Lessons in rock ‘n’ roll history

When I was growing up I thought rock ‘n’ roll started in 1955. That is probably because everybody on the radio and TV at the time told me it did. By the 1970s, the radio stations were being run by people who had been teenagers in the 1950s. Every generation likes to think it broke new ground. Being one of that first wave of rockers and the first British teenagers to be called teenagers must have felt exhilarating. No wonder there was a year zero feel about it. 1955 was the year when rock ‘n’ roll, teenagers, youth culture, street fashion and everything went with it began. Programmes like 25 Years of Rock and an entire cohort of early boomers told us so.

But, as the saying goes, nothing comes from nowhere. The idea that a new form of music would suddenly burst out of the Deep South was never plausible. It had roots in what had gone before and had been gathering steam for some years before it attracted the attention of radio stations.

True to its mission to fill in rock ‘n’ roll’s missing evolutionary links, Trash Can Radio has been running a fascinating series called The Juke in the Back, every Thursday evening. As its presenter, Matt the Cat, explains:

At the end of the Second World War, economics forced the big bands to trim their once great size and thus, the Jump Blues combo was born. Between 1946-1954, rhythm and blues laid the tracks for what was to become Rock n’ Roll. So how come, nearly 60 years later, this vibrant and influential music is still so unknown to so many?

Matt The Cat is going to change that with the radio program, “Juke In The Back.” These were the records that you couldn’t hear on the jukebox in the front of the establishment. To hear all this great 1950s rhythm & blues, you had to go to “Juke In The Back.”

On the Juke in the Back you will hear stuff you have never heard before. Some of the very early tracks are on 78s, as the 45 single didn’t appear until 1949. This is where rock ‘n’ roll really began.

One of the most astonishing artists from that period is Rosetta Tharpe. (See Episode 292) I say astonishing because in the 1940s she was doing a lot of things most of us assume happened a lot later. A woman fronting a band, playing rock n roll on an electric guitar, before Suzi Quatro was born. Rosetta Tharpe’s popularity faded during the 1950s but a revival of interest in the early 1960s led to her visiting Europe, where she told the Daily Mirror:

All this new stuff they call rock ’n’ roll, why, I’ve been playing that for years now.

Most of the footage of her dates from this revival period but take a look at these:


She might not be your typical rock n roll star but it’s rock n roll alright.

How many more forgotten groundbreaking artists are there? There are even entire genres that barely rate a mention, known only to aficionados. 1960s Garage Rock, for example, is another of those missing evolutionary links. Once you hear some of it, you start to understand how rock n roll went from Be Bop A Lula to Paranoid in little more than a decade.

This is where Trash Can Radio comes in. These guys are not just running a radio station, they are providing an educational service. They mine the obscure seams of rock ‘n’ roll’s history to bring you stuff you have never heard before but which was crucial to the development of the stuff you’ve been listening to for years. I know I have banged on about Trash Can Radio before but really, if you find this sort of stuff interesting, or if you just want to hear a different take on rock ‘n’ roll, then give them a listen. If you are in London they are on DAB. Outside London you’ll have to rely on the interweb.

Unless, of course, Trash Can Radio can raise enough funds to get a national licence. At the moment, the guys behind it are running it on a shoestring against competition from much larger and better funded organisations. If you, or anyone you know, would like to advertise with them it would help to give them a boost. If not, just join their army of listeners and buy a t-shirt or two. It’s all in a very good cause.

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3 Responses to Lessons in rock ‘n’ roll history

  1. Dave Timoney says:

    As Luke Haines sang, “Like to thank my mother, for inventing Rock and Roll”.

  2. Jez says:

    Well you are quite right. Just listened to Trash Can Radio for the first time. It is excellent.

  3. SK says:

    Interesting post.. Need to catch up on these radio programmes.
    It always is interesting to discover new music and it always depends on the radio you hear and the friends you have.
    Long time ago when i was into Metal someone recommended the Fuzztones. When I heard them, then I wanted to hear the original songs (Haunted – 1-2-5/ Greenslime) and that was it. 1960s Garage is fantastic.
    So many groups with 1-2 hits but unbelievable songs/talent…
    The Sonics / The Unrelated Segments/ The British North American act..

    So many compilations (Pebbles/ Back from the Grave/ Nuggets/ Psychedelic Unknowns etc etc)..

    Music is always about a journey.

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