DEAR JERRY: My granddaughter and I have a running bet, and I mean that literally. If I am wrong, I'm (running) outta here! Both of us are music lovers, and we always spar with each other about all kinds of music topics.
She claims that “Rocket 88,” by Ike Turner is regarded the very first rock and roll song. Now, I have heard this also; however, I once heard a dee jay in Chicago say that “Sixty Minute Man” is the first R&R hit.
Who sang the original “Sixty Minute Man”?
Did you ever live in Wisconsin?
Rick Bostone, Waupaca, Wisc.
DEAR RICK: It seems you disagree with your granddaughter, but it is not clear if your nominee is “Sixty Minute Man,” or something else.
Regardless, I do not want to contribute to you running away from your happy home.
Knowing the release dates of these and other first rock and roll song candidates is easy. The differences of opinion exist because there is no unequivocal definition of what is and is not rock and roll.
Personally, I choose not to label jump blues and R&B as R&R, and that is exactly the leap necessary to vote for either “Sixty Minute Man,” by the Dominoes, and “Rocket 88,” credited to Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats and not Ike Turner. Both hit the charts in May of 1951, though “Rocket 88” made its debut first.
If up-tempo and boogie-woogie blues is in the running, both of these are beat by more than a year by Fats Domino's “The Fat Man,” (February 1950), and more so by Wynonie Harris' “Good Rockin' Tonight” (May 1948). I also include Louis Jordan's “Saturday Night Fish Fry” (1949) and Gunter Lee Carr's “We're Gonna Rock” (1950) under the R&B umbrella.
After some thought, my pick for the first rock and roll record is “Rock the Joint,” by Bill Haley and the Comets (March 1952). It precedes Elvis (1954) and Chuck Berry (1954), as well as Haley's other early rockers, “Crazy Man, Crazy” (1953) and “Rock Around the Clock” (1954).
“Rock the Joint” even begins with “We're gonna rock! We're gonna roll!”
Despite a nomadic history, I have yet to reside in Wisconsin.
DEAR JERRY: In 1976, my brother owned an album that eventually got melted in his car. Now I'd really like to find a copy of it. The group name is something like Moriah or Mariah. The LP cover has a guitar with the body like a butterfly and the antenna formed the guitar neck. The first song is “Asleep at the Wheel.”
I remember at least the first line and chorus, if that will help. My problem is, I can't find any information about the LP, which means I can't begin to locate it. Can you help?
Dave Grabowska, via e-mail.
DEAR DAVE: You are right with your second stab at the group's name. They are called Mariah. “Mariah” is also the title of their album, issued in late 1975 (United Artists UA-LA-493-G), which certainly does include “Asleep at the Wheel.”
The other tracks, just to jog your memory, are: “Hey Mama; Rock & Roll Band; Mystic Lady; Reunion; Broadway; Nomad Man; Feel It;” and “I Was Born.”
In early '76, United Artists lifted two tracks for single release: “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Feel It” (UA-XW765-Y).
For the record, the group Asleep at the Wheel did not record a song titled “Mariah.”
IZ ZAT SO? A companion topic to the first rock and roll song question has long been which R&R tune is the first No. 1 hit.
Many bestow that honor on “Sh-Boom” (July 1954), by the Crew-Cuts, while others feel this to be just another pop song not that much different than countless other pop numbers.
If “Sh-Boom” is not your choice, then the first R&R No. 1 hit is clearly “Hearts of Stone” (February 5, 1955), by the Fontane Sisters.
For me, “Hearts of Stone” qualifies without question, whereas “Sh-Boom” is a borderline applicant for the position.