How the original 1950s Rock styles remained strong through each decade!
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Today the story of how '50s Rock thrived more than ever in 2000s music and film!!
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'50s Rock disciples: '00-'09
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▶ Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!
▶ 1950s Rock, A: The '60s Disciples
▶ 1950s Rock, B: The '70s Disciples
▶ 1950s Rock, C: The '80s disciples
▶ 1950s Rock, D: The '90s disciples
▶ 1950s Rock, E: The 2010s disciples
Rockabilly solidified into a thriving indie movement in the dawn of the 21st Century.
b) Country Boogie
c) Bop Cats
g) Trash Blues
The original Rock styles of the '50s -Rockabilly, electric Blues, Honky Tonk, Mambo, Cajun, and Doo Wop- became classic forms throughlining the decades that followed; the '60s reflections, the '70s revivals, the '80s redux, and the '90s radicalization. In the 2000's, the forms united a worldwide underground community based on roots reclamation.
While the mainstream became ever more glossy, crass, aimless, and culturally clueless, the underground was revitalizing the future by building on the past.
In the 1950s, music distribution was freeform: there were only a few majors labels and countless small ones, hustling 45's on local radio, in jukeboxes, and out of car trunks. This came full circle by the 2000s: after the corporate record industry monopoly was eroded by the internet through direct downloads and pirating, music acts resorted to Do It Yourself tactics like indie labels, website downloads, social media, festival tours, and selling CDs and merch at concerts.
The original Rock'n'Roll sounds had become underground again, not played in the mainstream, but thriving better below that shallow radar in a vital international scene. By this period, music revivals like Rockabilly, Surf, Garage, and Psychedelic could no longer be dismissed as retro anamolies by media flitwits, instead gaining acceptance as timeless and viable traditional forms. '50s styles were part of the musical palette one could choose, abuse, suffuse, and pay dues.
Kindling this eternal flame were a host of indie labels like Norton, Nervous, and Bear Family (Germany). Trashabilly acts spun donuts through Yep Roc, Voodoo Rhythm, El Toro, Bloodshot, Swami, Tail (Sweden), and Crazy Love (Denmark). Roots acts, particularly in the wake of the huge success of the "O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?" Americana soundtrack, hickory-smoked in hollars like Blind Pig, Rounder, Hightone, and Crosscut (UK).
Roots festivals, like the annual genre-bending Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, became a detox to audiences tired of mainstream schlock-pop, and Rockabilly festival circuits continued to host bands globally.
Country Swing, Boogie, and Honky Tonk were mentors of early Rock'n'Roll.
Continuing the line dance from pioneers like Bob Wills were new steppers like Big Sandy, Bop Shack Stompers, Slim Slip And The Sliders, Carl And The Rhythm All Stars (France), and Lil' Linn And The Lookout Boys (Sweden).
Go, cat, go!
Rockin' the bop till they scorched their socks were Kim Lenz And Her Jaguars, Ronnie Nightingale And The Haydocks, Bill Fadden And The Silvertone Flyers, The Thunderbirds, Wild Wax Combo, The Head Cat (Lemmy, Slim Jim Phantom, and Danny B. Harvey), Dan Sultan, and Kitty, Daisy, And Lewis.
All around the the world, Rock'n'Roll was here to stay with Nine Below Zero (UK), The Slapbacks (Austria), and Stressor (Russia).
Making that jive jump and wail were Mitch Woods And His Rocket 88's, John "juke" Logan, Blue Harlem, and Billy Bros. Jumpin' Orchestra (Italy).
Johnny Burnette And The Rock N Roll Trio were a firebomb in early Rock that still charred music in the present. Dorsey and Johnny Burnette's frenzied gallop, lashed by Paul Burlison's hard-clanging guitar, propelled such classics as "Train Kept A Rollin'", "Honey Hush", "Lonesome Train", and "Rock Billy Boogie".
Their bracing rhythmic clang sound still rampages rampant in the new century in songs by Barbara Burnette (who adopted the name with the sound), Eddy And The Backfires, Haunted George, Rhythm Bound!, Carl And The Rhythm All Stars, Jack Rabbit Slim, and The Starkweather Boys. It rebounds in sounds equater-round with Mars Attacks (Austria/Swiss), Screaming Kids (France), Eva Eastwood (Sweden), Los Raw Meat (Spain), and Nicotyna (Mexico).
That train will keep a'rollin' even more in the next decade.
Hyper and hoarse, jerk-eyed and jittery, here come the psychos with Speed Crazy, The Peacocks, Restless, Psycho Charger, Os Catalepticos (Brazil), Aikka Hakala (Finland), The Young Werewolves, Asmodeus (Netherlands), and Tokyo Cramps (naturally a Japanese Cramps homage).
The tributaries of women in Psychobilly through the '90s finally flooded free with Kathy X, Horrorpops, Arsen Roulette, Thee Merry Widows, Mad Marge And The Stonecutters, Bridget Handley, Creepshow, Eve Hell And The Razors (Canada), Rocket To Memphis (Australia), Kamikaze Queens (Germany), As Diabatz (Brazil), Gito Gito Hustler (Japan), and Hellsonics (Belgium).
Trashabilly and corroded blues rattled rusty shacks with lightning, as heard in varied acts like Black Eyed Snakes, Mr. Airplane Man, James "Blood" Ulmer, The Black Keys, Pearline, Heavy Trash (with Jon Spencer), Tom Waits, The Detroit Cobras, Black Diamond Heavies, T-Model Ford, The Juke Joint Pimps, Ty Segall, Chris Duarte, Blue Mountain, Grinderman (with Nick Cave), and The Stone Foxes.
Noize nomads scraped nerves worldwide, like Lyle Sheraton, Reverend Beat-Man, Knucklebone Oscar, Battle Of Ninjamanz (Japan), Haunted George, and The Wildebeests.
Howling and hiccuping after midnight were The Hillbilly Moon Explosion, The Raveonettes, and The Phantom Chords (alias The Damned).
Somewhere wandering bleary and aimless under a "Harlem Nocturne" looking for Link Wray's "Rumble" were moodscape misfits like Speedball Baby, Devil Doll, Miss Derringer, Rocket To Memphis, and Jace Everett.
Tura Satana made her claim to infamy strutting as the lead menace Varla -all leather, bangs, judo, and sneer- in the Russ Meyer sexploitation classic, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965). By the 2000s, the confluence of the pin-up and burlesque revivals along with Rockabilly and hot rod culture crystallized in the 'Varla' fashion, a tattooed devil doll of retro style and punk spirit. There was even a VARLA magazine which continues now as a webzine. In sum, Rockabilly women had assimilated all changes and become iconic.
Women have been a part of every permutation of Rock since the beginning, fighting a ridiculously long battle from marginalization to peer status. But the ranks of women in the retro scene had reached such critical mass exponentially by the new millennium that they were undeniable.
Boppin' the billies and fillies were Josie Kreuzer, Jean Vincent (hmmm), Little Rachel, Dawn Shipley And The Sharp Shooters, Miss Mary Ann And The Ragtime, The Honeybees, Lisa George, The Informants, and Candye Kane.
Whirling the boys and girls 'round the world were Toini And The Tomcats (Dutch), Eva Eastwood (Finland), Sue Moreno (Dutch), Lil' Esther And Her Tinstars (Dutch), Maibell And The Misfires (Finland), Sweet Jeena And Her Sweethearts (Finland), and Cherry Tess And Her Rhythm Sparks (Sweden).
Riding the lone prairie were country rustlers like Cari Lee And The Saddle-Ites and Ruby Dee And The Snake Handlers.
Swaying some jazzy Swing into that thing were Roxanne Potvin (Canada) and Blue Harlem (UK).
Greasefiring the Garage were The Detroit Cobras, The Del-Gators, Tina And The Total Babes, The Malamondos, and Thee Tumbitas (Spain).
Bringing the Noize were abrasive firebrands like The Short Fuses, Devil Doll, Baby Horror (Spain), Danger*Cakes, and The Husbands.
Anyone who tries to discount brown faces from Rock'n'Roll is an assclown. Here from jump, here for the long!
Creativity is all about inclusion over exclusion.
Traditions can become a stasis, but living culture is fluid. Where tradition draws a line, creative culture is instead borderless. Boundaries -like nations, classes, money, and separate races>- are delusions, generic and false impositions that define no one and separate everyone.
In truth, there is only commonality between individual personalities through emotion and experience. Live, feel, share. Every new idea is a relay baton that anyone can run with, arrive somewhere unexpected, and hand off. In fact, creativity is literally why we exist, since the abstract thinking used by the San tribe to explore out of Africa seeded the planet with our total family, the Human Race (singular).>>
The human soul and mind can't be curtailed anymore than currents or winds.
This is our party and everyone is invited. Rockin' it right were favored guests, heard on the music player, like Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, James "Blood" Ulmer, T-Model Ford, Deborah Coleman, Chris Thomas King, Nathaniel Mayer, Lady Bianca, The Black Stripe (PJ Higgins, styling herself as the 'sister of The White Stripes, daughter of Elvis'), George Clinton, Lady Bianca, Dig Wayne And The Chisellers (Dig Wayne fronted Buzz And The Flyers and JoBoxers in the '80s), Noisettes, King Salami, and the unstoppable Barrence Whitfield.
And keeping it likewise tight were Pep Torres, Gatos Locos, Los Mentas, Star Mountain Dreamers, Truly Lover Trio, Raul Malo, Nu Niles (Spain), and Brioles (Spain).
Original Rockers from the first wave like Link Wray, Ronnie Dawson, Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin, Speedo And The Cadillacs, Sleepy LaBeef, Billy Lee Riley, Dion, and Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins brought roots Rock'n'Roll into the 21st Century. Wanda Jackson was also honored with a tribute album featuring acolytes like Rosie Flores and Asylum Street Spankers.
Disciples like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Electric Light Orchestra (with guests George Harrison and Ringo Starr), The Who, Moe Tucker, Tom Waits, Ry Cooder, and John Fogerty kept the roots party rolling.
Revivalists like Hank C. Burnette (Sweden), Joe Strummer, The Blasters, Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker, Los Lobos, The Pretenders, and James Intveld conducted new currents.
But what's a retrobilly to do when every '50s classic has been covered so much? Well, do '50s-style covers of post-'50s classics by The Beatles, The Doors, The Monkees, Steppenwolf, CCR, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Nick Lowe, Generation X, The Blasters, The Undertones, Devo, X, Golden Earring, and Stray Cats, of course. And so many covered The Clash that it filled a tribute album.
Or you could write new songs about Elvis Presley (like Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Joan Baez, The Who, Black Stripe, Patti Scialfa), Gene Vincent (Jean Vincent), Johnny Cash (Gary Allan), Carl Perkins (Drive-By Truckers), Chuck Berry (Mikabomb), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Noisettes, Sam Phillips), and Bo Diddley (Seasick Steve).
Then again, you could be actual Rock royalty carrying on the lineage like Billy Burnette, Lisa Marie Presley, John Lee Hooker Jr., and Shemekia Copeland.
Rock'n'Roll distilled from a gumbo of roots musics, and those traditions still sustained.
Blues boiled with Deborah Coleman, Fernest Arceneaux, Marcia Ball, Sue Foley, Lucinda Williams, Debbie Davies, Carolyn Wonderland, and Janiva Magness.
Country kicked with Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash (no relation), Gillian Welch, Junior Brown, The Bellefuries, Lynette Morgan And The Backwater Valley Boys, The Lucky Stars, Lonesome Spurs, k.d. lang, The Stumbleweeds, Caroline Casey And Her Stringslingers, and The Figs, and boogied with Rockin' Bonnie And The Rot Gut Shots (Italy).
And upgraded the hoedown with the Cajun of Pine Leaf Boys and the Tejano of Flaco Jimenez.
Keeping the spirit of the era alive as a pliable living tradition were James Hunter, Lester Peabody, T-Bone Burnette, Tokyo Tramps (Japan), and the evergreen Chris Isaak.
Rock'n'Roll is typecast as an invention of the United States. This is shortsighted, because it comes from roots musics imported in by all of its immigrants; musicoligists have tracked its origins back through Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Africa...plus. All nations helped birth Rock, and all of them echoed it back as soon as it took off in the '50s.
Rock'n'Roll is intrinsically rooted internationally, and it's natural, not a strange fluke, that it is reflected so strongly by acts like Gatos Locos (Spain), Baby Horror (Spain), Les Sexereenos (Canada), Os Catalepticos (Brazil), Aikka Hakala (Finland), and Sugar Lady (Taiwan). (As well as many other acts already listed.)
As decades passed, filmmakers often rolled through ruminations on their childhood. Where reflections of the '50s dominated films of the '70s, by now the screen were transmuting the '60s (THE INCREDIBLES, OCEANS 11, DREAMGIRLS, HAIRSPRAY, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, TAKING WOODSTOCK, PIRATE RADIO); and the '70s (KILL BILL, ZODIAC, MILK, FROST/NIXON, BLACK DYNAMITE); and some of the '80s (GRINDHOUSE, WATCHMEN, George W. Bush).
The '50s figured as a backdrop, contrasting conformity with the unconventional, in films like A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001) and BIG FISH (2003). THE INVASION (2007) attempted to satirize contemporary conformity in the Bush-era in the fourth and weakest screen-telling based on Jack Finney's book, "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" (1955).
But the 1950s maintained its strongest presence for our purposes in musical dramas. From the TV-movie LITTLE RICHARD (2000) and Ray Charles bio-pic RAY (2004), to the Bobby Darin bio-pic BEYOND THE SEA (2004) and the Johnny Cash bio-pic WALK THE LINE (2005), to NOWHERE BOY (2009), where the young John Lennon and Paul McCartney first meet. Two films in 2008 chronicled the Chess Records story; CADILLAC RECORDS, with Beyonce and Adrian Brody, and WHO DO YOU LOVE?, starring guitarist Robert Randolph (as Bo Diddley) and David Oyelowo (as Muddy Waters). Similarly, New Orleans guitar sensation Gary Clark Jr belted out the backwoods blues as star of John Sayles' fictional HONEYDRIPPER (2007).
If the massive success of CDs in the '90s had filled label coffers, archived the past fresh for new ears, and sparked genre music revivals, then the decline of CDs because of the internet in the 2000s could have been a black hole in the cultural tub.
Instead, the decentalization of the record monopolies freed artists, forcing them into using the new digital platforms to reach more listeners in new guerilla indie ways. There were now more vital acts in all the classic styles than ever, and a determination to keep the roots of Rock'n'Roll eternal into its second century.
1950s Rock F: The 2010s Disciples
© Tym Stevens
The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Manifesto, A Handy Checklist
Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!
1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!
CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples
BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples
BUDDY HOLLY: Rock's Everyman and His Disciples
LITTLE RICHARD: The Voice of Rock and His Disciples
JIMMY REED: The Groover of Rock, From Motown To Sesame Street
1950s Rock, A: The '60s Disciples
1950s Rock, B: The '70s Disciples
1950s Rock, C: The '80s disciples
1950s Rock, D: The '90s disciples
1950s Rock, E: The 2010s disciples