Music's Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock 'n' Roll

David Carlson , University of Florida


Course Description

How did rock 'n' roll music come to be?

Join us to explore Music's Big Bang -- how music brought to America by immigrants evolved, blended and eventually became the delectable stew that is rock 'n' roll.

We will see and hear the ingredients in that stew, such as blues, jazz and gospel, and explore rock 'n' roll's first half decade, roughly 1955 to 1960. We will consider cultural factors, too, including the advance of technology, the migration of rural Americans from the South to the cities of the North, and the threats to mainstream American values presented by teenage rebellion and the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Week 1 What is rock 'n' roll? It's a whole lot more than just music. It's a business, an attitude, a cultural phenomenon, a showcase of technology and more.
  • Week 2 Before there was rock: Major musical genres, technological advances and players integral to the birth of rock 'n' roll. The genres include jazz, blues, country, western, bluegrass, gospel, popular music and more.
  • Week 3 Mississippi Ghosts: W.C. Handy and the Delta Blues of Robert Johnson, Son House, Charley Patton and Lead Belly.
  • Week 4 A Tale of Three Cities: New Orleans' jazz and early rock 'n roll, Chicago and its electric blues, and Memphis, Tenn., home of Elvis Presley and Sun Records.
  • Week 5 The emergence of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley; the Sun Records "Class of 1955" and "The Day the Music Died."
  • Week 6 The major labels finally awaken and start to rock: The search is on for the next big thing, Elvis II.
  • Week 7 The five styles of rock 'n' roll as postulated by author Charlie Gillett.
  • Week 8 Summation and project review.

No previous knowledge is required.

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Music's Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock 'n' Roll

by David Carlson, University of Florida