Rhythm and Blues

Rhythm and BluesThe musical term and stylings of rhythm and blues was introduced in the United States in 1948 by Jerry Wexler. It replaced the term “race music” (music that originated in the black community), since this term was considered offensive and derogatory in the postwar era. And so the term R & B began to be used as a category in the Billboard music charts in June, 1949.

In its early origins, R & B was the predecessor of rock and roll (there are those who claim that the difference was merely a matter of name) and rockabilly (when mixed with country music for example, as Elvis did). This genre drew influences from jazz and jump blues, in addition, of course, to gospel music and African roots.

The first recordings of rock and roll consisted of R & B songs like “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner and “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Big Joe Turner, making an appearance on the popular music charts and the R & B charts. At the same time, “Whole Lotta Shakin ‘Goin’ On”, the first hit by Jerry Lee Lewis, was a version of a R & B song that reached the highest position in the pop music charts, R & B charts and Country & Western charts.

Musicians paid little attention to the difference between jazz and R & B at the time and frequently recorded both genres with no regard for which was which. Many artists that usually played swing (like Jay McShann, Tiny Bradshaw and Johnny Otis) also recorded R & B music. Count Basie had a weekly live broadcast from Harlem. Even bebop icon Tadd Dameron recorded plenty of R & B records. Some notable R & B artists include Fats Domino (known for “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t that a Shame”), Professor Longhair, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Frankie Ford, Solomon Burke, Irma Thomas, Elvis, Bo Diddley, The Neville Brothers and Dr. John.