Pre-Rock: 1948 through 1954
Pre-Rock Photo Gallery

1948 - 1954
Rock & Roll History

The rapid adaptation of new vinyl record formats, along with advances in solid body electric guitars, change the way people create and listen to music. An equally important convergence occurs in what people are listening to on the radio and jukeboxes, along with the records they are buying. White teenagers begin listening to and buying traditionally African American music such as Rhythm & Blues. Former Western Swing band Bill Haley And His Comets adapt the new sound, writing and recording the first rock and roll hit on the Pop Charts in 1953. R&B hits are covered by white artists and turned into pop hits, but the original versions soon begin to cross over to the pop charts also. This brings African American R&B artists access to the Pop Charts and a new wider audience.

Top 50 Singles of 1954

  1   The Chordettes - Mister Sandman 
  2   Doris Day - Secret Love 
  3   The Crew-Cuts
        Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream) 
  4   Kitty Kallen
        Little Things Mean a Lot 
  5   Rosemary Clooney - Hey There 
  6   Don Cornell - Hold My Hand 
  7   Rosemary Clooney - Mambo Italiano 
  8   Four Aces
        Three Coins in the Fountain 
  9   Perry Como - Wanted 
10   Eddie Fisher - I Need You Now 
11   Eddie Fisher
        Oh My Papa (O Mein Papa) 
12   Rosemary Clooney - This Ole House 
13   Perry Como - Papa Loves Mambo 
14   Nat King Cole - Smile 
15   Frank Sinatra
        Three Coins in the Fountain 
16   David Whitfield & Mantovani
        Cara Mia 
17   Jo Stafford - Make Love to Me 
18   Bill Haley & his Comets
        Shake, Rattle & Roll 
19   The Ames Brothers
        Naughty Lady of Shady Lane 
20   Frank Sinatra - Young At Heart 
21   The Penguins - Earth Angel 
22   Obernkirchen Children's Choir
        Happy Wanderer 
23   Joan Weber - Let Me Go Lover 
24   Doris Day - If I Give My Heart to You 
25   Tony Martin - Stranger in Paradise 
26   Elvis Presley - That's All Right 
27   Chords
        Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream) 
28   Four Lads - Skokiaan 
29   Nat King Cole - Answer Me, My Love 
30   Dean Martin - Sway 
31   Victor Young
        The High & The Mighty 
32   Les Baxter & his Orchestra
        The High & The Mighty 
33   Luis Mariano - C'est Magnifique 
34   The Stargazers - I See the Moon 
35   Big Joe Turner - Shake, Rattle & Roll 
36   The Fontane Sisters - Heart of Stone 
37   The Gaylords - The Little Shoemaker 
38   Sammy Davis Jr - Hey There 
39   Frank Weir & Orchestra
        Happy Wanderer 
40   Archie Bleyer - Hernando's Hideaway 
41   Ray Charles - I've Got a Woman 
42   Frankie Laine - Granada 
43   De Castro Sisters - Teach Me Tonight 
44   Johnnie Ray - Such a Night 
45   Vera Lynn - My Son, My Son 
46   Frankie Laine - My Friend 
47   The Four Knights - I Get So Lonely   
48   Golgowski-Quartett - Am 30. Mai ist             der Weltuntergang 
49   Werner Dies
        Schuster Bleib Bei Deinen Leisten 
50   Vico Torriani - Granada

All chart information above is from Tsort and uses a formula based on splitting the world into four regions based on sales, the USA (about 35%), other English speaking countries (about 20%), the rest of Europe (about 25%) and the rest of the world (about 20%).  We feel this is the best methodology available to show the global impact of a song or album. More detailed chart info is available on the Tsort website. Actual US & UK charts are linked at the bottom of each year timeline on this site. 
Gibson Les Paul 1952
Fender Telecaster
45 rpm record player
RCA responds to Columbia with the 45 rpm record - later to become the
standard for hit
singles. (more)
Columbia Records introduces the 33 & 1/3 rpm 12" LP (long play) vinyl record (more)
Fender launches the new solid-body electric guitar originally called the Broadcaster, but known today as
the Telecaster.  (more)
Mar '51
"Rocket 88" is recorded at at Memphis Recording Service by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats - considered by many to be the first Rock & Roll song. The song is released on Chess Records and goes to #1 on the Rhythm & Blues charts.  (more)    
The Dominoes - Sixty Minute Man
"Sixty Minute Man" by New York City band Billy Ward and The Dominoes goes to #1 R&B, then crosses over to the Pop Charts.
Pioneering radio disc jockey Alan Freed launches The Moondog Show on Cleveland radio station WJW and uses the term "rock and roll" to describe the music featured on his show.  (more)
Jackie Brenston Rocket 88 - 1951
Alan Freed - Moondog Show 1951
May '51
Jul '51
Gibson introduces the Les Paul solid-body electric guitar. (more)
Organized by DJ Alan Freed, The Moondog Coronation Ball was held at the Cleveland Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. It is generally considered to be the first major rock and roll concert.  (more)
Mar '52
Howlin' Wolf, Junior Parker and B.B. King, and later signs Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash to their first recording contracts, helping to make rock and roll a national phenomenon.  (more)
Sun Records - Sam Phillips
The first jukebox to play 45's is introduced.  (more)
Crazy Man Crazy Bill Haley and the Comets 1953
Jun '53
"Crazy Man, Crazy" by Bill Haley and His Comets becomes the first Rock & Roll song to make the Pop Charts, where it peaks at #12.  (more)
The Orioles Crying in the Chapel 1953
Baltimore, MD vocal group The Orioles top the R&B charts for five weeks with "Crying in the Chapel". The song then crosses over to the Pop Charts, where it goes all the way to #11. 
Jul '54
Aug '53
Vocal groups take off with a new style called Doo Wop, bringing groups like The Charms, The Chords, The Crows and The Penguins mainstream hits. The Penguins, 
Shake, Rattle and Roll - Big Joe Turner 1954
Kansas City, MO blues shouter Big Joe Turner hits #1 on the R&B charts with "Shake, Rattle and Roll". Bill Haley and the Comets clean up the lyrics and have an even bigger hit with the song on the Pop charts. (more)  
Feb '54
Elvis Presley records his first single "That's Alright" at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennesee. The song is a regional hit in the mid-south, with strong support from influential Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips, but fails to gain national attention.  (more)  
Elvis Presley - That's Alright 1954
The Charms 1954
Alan Freed - WINS - 1954
Sep '54
DJ Alan Freed is lured away from Cleveland by WINS radio in New York. Freed's new program "Rock and Roll Party" is an immediate hit, demonstrating rock's growing national appeal.   (more)
Ray Charles - I Got A Woman 1954
Dec '54
Greenville, FL singer/piano player Ray Charles records "I Got A Woman" for Atlantic Records. It reaches #1 on the R&B charts and is often considered the first soul song. (more)
LP record
Moondog Coronation Ball 1952
The Weavers
Influential folk group, The Weavers, disband after their tesimony in front of the House Committee on Unamerican Activities stalls their career. (more)
The Crew Cuts - Sh-Boom
Aug '54
Canadian group The Crew-Cuts go to #1 on the pop charts with their cover of The Chords R&B hit "Sh-Boom". This would be the first rock & roll single to chart in the UK. (more)
The Chordettes - Mr. Sandman 1954
Dec '54
Sheboygan, WI vocal group The Chordettes adopt a more doo-wop sound and score a #1 hit in the US and UK with "Mr. Sandman".(more)  
Hank Ballard 1954
Oct '54
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters (at right), Big Joe Turner and other R&B stars are attacked for their suggestive lyrics, although cleaned up versions of their songs continue to score hits for white artists including The Crew Cuts, Pat Boone, Gale Storm and many others.  (more)
Feb '50
New Orleans, LA piano man Fats Domino goes to #2 R&B with his single "The Fat Man". With boogie woogie piano and a back beat, this song is one of many contenders for "first" rock and roll song. (more)
The Memphis Recording Service, which eventually becomes Sun Records, is founded by Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tenessee. Phillips records electric blues pioneers
Clyde McPhatter, ex-gospel singer and former member of the Dominoes, forms his own group The Drifters in New York City and goes to #1 R&B with "Money Honey" on Atlantic Records(more)
Apr '53
Lawdy, Miss Clawdy by 19 year old New Orleans singer Lloyd Price tops the R&B charts and Price's gritty vocals and wails are influential in the development of the rock and roll sound. (more)
Apr '52
Omaha, NE jump blues shouter Wynonie Harris tops the US Rhythm & Blues Charts with the song "Good Rockin' Tonight", considered a contender for first rock & roll song(more)
Apr '49
Goree Carter an R&B singer/guitarist from Houston, TX scores an R&B hit with "Rock Awhile". Carter's over-driven guitar style is a strong influence on later rock & roll musicians. (more)
Ariton, AL native Big Mama Thornton has a #1 R&B hit with "Hound Dog" written for her by the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  (more)
Jul '53
shown at right, were a Los Angeles group who went to #1 R&B, #8 Pop with the single "Earth Angel". (more)
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