Big Joe Turner – Roll ‘Em Pete

2nd January 2022 · - - -1938, - - 1930s, Music, Rock'n'Roll

Here’s my final contender for the earliest rock’n’roll song. And I think it’s the winner.

It was recorded by Big Joe Turner in 1938 when Elvis, the future king of rock’n’roll, was only three years old. Turner might not be the biggest name in rock’n’roll history, but he’s arguably the biggest influence.

The legendary Doc Pomus backed this up by asserting that “Rock and roll would never have happened without him. And when Big Joe died, in 1985, the NME acclaimed him as “The grandfather of rock’n’roll.”

Big Joe Turner came from Kansas City, was the biggest blues shouter of the postwar era and it was said his roar could rattle the foundations of any gin joint he sang in – even without a microphone.

His 13-year partnership with pianist Pete Johnson during the 1930s and 1940s made him a national star, though his biggest success came later, in the 1950s.

That’s Johnson playing the breakneck boogie-woogie piano on this song, recorded live at Carnegie Hall on 30 December 1938.

It’s a sound that would soon transfer to the records of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and become synonymous with the music that, by the time he had his biggest hit 16 years later with Shout, Rattle And Roll, came to be called rock’n’roll.