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Lesson 2 – Rhythm and Blues, Rockabilly, Classic Rock, The U.S. in the 1950’s, Doo-Wop, & the Guitar.

Reading: Rock and Roll: A Social History, Chapters 3, 4, 5, & 6

Students are encouraged to repeat the listening examples (located in the Listening Links for Lesson 2 folder) as necessary. It would be counterproductive to listen to this great music only once.

Lesson 2 Questions:

1. What music styles and cultural characteristics influenced the music and sound of Fats Domino?


2.  Click on the two Fats Domino videos below to view, listen, and write a musical description/response to what you are seeing and hearing:

“Blueberry Hill” – Fats Domino,1956 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

“Ain’t That A Shame” – Fats Domino, 1956 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.


3. In what U.S. city was J & M Studios located? Describe the conditions present in J & M Studios. Why were studios such as J & M significant during this time period?


4. What is known as Rockabilly?


5. Listen and describe the following four examples of the Rockabilly style.  List music characteristics you notice in each.

a) Blue Suede Shoes – Carl Perkins

b) Ooby Dooby – Roy Orbison

c) Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis

d) Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash


6. Rock music pioneer Chuck Berry grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. How did his experience in this particular location affect his musical development? Name three guitarists who were influential favorites of Chuck Berry.


7.  As classic examples of the “hybrid” stylings of the great guitarist and vocalist Chuck Berry, listen to and select one of these three Chuck Berry songs that you like (your favorite from this list).  What is it about the song you selected that makes it interesting to listen to?  Please describe the music (list any musical characteristics you recognize) as part of your response:

a) Maybellene

b) Thirty Days

c) Johnny B. Goode


8. Songs by the 1960’s group The Beach Boys, such as Surfer Girl (and many others) owes its vocal harmonies to those of the 1950’s pop vocal group, the Four Freshmen.   Click below to listen and describe the sounds you hear:

“It’s a Blue World” – The Four Freshmen – 1952 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

9. Listen to and describe each of the three Beach Boys selections below.  List any musical characteristics and style influences you recognize as part of your response:

a) Fun, Fun, Fun

b) Surfer Girl

c) Surfin’ U.S.A. 


10. Who was Les Paul?  Why is he significant to the history of rock and roll, and to music in general?


11. Click below to listen, view, and describe a performance of the late Les Paul from the Iridium club in New York City on his 90th Birthday June 9, 2005. Walk” composed by Santo and Johnny Farina (1959) performed by Les Paul (2005) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

12. Name the Gibson electric guitar that the company introduced in 1952.

13. Name the Leo Fender electric guitar introduced as a response to the Gibson product in 1954.

14. List some of the musicians and respective music styles that influenced young Buddy Holly.

15. What particular make (brand name) and model of electric guitar did Buddy Holly popularize during his career?

16. For whom did the husband and wife song writing team of Boudeleaux and Felice Bryant compose many hit songs for?

17. What were the two primary musical styles present in the formative years of Phil and Don Everly, The Everly Brothers?

18. Describe the music genre known as Doo-Wop. What are its musical roots? What particular species of warm-blooded vertebrae was exploited to the fullest in the numerous related names of the Doo-Wop groups? List three of these groups.

19. Which Doo-Wop group featured a thirteen-year old lead vocalist fronting his own group? Name him and the group. Finally, what was the name of our author’s (Friedlander) own Doo-Wop group?

20. Briefly list the contributions, trials, and tribulations of Alan Freed as related to the development of rock and roll.

21. One long standing criticism of rock and roll music is that it uses very few chords for its harmony and is therefore inferior to music containing a richer harmonic structure. These critics claim that rock music’s harmonic poverty renders it incapable of sustaining interest for any significant period of time. The truth is that the three chords (I, IV, and V) comprising much of rock/pop music actually triple the number of chords used by 20th century composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in Stimmung. Listen to the excerpt of Stimmung. The composition is unique in that there are only five pitches drawn from a single chord. The composition is scored for two sopranos, one mezzo soprano, one tenor, one baritone and one bass voice. The music was composed in 1968. Stimmung is divided into 51 sections, each one introduces a new overtone motive that is repeated several times. Please comment (briefly describe your own feelings and response to this music). Does the absence of chord changes (harmonic movement) make this music less interesting?

22. Read about Little Richard. What musical style was Little Richard heavily involved in during his youth?

23. Listen to and describe the Little Richard classic “Tutti Frutti” (another “three chord” song).  Recount the events that led to the eventual recording of the song.  List some of the characteristics comprising Little Richard’s “sound.” What makes him unique?  To further assist you with your response, listen to another selection by the infectious Little Richard, “Long Tall Sally”.

24. Name the three musicians who died together in a plane crash on the morning of February 3, 1959. According to Don McLean’s timeless anthem American Pie, this tragic event was “the day the music died”.

25. Listen to and describe what you notice both musically and lyrically in the famous recording of “American Pie” by Don McLean (1971).

“American Pie” – Don McLean (1971) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

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