Rocket "88" - Jackie Brenston

The first-ever Rock and Roll song?

There is no agreement about what was or what can be regarded as the first-ever rock and roll song. Here are two highly valued candidates with the same title, original and cover version:

1. Rocket “88”, 3 March 1951, by Jackie Brenston


2. Rocket 88, 14 June 1951, by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen

1. Rocket “88”, 3 March 1951, by American R&B singer and saxophonist Jackie Brenston — song credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, that is Kings of Rhythm, the Ike Turner’s band (Clarksdale, Mississippi).

None of the experts agrees, each one has his own opinion about what would be the first Rock and Roll recording although the most of them state that Rocket “88” has certain elements — as the distortion and prominence of the guitar — that would really define the style later on.

Rocket 88 - Jackie Brenston  - Chess RecordBut let’s go see what Ike Turner itself said “I don’t think Rocket “88” is Rock & Roll. I think that Rocket “88” is Rhythm & Blues, but I think “Rocket 88” is the cause of rock and roll existing. Sam Phillips (entrepreneur, producer and DJ who played a very important role in the emergence of rock and roll, founder of Sun Studios and Sun Records) got Dewey Phillips (DJ, one of the pioneers DJs playing rock and roll) to play Rocket “88” on his program (Red, Hot & Blue) – and this is like the first black record to be played on a white radio station – and, man, all the white kids broke out to the record shops to buy it. So that’s when Sam Phillips got the idea, “Well, man, if I get me a white boy to sound like a black boy, then I got me a gold mine“, which is the truth. So, that’s when he got Elvis and he got Jerry Lee Lewis and a bunch of other guys and so they named it rock and roll rather than rhythm & blues and so this is the reason I think rock and roll exists – not that Rocket “88” was the first one, but that was what caused the first one.”

Rocket “88” was influenced by:  Cadillac Boogie, 1947, by Jimmy Liggins, and Rocket 88 Boogie, Parts 1 and 2, 1949, by Pete Johnson.

2. Rocket 88, 14 June 1951, by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen (until 1952, from then Bill Haley & His Comets).

Only three months after the original version, Bill Haley would record his cover version of Rocket 88. Some people think that Rocket 88 version of Bill Haley is the first rock and roll recording if we think rock and roll as the melding of rhythm and blues and country music. So the original Rocket “88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats would be just a prototype of rock and roll, that simple, or not?

It also said that after Rocket 88Bill Haley changed to a new sound, a new sound that would be called Rock and Roll.

Rocket 88 Haley’s version was very successful in the northeast US what later served to him for reaching high effect and impact on music when he recorded Crazy Man, Crazy in 1953 and later Rock Around the Clock in 1954. So that Bill Haley has been regarded many times as the “Father of Rock & Roll”.

Which one would you choose? Or which one do you think it’d be a better example?

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