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The birthplace of rock: Curious Louisiana investigates | Curious Louisiana

Lafayette resident Michael Martin wonders why Memphis, and never New Orleans, is taken into account the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.

“A minimum of a little bit bit sooner than what was taking place in Memphis, with Elvis and the remainder, there have been New Orleans folks like Fat Domino who have been type of doing the identical factor,” he mentioned. “I’ve typically questioned about that.”

It is a truthful query. To start with: Es Memphis the acknowledged birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll? Properly, that is dependent upon who you ask.

Just like the type’s musical origins, choosing its bodily birthplace is subjective—although, because the query does acknowledge, Memphis has a stronger declare than many.

A teenage Presley entered Solar Studios someday, paying Sam Phillips $4 to document a tune. Phillips requested him who he appeared like and Presley replied, “I do not sound like no person.”

For starters, it was there that the larger-than-life Sam Phillips opened the Solar Data label.

Initially recording bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf and BB King, Phillips stumbled upon a profitable components when 18-year-old Elvis Presley wandered into his Solar Studio to document just a few songs in late 1953.

Everybody is aware of what occurred to Elvis, and in style music, after that. For its half, Solar continued on to find and document different early rock ‘n’ roll luminaries together with Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Johnny Money and Louisiana’s personal Jerry Lee Lewis.

Memphis can be residence to Beale Road, which drew bluesmen from the Mississippi Delta who contributed drastically to the sound of early rock ‘n’ roll.

Within the mid-Fifties, town exploded with musical expertise, a lot of which was spreading outwards to take over the nation’s musical airwaves beneath the rock ‘n’ roll moniker.

So, certain, it is no marvel town formally payments itself as “the house of blues, soul & rock ‘n’ roll.”

And but.


The Dew Drop Inn and Lodge, a former lodge and nightclub, sits vacant within the Central Metropolis neighborhood of New Orleans, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018.

Many would argue that New Orleans has an equally sturdy case to make. Whereas Memphis was the middle of the rock ‘n’ roll universe from Elvis on, as Martin factors out, New Orleans was teeming with related sounds—and an analogous angle—half a decade earlier.

Take Fat Domino. His 1949 launch “The Fats Man,” which was recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio in New Orleans, was launched almost 18 months earlier than the Memphis-recorded tune that many level to as rock ‘n’ roll’s first single: Jackie Brenston (and Ike Turner)’s “Rocket 88.”

Different tracks vying for the excellence of rock’s first tune have been recorded within the Crescent Metropolis, together with Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” the latter maybe the wildest of all of the early rock ‘n’ roll singles.

There have been additionally musical hotspots all through town just like the Dew Drop Inn, a lodge that hosted Black musicians from the Forties by way of 1970. Its nightclub was reportedly the one place the place Black and White musicians performed collectively throughout segregation.

And that is leaving apart New Orleans’ distinctive mixture of musical kinds, lots of which contributed to rock ‘n’ roll’s sound.

American Masters: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll

New Orleans music icon Fat Domino, in a classic publicity picture.

So which is it? Memphis or New Orleans?

Usually talking, these within the know (no less than, these with out political or monetary pursuits at coronary heart) are in free settlement: It is unfair to name both New Orleans or Memphis the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.

That is as a result of the shape coalesced in a spread of various locations at an analogous time. The one actually inarguable factor to say is that rock ‘n’ roll is only American music, made up of a mixture of regional stylings that would solely have been mixed right here.

cosimo matassa young.jpg

Cosimo Matassa at his recording studio—the place hits like Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” have been recorded—within the Fifties.

Memphis claims the title for itself — take a look at town’s tourism slogan — as a result of its wealthy musical historical past, and particularly its ties to Elvis and Solar. Not completely undeserved, in fact, however not essentially the total story both.

As tends to be the case, music author Greil Marcus places it effectively. Whereas he picked Domino’s “The Fats Man” for instance of rock ‘n’ roll that predates Memphis’s musical explosion — the Tennessee metropolis being “a boiling cauldron from 1950, however the concept not taking type till 1954” — he underlined the purpose that Selecting anybody place because the music’s birthplace is a idiot’s errand.

“However what about St. Louis within the Eighteen Nineties, the place each the present-day Stagger Lee and Frankie and Johnny occasions happened, and the ballads celebrating them have been apparently composed on the spot?” he requested.

“Or Los Angeles, with Leiber and Stoller writing within the late ’40s, and each the Penguins with ‘Earth Angel’ and the Jewels with ‘Hearts of Stone’ in 1954?

“To me, the important element of any first rock ‘n’ roll document is, ‘I’ve by no means heard something like that in my complete life!’ and all of these try this. Rock ‘n’ roll was born in lots of locations in several methods on the similar time.”

That being mentioned, when it comes to the New Orleans versus Memphis debate, he does add a caveat.

“Give it to Fat.”

Curious Louisiana is a community-driven reporting mission that connects readers to our newsrooms’ sources to dig, analysis and discover solutions concerning the Pelican State. Backside line: If you happen to’ve obtained a query about one thing Louisiana-centric, ask us.

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