Rock & Roll was born on March 3, 1951 when Ike Turner’s band recorded what is widely considered the first Rock & Roll song, with legendary producer Sam Phillips (yes, that Sam Phillips) at the board at Sun Studio (yes, that Sun Studio) in Memphis, Tennessee, making this
NATIONAL “ROCKET 88” DAY!
Written by Jackie Breston and 19 year-old Ike Turner in praise of the Oldsmobile 88 sedan, Rocket 88 was recorded with Breston on vocal, Turner on piano and accompanied by Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm, soon reaching #1 on the Rhythm & Blues Charts.
For reasons that are unclear, the song was originally released by Chess Records under the name “Jackie Breston and his Delta Cats,” a group that didn’t exist, giving no credit to Turner for co-writing the song, or The Kings of Rhythm for rocking it so hard, complete with the first fuzz tone guitar by Willie Kizar. Breston was their tenor sax man and singer. Turner released the single again, this time labeled “by Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm.”
Another interesting thing is that, while Ike Turner gained fame as a guitarist, it is his piano playing that drives the tune, directly influencing seminal rockers Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Johnson, who collectively invented Rock & Roll piano. Their blueprint was Ike’s playing on Rocket 88.
Later that year, a Country & Western band called Bill Haley and The Saddlemen had a regional hit with Rocket 88, starting Haley down the musical road to Bill Haley & The Comets, “Rock Around the Clock” and the brand new musical sensation that turns 71 today. Rock & Roll, that wild child of Country and R&B, is strong as ever and looking damned good. The music is in good hands too, with a new generation of crazy misfits breaking our hearts.
•Suggested Activities: Wishing Rock & Roll a happy 72nd birthday, and Bob Crespo a happy 70th.