I always found it fascinating learning the history of rock and roll between the mid 1950s to the early 1960s. The most amazing thing about this time period was how fast rock and roll hit the entire world, but sadly, disappeared just as quickly. There were many reasons why rock and roll went extinct in the early 1960s, here are some of them:
- Elvis Presley: The “king” of rock and roll was drafted by the US military in 1958, making his record company re-packaged old material to make new records. Despite having some success with these “collection” albums, no new material was released. Also, Elvis began to change this musical style in having more gospel tendencies. Only until before his death, then Elvis release another truly rock and roll album.
- Chuck Berry: Many consider Chuck Berry the real “king” of rock and roll, but he also did not escape the early 60s rock and roll plague. In 1959 he was arrested for having a not so legal relationship with a 14 year old waitress. After one appeal, he was eventually sentenced to three years or prison. Despite being in jail, he did create more music (similar to a modern day rapper), but his popularity declined due to the scandal. Sadly, because racism existed at that time, it was very difficult for Chuck Berry to regain much of his popularity.
- Jerry Lee Lewis: The wild man himself was always causing controversies, but one especially ended his career, and helped contribute to the decline of rock and roll. In 1958 it was revealed by a British news agency that Lewis’ third wife Myra Brown was also his first-cousin. Making things worse, she was only thirteen years old (apparently he wanted to outdo Chuck Berry). Once hearing the news, not only did he cancel his tour, but many radio stations blacklisted his music. Similar to Chuck Berry, he never regained much of his popularity.
- Little Richard: One of my (and Paul’s) favorite 50s rock and roll musician, Little Richard was also affected by the early 60s rock and roll plague. Instead of falling into the classic trap of “jail-bait”, Little Richard felt into the trap of the next worst thing….church. After witnessing what he believed to be a ball of fire across the sky (no, not Jerry’s song), and changing plans that eventually helped him avoid a plane crash, he converted to Christianity (believing those where signs from god). He released a couple of gospel albums, and did release a few more rock and roll albums, but the newly converted religious man could never rock as hard.
- Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens: While the above artists could blame themselves for their career’s demise, these three musicians had no control whatsoever. In 1959, a plane carrying these three rising musicians, crashed in the cold winter. Not only did the plane crash end the lives of three amazing men, but put rock and roll music in hiatus for several years.
Now we know that rock and roll in fact did not die. In the early 60s, a band that consisted of four British blokes ironically revived America’s own rock and roll music. They took influences from all the above artists and made their own breed of rock music. Luckily for them, they did not fall in to the trap of jail bait waitresses (or cousins), the USA military, a plane crash, or Jesus himself (they were in fact bigger than Jesus).