Blues or Rock, which is it?

Tue Jul 15 13:30:45 EDT 1997

>At what point does a blues tune become a rock and roll tune?

I was watching PBS last night, 'Rock & Roll' documentary, the segment on
early Motown, Stax, Memphis period, and they used the term "transition"
and "crossover" a lot to describe music that had the lyrical beauty and
content of gospel, but had the emphatic backbeat up front in the mix to
give it popular appeal to predominantly white radio audiences and the
greater record-buying public that wanted to dance, dance, dance.

The program stressed this easily discerned backbeat in the audio mix as
key to the "crossover" music.   Previous to this period, the rhythm had
been buried in the mix, the backbeat itself less heard, less felt.  I think
this applies equally to blues in terms of what brings it over to rock and
roll.  A guy like Chuck Berry was a crossover artist, IMO.  He took songs
with basically a blues structure and added some in-your-face rhythm and
put the beat right up front, in your face, and they crossed over to be
called early rock and roll.

So to answer the question, I think it's open to your interpretation because
it has a lot to do with perception and "feel". But within the industry at
the time, late '50s, the '60s and into the early '70s, the producers and
recording moguls knew exactly how to create the feel, by puttin rhythm,
tempo, and backbeat up front in the mix to create "rock and roll" from
gospel and soul.  It was about "feel" more than anything else.

Riffin Rick

Senior Research Assistant,
& Marine Facilities Manager
Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research

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