Rock and Roll in the Early Fifties
Hail, hail rock ‘n’ roll,
Deliver me from the days of old.
Long live rock ‘n’ roll
The beat of the drum is loud and bold,
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll,
The spirit is there body and soul.”
- Chuck Berry (Hibbard and Kaleialoha, 19)
An African- American euphemism for making love, rock and roll spurred from all genres of music, but mainly that of folk, country, jazz, pop and rhythm & blues (Yorke, 11). It is a type of music that generally involves heavy pounding of the piano, a loud drum beat, saxophone backgrounds and boisterous shouting by the singer. It was a new blend of music emerging from 1948- 1951 as a result of a generation’s need to express their own identity. Originally, rock and roll was performed by black artists because it was a result of the incorporation of a more upbeat background to rhythm & blues. Examples of such artists would be Little Richard and Chuck Berry; both were coined “the fathers of rock and roll” even though they started out as rhythm & blues artists (Szatmary, 16). In context of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” the characters most likely to support rock and roll are Maggie, and Mae’s children. This new upbeat, new- age, gibberish was a symbol of independence, escapism, and rebellion for youths of the early1950’s (Brown, 4).
Although its initial peak of success occurred in 1956, rock and roll had been developing since 1951. The introduction of the 45 rpm disc, transistor radio, and television; and finally, its lively, upbeat sound all contributed to the success of rock and roll(Peterson, 102- 104). The “baby boomer” generation after the Second World War, was a major influence on the success of rock and roll. Unlike their parents, this generation now had the time and money to invest in music. The “baby boomers” also needed something that was characteristic of their generation; this symbol was rock music. In relation to Tennessee Williams’ play, Maggie, and Mae’s children would fall into this generation.
The introduction of the 45 rpm disc was not coincidental to the rise of rock and roll; it is believed that the 45 rpm was made for rock and roll. Initially, people were reluctant to use the 45 rpm disc because it demanded a completely different set of equipment. People only began to invest in the 45 rpm discs after RCA released relatively low- cost sound equipment to play these new discs. “The lightness, ease of handling and physical resilience of the 45 sharply distinguished it from the cumbersome 78;” characteristics that society began to favor as time passed (Belz, 54). Rock and roll also owed its popularity to the jukebox. In the 1950’s, the jukebox was a primary source of entertainment at diners, lounges, and some dance halls; with the introduction of the 45 rpm discs, these jukeboxes could easily play rock and roll music. Shortly after the 45 rpm disc, the transistor radio was introduced. This product allowed people to bring a cheap...