The fourth program in our series of seven focuses on three key musical genres that have had the greatest impact on contemporary music: The Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Early Rock 'n' Roll.
“Who’s That Comin'?” Blues is a word you have to think about before it can be understood. Contrary to popular belief, blues – as a form of music – does not appear until 1910 or so, that is AFTER ragtime and jazz. Blues is not, therefore, the cornerstone of popular music. Rather, it has become an emotional response, through music to a variety of oppressive social conditions. The film begins in the Delta of Mississippi and follows the progress of itinerant blues musicians to the steel mills and automobile factories of Chicago; from harmonica and fiddle, to electric guitar and fashionable nightclub. Finally, the film shows how many blues phrases and harmonies were stolen by white rock 'n' rollers in search of a new gimmick. The film features rare archival footage and specially-filmed sequences with numerous Blues luminaries including Ray Charles, B.B. King, Billie Holiday, Son House, Leadbelly, Memphis Slim, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters and key participants John Hammond and Alan Lomax.
“Good Times” In the late 1940s, white record companies labelled black music as “race music”. Eventually, Jerry Wexler, then working at Billboard magazine as a reporter, thought of the phrase, “rhythm and blues” and it caught on. Before long, numerous other descriptions appeared – Soul, Motown, Stax, the Philadelphia Sound, – but what they all had in common was that the music expressed the rising aspirations of the ghetto. Meanwhile, a curious imitation of gospel appeared that was dubbed "white gospel". Among those who loved the sound were two men; one a record producer, Sam Phillips, who wanted to create a sound which had the discipline of white gospel but with the abandon of black rhythm and blues; the other was Elvis Presley. Witnesses who testify musically and/or in words in this film include: Bo Diddley, Aretha Franklin, Berry Gordy, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Clyde McPhatter, Sam Phillips, Wilson Pickett, Phil Spector, The Supremes, Ike & Tina Turner, Jerry Wexler and Stevie Wonder.
“Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll!” This film about the early days and development of rock 'n' roll begins and ends in Memphis, Tennessee, in the tiny studio of record producer Sam Phillips. He tells how he discovered Elvis Presley and of the struggle he had to get Presley accepted. It was not the overnight success story that is popularly believed. Before long, however, Presley came to symbolize the spirit of an entire generation. How did this happen, and why? Or was it the product of Sam Phillips’ imagination and Presley’s stage presence? We will also hear from Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, Lonnie Donegan, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Conway Twitty and Gene Vincent.
Introduced by Tony Palmer