Friday, March 17, 2006:

Guest Post: RootsCanal

After my last post, rosswords wrote me about Lalo Guerrero's original version of "Marijuana Boogie"; in the conversation that followed, his knowledge of and passion about roots music quickly became apparent. I thought some guest posts would be a fine idea, and I was quite excited when he agreed to give it a go.

Please make him welcome.

Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats -- Rocket 88
Thanks for asking me to guest blog, Tuwa. My posts will be about the roots of rock’n’roll. But to start out, I thought I would tell you about the roots of my own obsession with this music.

I’ve been a fan of roots music for a long time. I grew up on rock, but eventually started to prefer the original kinds of music that it’s based on. You know, blues and jazz and folk and country and bluegrass and New Orleans music and so on. But I never really understood the true history of rock’n’roll until I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of years ago. Not because of what I saw at the Museum — but because of what I didn’t see.

In three different places at the museum, it said the very first rock’n’roll song was Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston in 1951. I was amazed. I’d never even heard of that song. Or even the artist.

That was just my first surprise. To hear the song, I went back to the beginning of the museum where you could listen to 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. It wasn’t even listed there! That didn’t make sense to me. If it was the first rock song, why wasn’t it one of the 500 songs that shaped rock’n’roll?

Next, I went upstairs to the museum’s terrific record store. I scoured the entire collection — even reading all the labels on the oldies compilations — and couldn’t find the song on a single one!

That really got me going. When I got home, I went online. That started my journey into the secret history of rock’n’roll. It’s not really secret, of course. But it might as well be, because of all the mythology that’s grown up around it.

So for my first song, I thought I’d let you hear the song that Sam Phillips claimed was the first rock’n’roll song. It’s not, of course. Sam Phillips liked to tell people it was because it was the first rock song he ever recorded, before he founded Sun Records and discovered Elvis and all that. When he recorded Rocket 88, people had already been playing and singing and dancing to rock’n’roll for about three years. But it’s a great song, anyway. Here it is.

So what was really the first rock’n’roll song? Wait ‘til next post. (Or if you can’t wait, visit Morgan Wright’s great Hoy Hoy website which opened my ears to a whole world of fabulous music that hardly anyone knows about.)

By the way, Allmusic repeats the same false story about Rocket 88. They got something else wrong, too, along with Phillips himself: It’s not really a Jackie Brenston song. Brenston was a sax player and singer with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. Yes, that Ike Turner. When Phillips sent the record up to Chess Records in Chicago, he told them it was by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats instead of Turner. The rest is history.

Posted by rosswords (dan at rosswords dot com).
[The R&B Years 1951]
The sax and the piano just rock the house on this.

I keep thinking I've heard the song before, but I couldn't say where. Great track, though.

Good call!

This is a great song alright!

from what I've heard of those early Ike Turner band recordings, they're worth delving into.

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