I’m sure everyone has heard Hound Dog by Elvis. I’m equally sure most have never heard the original, recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton four years earlier in 1952.
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Released in 1951, this is the tune that a considerable consensus of people – mostly old white people – believe to be the first rock’n’roll song. (more…)

I have to confess that while I know plenty of music by John Lee Hooker, I didn’t even know the name of his equally talented cousin. (more…)

Here’s another of the songs that shaped rock’n’roll, by one of the most flamboyant characters – and greatest guitarists – of that postwar era. (more…)

Here’s a hard-rocking instrumental by a guitarist who must surely have been a major influence on Chuck Berry.
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Any appreciation of the roots of rock’n’roll has to include jump blues pianist and singer Floyd Dixon – the self-appointed “Mr Magnificent.” (more…)

Here’s another one of those proto-rock’n’roll tunes from another of those under-appreciated musicians of colour, this time from 1950 by Piney Brown. (more…)

This is another branch in the roots of rock’n’roll, and Johnny Otis was a key figure in many ways, but he may not actually play on this tune. (more…)

There weren’t many women involved in the birth of rock’n’roll. And there were even fewer Native American artists. Kay Starr was both.

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The more I delve into the increasingly wild R&B music being made in the five or six years after World War II, the stranger it seems that most people think rock’n’roll began with Elvis and Bill Haley in the mid-1950s. (more…)