07/28/06 - rock and roll begins

In today's excerpt - rock and roll begins:

"Several dozen black dancers shuffled around the floor of the tiny rural (Louisiana) church, stamping out a steady rocking beat on the floorboard and clapping their hands in complex cross-rhythms. A hoarse-voiced leader shouted out one-line phrases in a kind of sing-song, the dancers answering with whiplash responses. When the song leader fell back on a bench, overcome by the shuddering rhythms, the heat and the furious pace of the singing, a second leader took over, half-singing, half-gurgling in an unknown tongue.

O my Lord
O my Lordy
Well well well
I've gotta rock
You gotta rock
Wah wah ho
Wah wah wah ho

"In a corner of the church two white folklorists, John Lomax and his son Alan, sat transfixed as their bulky portable recording rig transcribed the music onto an aluminum disc. The year was 1934, and the Lomaxes had stumbled upon a survival of one of the oldest varieties of African-American religious songs, a genuine backcountry ring shout. But they had also stumbled upon the future. The rhythmic singing, the hard-driving beat, the bluesy melody, and the improvised, stream-of-consciousness words of this particular shout—eventually issued by the Library of Congress as 'Run Old Jeremiah'—all anticipate key aspects of rock & roll as it would emerge some twenty years later.

" The Lomaxes were just beginning to record folk music on location in the rural South in 1934, but rock prototypes were already abundant. In Mississippi, the sedate spiritual singing of an earlier generations was being replaced by a new style emphasizing the deliberate rhythms of the archaic ring shouts. The style was called 'rocking and reeling,' and it probably originated in the maverick Sanctified or Holiness churches, where guitars, drums and horns were as acceptable as the piano or the organ, and more easily afforded. Moreover, it was a style that was already beginning to influence secular music. The Graves brothers of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who had recorded 'rocking and reeling' spirituals for Paramount in 1929, made several blues records as the Mississippi Jook Band in 1936. Their 'Barbecue Bust' and 'Dangerous Woman' featured fully formed rock & roll guitar riffs and a stomping rock & roll beat."

Run Old Jeremiah


Ed. by Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren; original editor Jim Miller


The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll: The Definitive History of the Most Important Artists and Their Music


Random House


Copyright 1992 by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc., Copyright 1976, 1980 by Rolling Stone Press


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