charles hardin holley was born september 7, 1936 and died february 3, 1959. his nickname had always been "buddy". when his name was misprinted without the "e", he decided to use the stage name buddy holly.
buddy was born on labor day in lubbock, texas to lawrence odell holley and ella pauline drake holley. his family was interested in music and he learned to play the piano, guitar and violin. at age five, he won a talent contest.
in 1949, buddy holly recorded his first song, a cover of hank snow's "my two-timin' woman" on a borrowed recorder while he attended hutchinson junior high school. there he meant bob montgomery. they formed a duo called buddy and bob. they were influenced by bluegrass music and played local events and talent shows. buddy then attended lubbock high school where he sang in the choir.
buddy holly was active as a musician, singer, and songwriter from 1955-1959. he and the crickets recorded both in nashville and new york. although he could play several instruments, buddy played a fender stratocaster with his band.
after seeing elvis perform in 1955, buddy decided to add rockabilly to his music. this gradually evolved into rock music.
rockabilly used, among other things, what was called "hillbilly music" (later called country music). obviously, hillbilly music wasn't that well regarded at the time and, by the 60s, rockabilly had died out. it was revived in the late 70s and early 80s and now is a small subculture.
buddy holly died in a plane crash in grant township, cerro gordo county, iowa. he was only 22 years old.
in 1986, buddy holly was inducted into the rock & roll hall of fame.
early rock and roll, as played by buddy holly, was a mix of hillbilly music, western swing, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues. this style was played mostly in the southern united states (in the 50s). appalachian folk music also influenced buddy holly (e.g. bluegrass).
western swing is a specific type of swing music that was popular in the southwestern united states. like most dance music, it had an upbeat tempo. rural, cowboy, polka, folk, new orleans jazz, dixieland, blues, and jazz swing were all represented in this genre mostly played by musicians who perhaps were not specifically educated in music. they were playing what sounded good to them. when bebop began to be popular, it became part of western swing as well. most songs were in 2/4 time.
the texas playboys is the only western swing book my brief search turned up that i think i have heard of... i think this was the kind of music that was played more than recorded. there were some musicians in this genre who refused to let their music be labled "hillbilly music" (as far as i know, "hillbilly" has never been anything approaching a term of respect, so no surprise). the heyday of western swing, was pre-wwii.
another popular form of music around the same time (but lasting longer) was boogie woogie. despite the fact we've all heard "boogie woogie bugle boy", a PIANO is a big part of the boogie woogie sound. (not too convenient for an army to tote around a piano, i'll admit). most boogie woogie songs, as anyone should be able to clearly hear, are in common time.
blues, folk, gospel, ragtime and honkey tonk music all had their influences on the boogie woogie sound. in 1916, george w. thomas published sheet music for "new orleans hop scop blues", an early example of boogie woogie. however, the boogie woogie sound was very regionalized, so there were variations all over north america.
the term "rhythm and blues" was originally a marketing term used in billboard to replace the term "race music." shortly after that, they named a chart after it (the chart had been called the harlem hit parade), these changes happened in 1948 and 1949. the fans of this type of music in the late 40s were black clubgoers living in cities. the bands they were listening to were usually made up of a piano, two guitars, a bass, drums, a saxophone, a singer, and backgroung singers. although the vocalist sang with emotion, the performances were well-rehearsed and polished (probably due to jazz influences). unlike western swing, in other words, these were professional musicians who WERE educated in music.
as defined in the late 40s, rhythm and blues was jazz-based music with a heavy backbeat. by 1950, the term was being applied to blues records as well. in the 1960s, the rhythm and blues style began to be seen in rock and roll, but what was called rhythm and blues in the 60s now began to include electronic blues, soul, and gospel music. by the 70s, soul and funk were listed on the rhythm and blues charts. contemporary r&b emerged in the 80s (after the death of disco).
contemporary r&b singers have a distinctive style derived from changing notes when singing syllables. this is called "melisma". besides r&b singers, singers of arabic music also sometimes use this style. this particular style comes from ancient times and is thought to originally have developed in the middle east. it was used in religious ceremonies to induce trances in the listeners. if mariah carey used to hurt your ears with her vocal gymnastics back in the day... this could be why.. (seriously, i could not listen to some of her early songs, owie). another type of r&b is smooth r&b.
overall origins of rhythm and blues are jazz, blues (especially electric blues), gospel and traditional pop. from rhythm and blues are derived funk, ska, rock and roll. musicians who led to the creation of rhythm and blues are cab calloway, leroy carr, and count basie. perhaps they influenced the rhythm and blues visual style as well... bands dressed nicely and maintained a "cool" throughout their performances.
one of the biggest early rhythm and blues hits (that also had a dance) was "the hucklebuck" by paul williams. it stayed at number one in billboard for most of 1949. the dance was considered risque. (this makes me think of the club in walk hard where people go to "dance provocatively" haha.. i wonder if this dance is the inspiration for that...)
an early female rhythm and blues singer was ruth brown. her hits included "(mama) he treats your daughter bad", "teardrops from my eyes," and "what a dream." around the same time, fats domino charted with "ain't that a shame."
in 1955, little richard began to dominate the chart with hits such as "tutti frutti" and "long tall sally". james brown, otis redding, and elvis presley all took note of these songs. also in 1955, ray charles shook up the rhythm and blues sound by adding spiritual music to the mix with his hit "i got a woman." (this made some people a little bit uncomfortable at first, but it quickly caught on)
as more and more people began putting out rhythm and blues hits, acts began to crossover to other billboard charts. in 1954, the chords "sh-boom" made the top ten. they were followed by the charms and "heart of stone."
chuck berry hit the scene in 1955 when he reworked a country song ("red ida") into his smash hit "maybelline". this song not only crossed over, it became a hit among white teenagers looking for something new.
chuck berry was one of the performers in the top stars of 56 tour. headliners were al hibbler, frankie lymon and the teenagers and carl perkins. this tour was extremely succesful. possibly by 1956 all of these rhythm and blues stars had been featured in movies: chuck berry, little richard, fats domino, big joe turner, the treniers, the platters, the flamingos (and probably more).
elvis presley crossed over ONTO the rhythm and blues chart in 1957, gaining unprecedented success among rhythm and blue fans, when "jailhouse rock/treat me nice" and "all shook up" cracked the top five. like others of the time, elvis made it to film as well and, as we all know, went on to become a matinee idol. however, this kind of explains to me why jailhouse rock was so different from some of his later movies.
when jazz pianist nat king cole decided to try his hand at rhythm and blues. he was rewarded with huge hits like "mona lisa" and "too young". if fact, he was so well like that many of his songs became hits again when his daughter natalie added her vocals.
up until this major rhythm and blues labels had been savoy, king, imperial, speciality, atlantic, chess. at the close of the 50s, sam cooke started his sar label and berry gordy started motown.
chubby checker's "the twist" and sam cooke's own "chain gang" started to change the rhythm and blues sound for the 60s. the miracles "shop around" brought the motown sound into the mix. not to be outdone, stax records presented the memphis sound with the mar-keys hit "last night."
the new rhythm and blues sound of the 60s specifically influenced british blues, mod and beat music. specific bands emerging with this new sound (non r&b bands, i mean) were the animals, the yardbirds, the rolling stones, the who, and the beatles.
meanwhile, in jamacia, ska was being created... as we all know, ska became popular outside of jamacia in the 80s-90s.
contemporary r&b (sometimes called urban contemporary after the radio format that also includes hip hop) features a polished production style. up until the early 90s, the saxophone might make an appearance on tracks, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of vocalists for now. unlike more traditional rhythm and blues, the backbeat is less important and may even be provided by a drum machine. although, it seems that there seem to be some changes afoot in this area. so we shall see quickly enough....
this is just an overview of things i found ... i was trying to put buddy holly in context of his times. i felt r&b was interesting because it changes so much. although, i know for a fact, some of its early incarnations are still around and still popular. given the unprecedented availability of music, hopefully we'll see even more innovation in the future.