“I’m a Man” is a rock and roll song written and recorded by Bo Diddley in 1955. A moderately slow blues with a stop-time figure, it was inspired by an earlier blues song and became a number one U.S. R&B chart hit. “I’m a Man” has been recorded by a variety of artists, including The Yardbirds who had a number seventeen pop hit in the U.S. in 1965.
“I’m a Man” was released as the B-side of “Bo Diddley“, his first single in April 1955. The single became a two-sided hit and reached number 1 in the Billboard R&B chart. “I’m a Man” was inspired by Muddy Waters‘ 1954 song “Hoochie Coochie Man“, written by Willie Dixon. After Diddley’s release, Waters recorded an “answer song” to “I’m a Man” in May 1955, titled “Mannish Boy“, a play on words on Bo Diddley’s younger age as it related to the primary theme of the song.
“Tutti Frutti” (means “All Fruits” in Italian) is a song co-written by Little Richard, which was recorded in 1955 and became his first major hit record. With its opening cry of “A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!” (a verbal rendition of a drum pattern that Little Richard had imagined) and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also a model for rock and roll itself.
In 2007, an eclectic panel of renowned recording artists voted “Tutti Frutti” number 1 on Mojo‘s The Top 100 Records That Changed The World, hailing the recording as “the sound of the birth of rock and roll.” In 2010, the US Library of Congress National Recording Registry added the recording to its registry, claiming the “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music”. In April 2012, Rolling Stone magazine declared that the song “still contains what has to be considered the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded: “”A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!!”
- The original lyrics, “Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy”, were replaced with “Tutti Frutti, aw rooty! Tutti Frutti, aw rooty”.
- The record entered the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart at the end of November 1955, and rose to # 2 early in 1956. It also reached # 17 on the Billboard pop chart.
- After Pat Boone‘s success with “Ain’t That a Shame“, his next single was “Tutti Frutti”, markedly toned down from the already reworked Blackwell version. Boone’s version made no. 12 on the national pop chart, with Little Richard’s trailing behind only reaching no. 17.
- Little Richard admitted that though Pat Boone “took [his] music”, Boone made it more popular due to his high status in the white music industry.
- “They didn’t want me to be in the white guys’ way … I felt I was pushed into a rhythm and blues corner to keep out of rockers’ way, because that’s where the money is. When ‘Tutti Frutti’ came out … They needed a rock star to block me out of white homes because I was a hero to white kids. The white kids would have Pat Boone upon the dresser and me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better, but the families didn’t want me because of the image that I was projecting.” – Little Richard.
“Rock Around the Clock” is a rock and roll song in the 12-bar blues format written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter under the pseudonym “Jimmy De Knight”) in 1952. The best-known and most successful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954 for American Decca. It was a number one single on both the US and UK charts and also re-entered the UK Singles Chart in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first successful record of the genre (Bill Haley had American chart success with “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953, and in 1954, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart). Haley’s recording nevertheless became an anthem for rebellious Fifties youth and is widely considered to be the song that, more than any other, brought rock and roll into mainstream culture around the world. The song is ranked No. 158 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Although first recorded by Italian-American band Sonny Dae and His Knights on March 20, 1954, the more famous version by Bill Haley & His Comets is not, strictly speaking, a cover version. Myers claimed the song had been written specifically for Haley but, for various reasons, Haley was unable to record it himself until April 12, 1954.
The original full title of the song was “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!“. This was later shortened to “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock“, though this form is generally only used on releases of the 1954 Bill Haley Decca Records recording; most other recordings of this song by Haley and others (including Sonny Dae) shorten this title further to “Rock Around the Clock“.
- The song was offered to Haley in the wake of his first national success “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953, after being copyrighted with the U.S. Library of Congress on March 31.
- Haley and his Comets began performing the song on stage, but Dave Miller, his producer, refused to allow Haley to record it for his Essex Records label.
- Haley claimed to have taken the sheet music into the recording studio at least twice, with Miller ripping up the music each time.
- After leaving Essex Records in the spring of 1954, Bill Haley signed with the then-important Decca Records label, and the band’s first recording session was set for April 12, 1954 at the Pythian Temple studios in New York City.
- Near the end of the session, the band finally recorded a take of “Rock Around the Clock”.
- On July 9, 1955, “Rock Around the Clock” became the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of Billboard’s Pop charts, a feat it repeated on charts around the world.
- The song was used as the theme song for the first season of the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, which was set in the 1950s.
“Shake, Rattle and Roll” is a twelve bar blues-form rock and roll song, written in 1954 by Jesse Stone under his assumed songwriting name Charles E. Calhoun. It was originally recorded by Big Joe Turner, and most successfully by Bill Haley & His Comets. The song as sung by Big Joe Turner is ranked #126 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In early 1954, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records suggested to Stone that he write an up-tempo blues for Big Joe Turner, a blues shouter whose career had begun in Kansas City before World War II. Stone played around with various phrases before coming up with “shake, rattle and roll”.
- The phrase had been used in earlier songs. In 1919, Al Bernard recorded a song about gambling with dice with the same title, clearly evoking the action of shooting dice from a cup. The phrase is also heard in “Roll The Bones” by the Excelsior Quartette in 1922.
- Turner’s version was recorded in New York on February 15, 1954. The shouting chorus on his version consisted of Jesse Stone, and record label executives Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegün. The saxophone solo was by Sam “The Man” Taylor.
- Turner’s recording was released in April 1954, reached #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart on June 12, did not move for three weeks, and peaked at #22, nearly at the same time, on the Billboard pop chart.
- The song, in its original incarnation, is highly sexual. Perhaps its most salacious lyric, which was absent from the later Bill Haley rendition, is “I’ve been holdin’ it in, way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes, baby, make me grit my teeth”. [It may actually be “Over the hill, way down underneath.] On the recording, Turner slurred the lyric “holdin’ it in”, since this line may have been considered too risqué for publication.
- The chorus uses “shake, rattle and roll” to refer to boisterous intercourse, in the same way that the words “rock and roll” were first used by numerous rhythm and blues singers, starting with Trixie Smith‘s “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” in 1922, and continuing on prominently through the 1940s and 1950s.
- Stone stated that the line about “a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood store” was suggested to him by Atlantic session drummer Sam “Baby” Lovett; also a sly sexual reference.
“How High the Moon” is a jazz standard with lyrics by Nancy Hamilton and music by Morgan Lewis. It was first featured in the 1940 Broadway revue Two for the Show, where it was sung by Alfred Drake and Frances Comstock.
In Two for the Show, this was a rare serious moment in an otherwise humorous revue.
The best-known recording of the song is by Les Paul and Mary Ford, made on January 4, 1951. The record was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 1451, with the flip side “Walkin’ and Whistlin’ Blues”, and spent 25 weeks (beginning on March 23, 1951) on the Billboard chart, 9 weeks at #1. The record was subsequently re-released by Capitol as catalog number 1675, with “Josephine” on the B-side.
- The earliest recorded hit version was by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra. It was recorded on February 7, 1940, and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 35391, with the flip side “Fable of the Rose”.
- The Les Paul Trio recorded a version released as V-Disc 540B with a spoken introduction which was issued in November, 1945 by the U.S. War Department.
- The song was sung in various recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, becoming (with the Gershwin‘s “Oh, Lady Be Good!“) Ella’s signature tune. She first performed the song at Carnegie Hall on September 29, 1947. Her first recording, backed by the Daydreamers, was recorded December 20, 1947, and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24387, with the flip side “You Turned the Tables on Me”.
- Les Paul met country-western singer Iris Colleen Summers in 1945. They began working together in 1948, at which time she adopted the stage name Mary Ford. They were married in 1949.
- He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, which made the sound of rock and roll possible.
- He is credited with many recording innovations. Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early experiments with overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multitrack recording were among the first to attract widespread attention.
- This song features Ford harmonizing with herself.
- Read way more about Les Paul here.
“Rocket 88” (originally written as Rocket “88”) is a rhythm and blues song that was first recorded at Sam Phillips‘ recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 March or 5 March 1951 (accounts differ). The recording was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, who were actually Ike Turner‘s Kings of Rhythm.
The record reached no.1 on the Billboard R&B chart. Many experts acknowledge its importance in the development of rock and roll music, with some claiming it as the first rock and roll record.
- The band did not actually exist and the song was put together by the then 19 year-old Ike Turner and his band in rehearsals at the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and recorded by Turner’s Kings of Rhythm.
- Brenston, who was a saxophonist with Turner, also sang the vocal on “Rocket 88”, a hymn of praise to the joys of the Oldsmobile “Rocket 88” automobile, which had recently been introduced.
- The song was based on the 1947 song “Cadillac Boogie” by Jimmy Liggins.
- Drawing on the template of jump blues and swing combo music, Turner made the style even rawer, superimposing Brenston’s enthusiastic vocals, his own piano, and tenor saxophone solos by 17-year-old Raymond Hill (later to be the father of Tina Turner‘s first child, before she married Ike).
- The song also features one of the first examples of distortion, or fuzz guitar, as well as feedback ever recorded, played by the band’s guitarist Willie Kizart.
- The legend of how the sound came about says that Kizart’s amplifier was damaged on Highway 61 when the band was driving from Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. An attempt was made to hold the cone in place by stuffing the amplifier with wadded newspapers, which unintentionally created a distorted sound; Phillips liked the sound and used it.
“Saturday Night Fish Fry” is a popular song, written by Louis Jordan and Ellis Lawrence Walsh, best known through the version recorded by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five.
Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” has been called one of the first rock and roll records. Chuck Berry was quoted as saying, “To my recollection, Louis Jordan was the first one that I hear play rock and roll.”
- The recording, which at 5:21 ran longer than a standard side of a 78 record, was broken into two halves, one on either side of the release.
- The single was a big hit, topping the R&B chart for twelve non-consecutive weeks in late 1949. It also reached number 21 on the national chart, a rare accomplishment for a “race record” at that time.
- “Saturday Night Fish Fry” was first recorded by Eddie Williams and His Brown Buddies, which featured the talk-singing vocals of Ellis Walsh. However, the acetate for the Williams band version found its way to Louis Jordan’s agent and as Williams later recalled, “They got theirs out there first.”
- To this day Louis Jordan still ranks as the top black recording artist of all time in terms of the total number of weeks at #1—his records scored an incredible total of 113 weeks in the No. 1 position (the runner-up being Stevie Wonder with 70 weeks). From July 1946 through May 1947, Jordan scored five consecutive No. 1 songs, holding the top slot for 44 consecutive weeks.
- BBC comedy-show host Stephen Fry adapted the song’s title into a play on his own name and used the result for his six-part 1988 programme Saturday Night Fry.