Rulers of Rock 'n' Roll
12" Wooden Ruler made in U.S.A. from American-grown basswood.
Disk jockey Alan Freed at radio station WJW in Cleveland, Ohio, popularized the term Rock and Roll in 1954, although he probably didn’t invent it. The term refers to a style of popular music that originated in the United States and is typified by a dance rhythm with an accentuated backbeat. Later on, in the 1960’s, the genre evolved and is from then on often simply called “rock music”.
Our ruler celebrates the full range of rock ‘n’ roll, but with a heavy emphasis on the musicians of the mid- and late 1950’s and early 1960’s. In those early days the lead instrument was often the piano, as exemplified by Fats Domino, with his boogie-woogie style of playing. Fats sold 65 million records, more than any other 1950’s rock and roll musician except Elvis Presley. A bit later, a couple of rockabilly guitarists, Bill Haley and Carl Perkins, made their mark, and the guitar became the star.
African-American musicians in this period include Chuck Berry, a prolific songwriter, and Little Richard. The best-known and earliest British group to become successful in the United States was The Beatles, but many more would follow, in what has been termed the British Invasion.
The subsequent evolution of rock music, for a time at least, was characterized by musical experimentation and drug-related or anti-establishment lyrics, witness The Doors, or The Grateful Dead. In a broad sense, Rock ‘n’ Roll is still immensely popular today, though we chose to end our list in the mid-1980’s.
For each musician on our list we have chosen one of their songs, usually the best-known, most influential, or otherwise most iconic of their oeuvre, along with the year of that song’s release.
The “head” image is that of Buddy Holly, tremendously recognizable with his thick-rimmed glasses, who was tragically killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, on the way to a gig. Fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” as well as the plane’s pilot died in the same crash on February 3, 1959, called “The Day the Music Died”.
If you like this ruler, you might also be interested in Rulers of Music, Great Women Rulers of Music, Rulers of Jazz or Rulers of Country Music.