Rocket 88: The Beginning of Rock’n’Roll

Posted by Holly Whitfield | October 16th 2012 1881 0

(Ed. note: As part of October's Month of Firsts, here's the story of the very first rock'n'roll song ever made.)

In 1951, in a fledgling studio in Memphis, Tenn. recorded the song that's widely regarded as the origin point for rock'n'roll (and the first recording to use distortion).

Rocket 88 Single

The story of the very first rock'n'roll song is almost a rock'n'roll stereotype. The song, "Rocket 88" was played by a 19 year old kid (Ike Turner) and a band that didn't technically exist through a busted amplifier and recorded by a man who had no idea what he was doing (Sam Phillips). It was good and loud and fuzzy, and it sounded like a party.

And as so many rock'n'roll songs that came after it, it was a love song about a car.

While I love the whole story of "Rocket 88", my favorite thing about it is Sam Phillips. In a way, he's the embodiment of Memphis' entrepreneurial spirit. He wanted to open a recording studio, so he did. Like so many of us, he was a man with a dream and a plan and no idea what he was doing. He was a man using what he had: crappy equipment, little money and a solid sense of what he thought sounded good. He should be a reminder to us all.

 


Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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