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Contents

Introduction

Chapter One: That’s All Right

An examination of rock myths reveals that Elvis Presley wasn’t the first white artist to perform rock ’n’ roll, much less the first to embrace African-American music.

Chapter Two: The Train Kept A-Rollin’

The Yardbirds’ classic sixties rocker is traced back to a 1925 recording with roots in the 1890s, then tracked forward to the present day.

Chapter Three: One o’ Them Things!

The blues wasn’t necessarily born in the Mississippi Delta, and it didn’t really give birth to rock ’n’ roll. As recent research shows, the blues owes as much to Europe as to Africa and as much to vaudeville as to the folk tradition.

Chapter Four: The Rocks

The propulsive bass lines of boogie-woogie, coupled with the risqué lyrics of hokum songs, anticipated the rollicking sound of rock. At the height of the swing era, a boogie craze swept the country, bringing “eight-to-the-bar” rhythms into the popular mainstream.

Chapter Five: The Jumpin’ Jive

In the late 1930s, a bluesy brand of swing called jump came to the forefront of the jazz scene. Along with jive lyrics and harmony singing, jump music helped pave the way for rhythm-and-blues and rock ’n’ roll.

Chapter Six: Get With It

Country music has had an African-American tinge since the days of the minstrel show. Absorbing ragtime, blues, jazz, and R&B in turn, southern white musicians created western swing and the hillbilly boogie, which evolved into rockabilly.

Chapter Seven: Good Rockin’ Tonight

With the postwar breakup of the big bands, rhythm-and-blues combos arose, playing hot dance music for black audiences nearly a decade before the genre, together with the vocal harmony style later called doo-wop, was marketed to white teenagers under the rubric of rock ’n’ roll.

Chapter Eight: Rock Love

White pop artists began covering rhythm-and-blues songs several years before the rock ’n’ roll explosion. At the same time, calypso music and the mambo made their influence felt on both pop music and R&B.

Epilogue

After a brief golden age, rock lost its roll, becoming institutionalized as the soundtrack of white middle-class adolescent rebellion.

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