|Blackboard Jungle 1955|
So now for the first time with a R&R song at #1 on the popular music charts, 1955 was a big year for the genre and by then the push for the ‘white’ audience was full steam ahead. This is a topic I want to tackle looking more so from the 'business' aspect of R&R and a reality of the history of the music. At the forefront of that were the record executives but as an artist it was Pat Boone. From what I’ve read, I don’t believe he himself planned to sing covers of popular R&B songs as he, like Elvis was originally a ballad singer. Fact of the matter was they all sounded like ballads anyway, sorry Pat you have a lovely voice but not so much R&R. It took the general public a bit of time to fully catch on.
But before this in April of 1955 there was the release of "Ain't it a Shame".Written by Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino. I don’t think Fats ever used the word "it" from the title, anytime he sang it was always “Ain't That a Shame”. Subsequent covers of which there are over 40 mostly use “That” rather than ‘it’ in the title. I also read it originally had been a misprint on the record label, also that Pat Boone was involved in changing it for his version. Having said that many a song is similarly 'labeled' and the title words are not actually in the song itself. Here is the cover of "Ain't That a Shame" by Pat Boone with Orchestra and Chorus, released in May 1955 just as “(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” was climbing the charts.
While most Billboard and Cashbox Pop charts represented the biggest selling and hence most 'popular' songs, by 1955 the R&B charts were already full of what we now view as true Rock and Roll classic songs. A good example is Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" which was released in October of 1955 just as the things were really heating up, consequently it does not appear in the top ten charts. His dynamic style would put him at the top of the R&B charts many times in 1956.
In summing up this series on the beginnings of R&R, we know it is strongly rooted in R&B. I mentioned that racism did play a part. The thing about music and in my estimation R&R in particular is about as multiracial as you can get, people from many different backgrounds have all contributed and continue to do so. The unfortunate reality is, it was for a long time easier for some 'whites' than it was for most people of colour to make a decent living playing music and again not just R&R. With so much historical evidence both empirical and anecdotal available and studying today's industry it seems unfairness still appears to be a systemic issue in the music business.
Let's just say that..."Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay" by Danny and The Juniors, released in January of 1958 covered 12 times.
A big thank-you to Barry Kowal, the man behind 'The Hits of All Decades' website.