February 3, 1959. The weather was cold and snowy. The plane crashed just after taking off, eight miles from the Mason City airport. The pilot, Valens, Richardson, and Holly, who was found twenty feet from the point of impact, died. Shortly following Holly's funeral in Lubbock, his pregnant widow, Maria, had a miscarriage. Holly's music was a major influence for such rock music legends as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Linda Ronstadt, Bruce Springsteen, and Elvis Costello. In 1971, Don McLean released a song calling February 3, 1959, "the day the music died." The song was called "American Pie," and it became a number one hit. The following quote is just a sample of its lengthy, poignant lyrics:
A long, long time ago,
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance,
And maybe they’d be happy for a while.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep.
I couldn't take one more step.
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride.
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.
So, bye bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levy
But the levy was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye, singin’:
This'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die.
The movie The Buddy Holly Story was released in 1978. Lubbock later celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Buddy Holly's birth with a concert featuring Bo Diddley and Bobby Vee. A 1990 auction of Holly memorabilia in New York raised over $703,000. Gary Busey, who played Buddy in The Buddy Holly Story, bought his guitar for $242,000. The Hard Rock Cafe bought Holly's trademark eyeglasses for $45,100.
With his trademark white buck shoes, perfectly combed hair and gleaming smile, Boone was the very essence of wholesome American values, and at a time when the rise of rock & roll was viewed as a sign of the apocalypse, he made the music appear safe and non-threatening, earning some 38 Top 40 hits in the process. It's fitting that his achievements rank closest to those of Presley; after all, both claimed the sound of the black R&B culture for their own, in the process straddling both sides of the color line and popularizing a form of music which otherwise might never have gained widespread acceptance. Of course, while Elvis -- with his flashy suits, swiveling hips and suggestive leer -- remained persona non grata throughout many corners of mainstream America, Boone was embraced by teens and parents alike; his music polished rock's rough edges away, making covers of songs like "Tutti Frutti" and "Ain't That a Shame" palatable to white audiences. As 1955 drew to a close, he notched his first number one hit, a sedate rendition of Fats Domino's aforementioned "Ain't That a Shame"; in the years to come he would record numerous cover versions of songs first credited to black performers, among them Little Richard, the El Dorados, the Flamingos and Ivory Joe Hunter -- indeed, to the chagrin of purists, for many listeners Boone's records remain better-known than the original performances.
Between 1956 and 1963, Boone made some 54 chart appearances, many of them with two-sided hits; his biggest smashes included the number one records "Don't Forbid Me," "Love Letters in the Sand" and "April Love," all three issued in 1957. That year he also began hosting his own ABC television series, The Pat Boone-Chevy Showroom; he also conquered film, starring in 15 features including 1957's Bernadine and April Love. Although his TV program ceased production in 1960, Boone remained a major star as the new decade dawned, and in 1961 again topped the charts with "Moody River." He even became an author, writing a series of self-help books for adolescents including Twixt Twelve and Twenty, Between You, Me and the Gatepost and The Care and Feeding of Parents. Although the rise of Beatlemania put the brakes on Boone's run as a teen idol -- after 1962, he failed to again crack the Top 40 -- he continued recording for Dot through the late 1960s, and in his live performances regularly appeared with his wife and their four daughters, further reinforcing his family-friendly image.
He is not enshrined in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Elvis Presley is the undisputed King of Rock and Roll. He rose from humble circumstances to launch the rock and roll revolution with his commanding voice and charismatic stage presence. In the words of the historical marker that stands outside the house where he was born: "Presley's career as a singer and entertainer redefined popular music." Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935, and grew up surrounded by gospel music of the Pentecostal church. In 1948 the family moved to Memphis, where he was exposed to blues and jazz on Beale Street. In July 1954 the trio worked up "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" - blues and country songs, respectively - in a crackling, uptempo style that stands as the blueprint for rock and roll. After five groundbreaking singles, Presley's contract was sold to RCA Records and his career quickly took off. Presley's hip-shaking performances on a series of TV variety shows, including Ed Sullivan's, generated hysteria and controversy. From blistering rockers to aching balladry, Presley captivated and liberated the teenage audience. His historic string of hits in 1956 and ‘57 included "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," "All Shook Up" and "Jailhouse Rock."
Presley's career momentum was interrupted by a two-year Army stint in Germany, where he met his future wife, Priscilla. For much of the Sixties, he occupied himself with movie-making and soundtrack-recording. His albums of sacred songs, such as How Great Thou Art, stand out from this otherwise fallow period. Presley's standing as a rock and roller was rekindled with an electrifying TV special, simply titled Elvis and broadcast on December 3, 1968. He followed this mid-career renaissance with some of the most mature and satisfying work of his career. Recording in Memphis, he cut such classic tracks as "In the Ghetto, "Suspicious Minds" and "Kentucky Rain" with the soulful, down-home musicians at American Studio. If the Fifties were devoted to rock and roll and the Sixties to movies, the Seventies represent the performing chapter in Presley's career. He toured constantly, performing to capacity crowds around the country until his death. Presley died of a heart attack at Graceland, his Memphis mansion, on August 16, 1977. He was 42 years old. How big was Elvis?
Statistically, he holds records for the most Top Forty hits (107), the most Top Ten hits (38), the most consecutive #1 hits (10) and the most weeks at #1 (80). As far as his stature as a cultural icon, which continues to grow even in death, writer Lester Bangs said it best: "I can guarantee you one thing - we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis."