rhythm and blues
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Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B or R'n'B, is a genre of
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk & ...
that originated in
African-American African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the Black people, black racial groups of Africa. The term ''African American'' generally denote ...
communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking,
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognize ...
based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations. The term "rhythm and blues" has undergone a number of shifts in meaning. In the early 1950s, it was frequently applied to
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work songs, and Spiritual (music), spirituals. Blues ...
records. Starting in the mid-1950s, after this style of music contributed to the development of
rock and roll Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s.Jim Dawson and Steve Propes, ''What Was the First Rock'n'Roll Recor ...
, the term "R&B" became used to refer to music styles that developed from and incorporated
electric blues Electric blues refers to any type of blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work so ...
, as well as
gospel Gospel originally meant the Christian message ("the gospel In Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, tea ...
and
soul music Soul music (often referred to simply as soul) is a popular music genre that originated in the African-American culture, African American community throughout the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-America ...

soul music
. From 1960s to 1970s, several British R&B musicians such as Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, Geno Washington, Carl Douglas, and Hot Chocolate gained hits. Rock bands such as the
Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. Diverging from the popular pop rock Pop rock (also typeset as pop/rock) is rock music with a greater emphasis on professional songwriting and recording craft, and l ...
,
the Who The Who are a British Rock music, rock band formed in London in 1964. Their classic lineup consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist and singer John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon. They are c ...
and
the Animals The Animals were an English rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describ ...
were referred to and promoted as being R&B bands; posters for the Who's residency at the
Marquee Club The Marquee Club was a music venue A music venue is any location used for a concert or musical performance. Music venues range in size and location, from a small coffeehouse for folk music Folk music includes #Traditional folk music, tr ...
in 1964 contained the slogan, "Maximum R&B". By the end of the 1970s, the term "rhythm and blues" had changed again and was used as a blanket term for soul and
funk Funk is a music genre that originated in African Americans, African American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). It de-emphasizes ...
. In the late 1980s, a newer style of R&B developed, becoming known as "
contemporary R&B Contemporary R&B (commonly referred to as simply R&B) is a music genre that combines rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The ...
". It combines rhythm and blues with elements of
pop Pop or POP may refer to: Places * Gregorio Luperón International Airport (IATA code POP), Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic * Pop, a tributary of the river Jijia in eastern Romania * Poppleton railway station (station code), York, England People ...
,
soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, or ...

soul
,
funk Funk is a music genre that originated in African Americans, African American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). It de-emphasizes ...
,
disco Disco is a music genre, genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s in music, 1970s from the United States' urban nightclub, nightlife scene. Its sound is typified by four-on-the-floor (music), four-on-the-floor beats, syncopa ...
,
hip hop Hip hop or hip-hop is a culture and art movement that was created by African Americans, Latino Americans and Caribbean Americans in the Bronx, New York City. The origin of the name is often disputed. It is also argued as to whether hip hop sta ...
, and
electronic music Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments, or electronics, circuitry-based music technology in its creation. It includes both music made using electronic and electromechanical means (electroacou ...
.


Etymology, definitions and description

Although
Jerry Wexler Gerald "Jerry" Wexler (January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008) was a music journalist turned music producer, and was one of the main record industry players behind music from the 1950s through the 1980s. He coined the term " rhythm and blues", ...
of ''
Billboard A billboard (also called a hoarding in the UK and many other parts of the world) is a large outdoor advertising structure (a billing board), typically found in high-traffic areas such as alongside busy roads. Billboards present large advertise ...
'' magazine is credited with coining the term "rhythm and blues" as a musical term in the United States in 1948, the term was used in ''Billboard'' as early as 1943. It replaced the term "
race music Race, RACE or "The Race" may refer to: * Race (biology), an informal taxonomic classification within a species, generally within a sub-species * Race (human categorization), classification of humans into groups based on physical traits, and/or so ...
", which originally came from within the black community, but was deemed offensive in the postwar world.''Jerry Wexler, famed record producer, dies at 91'', Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Music Writer, Dallas Morning News, August 15, 2008 The term "rhythm and blues" was used by ''Billboard'' in its chart listings from June 1949 until August 1969, when its "Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles" chart was renamed as "Best Selling Soul Singles". Before the "Rhythm and Blues" name was instated, various record companies had already begun replacing the term "race music" with "sepia series". Writer and producer Robert Palmer defined rhythm & blues as "a catchall term referring to any music that was made by and for black Americans". He has used the term "R&B" as a synonym for
jump blues Jump blues is an up-tempo style of blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work songs ...
. However,
AllMusic AllMusic (previously known as All Music Guide and AMG) is an American online music database. It catalogs more than three million album entries and 30 million tracks, as well as information on musicians and Musical ensemble, bands. Initiated in ...
separates it from jump blues because of R&B's stronger gospel influences. Lawrence Cohn, author of ''Nothing but the Blues'', writes that "rhythm and blues" was an
umbrella term In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
invented for industry convenience. According to him, the term embraced all black music except
classical music Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both Religious music, liturgical (Religion, religious) and secular music, secular music. Historically, the term 'classical music' refers specifically ...
and
religious music Religious music (also sacred music) is any type of music that is performed or composed for religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, ...
, unless a gospel song sold enough to break into the charts. Well into the 21st century, the term R&B continues in use (in some contexts) to categorize music made by black musicians, as distinct from styles of music made by other musicians. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, and saxophone. Arrangements were rehearsed to the point of effortlessness and were sometimes accompanied by background vocalists. Simple repetitive parts mesh, creating momentum and rhythmic interplay producing mellow, lilting, and often hypnotic textures while calling attention to no individual sound. While singers are emotionally engaged with the lyrics, often intensely so, they remain cool, relaxed, and in control. The bands dressed in suits, and even uniforms, a practice associated with the modern popular music that rhythm and blues performers aspired to dominate. Lyrics often seemed fatalistic, and the music typically followed predictable patterns of chords and structure. One publication of the
Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Founded o ...

Smithsonian Institution
provided this summary of the origins of the genre in 2016.
"A distinctly African American music drawing from the deep tributaries of African American expressive culture, it is an amalgam of jump blues, big band swing, gospel, boogie, and blues that was initially developed during a thirty-year period that bridges the era of legally sanctioned racial segregation, international conflicts, and the struggle for civil rights".
The term "rock and roll" had a strong sexual connotation in
jump blues Jump blues is an up-tempo style of blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work songs ...
and R&B, but when DJ
Alan Freed Albert James "Alan" Freed (December 15, 1921 – January 20, 1965) was an American disc jockey A disc jockey, more commonly abbreviated as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience. Most common types of DJs include Radio ...
referred to rock and roll on mainstream radio in the mid-1950s, "the sexual component had been dialled down enough that it simply became an acceptable term for dancing".


History


Precursors

The great migration of Black Americans to the urban industrial centers of Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Los Angeles and elsewhere in the 1920s and 1930s created a new market for jazz, blues, and related genres of music. These genres of music were often performed by full-time musicians, either working alone or in small groups. The precursors of rhythm and blues came from jazz and blues, which overlapped in the late-1920s and 1930s through the work of musicians such as the
Harlem Hamfats The Harlem Hamfats was a Chicago jazz band formed in 1936. Initially, they mainly provided backup music for jazz and blues singers, such as Johnny Temple (musician), Johnny Temple, Rosetta Howard, and Frankie Jaxon, for Decca Records. Their first ...
, with their 1936 hit "Oh Red", as well as
Lonnie Johnson Lonny or Lonnie is a given name usually used for males. People * Lonny Athens, American research criminologist * Lonny Baxter (born 1979), American former basketball player * Lonny D. Bentley (born 1957), American professor of computer science ...
,
Leroy Carr Leroy Carr (March 27, 1905 – April 29, 1935) was an American blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, ...
,
Cab Calloway Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th cen ...

Cab Calloway
,
Count Basie William James "Count" Basie (; August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th ...
, and
T-Bone Walker Aaron Thibeaux "T-Bone" Walker (May 28, 1910 – March 16, 1975) was an American blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in P ...
. There was also increasing emphasis on the
electric guitar An electric guitar is a guitar The guitar is a fret (in the background, coloured white) and first four frets A fret is a space between two fretbars on the neck (music), neck of a stringed instrument. Frets usually extend across the ful ...
as a lead instrument, as well as the
piano The piano is an acoustic Acoustic may refer to: Music Albums * Acoustic (Bayside EP), ''Acoustic'' (Bayside EP) * Acoustic (Britt Nicole EP), ''Acoustic'' (Britt Nicole EP) * Acoustic (Joey Cape and Tony Sly album), ''Acoustic'' (Joey Cape a ...

piano
and
saxophone The saxophone is a type of Single-reed instrument, single-reed woodwind instrument with a conical body, usually made of brass. As with all single-reed instruments, sound is produced when a reed (mouthpiece), reed on a Mouthpiece (woodwind), mouthp ...

saxophone
.


Late 1940s

In 1948,
RCA Victor RCA Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment Sony Music Entertainment (commonly referred to as Sony Music) is an American global Music industry, music company. Owned by the Japanese conglomerate (company), conglom ...
was marketing black music under the name "Blues and Rhythm". In that year,
Louis Jordan Louis Thomas Jordan (July 8, 1908 – February 4, 1975) was an American saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and bandleader who was popular from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "Honorific nicknames in popular music, The King ...
dominated the top five listings of the
R&B charts The Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs record chart, chart ranks the most popular Contemporary R&B, R&B and Hip hop music, hip hop songs in the United States and is published weekly by ''Billboard (magazine), Billboard''. Rankings are based on a measure of radi ...
with three songs, and two of the top five songs were based on the
boogie-woogie Boogie-woogie is a music genre of blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work songs ...
rhythms that had come to prominence during the 1940s. Jordan's band, the
Tympany Five Tympany Five was a successful and influential American rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by re ...
(formed in 1938), consisted of him on saxophone and vocals, along with musicians on trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums. Lawrence Cohn described the music as "grittier than his boogie-era jazz-tinged blues". Robert Palmer described it as "urbane, rocking, jazz-based music with a heavy, insistent beat". Jordan's music, along with that of
Big Joe Turner Joseph Vernon "Big Joe" Turner Jr. (May 18, 1911 – November 24, 1985) was an American blues shouter from Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri. According to songwriter Doc Pomus, "Rock and roll would have never happened without him." ...
, Roy Brown, Billy Wright, and
Wynonie Harris Wynonie Harris (August 24, 1915 – June 14, 1969) was an American blues shouter and rhythm-and-blues singer of upbeat songs, featuring humorous, often ribald lyrics. He had fifteen Top 40, Top 10 hit record, hits between 1946 and 1952. Harris ...
, is now also referred to as
jump blues Jump blues is an up-tempo style of blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work songs ...
. Already
Paul Gayten Paul Leon Gayten (January 29, 1920 – March 26, 1991) was an American R&B pianist, songwriter, producer, and record company executive. Career Gayten was born in Kentwood, Louisiana, the nephew of blues pianist Little Brother Montgomery Eurr ...
, Roy Brown, and others had had hits in the style now referred to as rhythm and blues. In 1948, Wynonie Harris's remake of Brown's 1947 recording "
Good Rockin' Tonight "Good Rocking Tonight" was originally a jump blues song released in 1947 by its writer, Roy Brown (blues musician), Roy Brown and was covered by many recording artists (sometimes as Good Rockin' Tonight). The song includes the memorable refrain, ...
" reached number two on the charts, following
band leader Band or BAND may refer to: Places *Bánd, a village in Hungary *Band, Iran, a village in Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran *Band, Mureș, a commune in Romania *Band-e Majid Khan, a village in Bukan County, West Azerbaijan Province, Ira ...
Sonny Thompson Sonny Thompson (probably August 23, 1916 – August 11, 1989), born Alfonso Thompson or Hezzie Tompson, was an United States, American Rhythm and blues, R&B bandleader and pianist, popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Biography There is some uncertain ...
's "Long Gone" at number one. In 1949, the term "Rhythm and Blues" (R&B) replaced the Billboard category ''Harlem Hit Parade''. Also in that year, "
The Huckle-Buck "The Hucklebuck" (sometimes written "The Huckle-Buck") is a jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in ...
", recorded by band leader and saxophonist Paul Williams (saxophonist), Paul Williams, was the number one R&B tune, remaining on top of the charts for nearly the entire year. Written by musician and arranger Andy Gibson, the song was described as a "dirty boogie" because it was risque and raunchy. Paul Williams and His Hucklebuckers' concerts were sweaty riotous affairs that got shut down on more than one occasion. Their lyrics, by Roy Alfred (who later co-wrote the 1955 hit "(The) Rock and Roll Waltz"), were mildly sexually suggestive, and one teenager from Philadelphia said "That Hucklebuck was a very nasty dance". Also in 1949, a new version of a 1920s blues song, "Ain't Nobody's Business" was a number four hit for Jimmy Witherspoon, and Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five once again made the top five with "Saturday Night Fish Fry". Many of these hit records were issued on new independent record labels, such as Savoy Records, Savoy (founded 1942), King Records (USA), King (founded 1943), Imperial Records, Imperial (founded 1945), Specialty Records, Specialty (founded 1946), Chess Records, Chess (founded 1947), and Atlantic Records, Atlantic (founded 1948).


Afro-Cuban rhythmic influence

African American music began incorporating Afro-Cuban rhythmic motifs in the 1800s with the popularity of the Cuban contradanza (known outside of Cuba as the habanera (music), habanera). The ''habanera rhythm'' can be thought of as a combination of tresillo (rhythm), tresillo and the backbeat. For the more than a quarter-century in which the cakewalk, ragtime music, ragtime and proto-jazz were forming and developing, the Cuban genre ''habanera'' exerted a constant presence in African American popular music. Jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton considered the tresillo/habanera rhythm (which he called the Spanish tinge) to be an essential ingredient of jazz. There are examples of tresillo-like rhythms in some African American folk music such as the hand-clapping and foot-stomping patterns in ring shout, post-Civil War drum and fife music, and New Orleans second line (parades), second line music. Wynton Marsalis considers tresillo to be the New Orleans "clave" (although technically, the pattern is only half a clave (rhythm), clave). Tresillo is the most basic duple-pulse rhythmic cell (music), cell in Sub-Saharan African music traditions, and its use in African American music is one of the clearest examples of African rhythmic retention in the United States. The use of tresillo was continuously reinforced by the consecutive waves of Cuban music, which were adopted into North American popular culture. In 1940 Bob Zurke released "Rhumboogie," a boogie-woogie with a tresillo bass line, and lyrics proudly declaring the adoption of Cuban rhythm: Although originating in the metropolis at the mouth of the Mississippi River, New Orleans blues, with its Afro-Caribbean rhythmic traits, is distinct from the sound of the Mississippi Delta blues. In the late 1940s, New Orleans musicians were especially receptive to Cuban influences precisely at the time when R&B was first forming. The first use of tresillo in R&B occurred in New Orleans. Robert Palmer (writer), Robert Palmer recalls: In a 1988 interview with Palmer, Bartholomew (who had the first R&B studio band), revealed how he initially superimposed tresillo over swing rhythm: Bartholomew referred to the Cuban son music, son by the misnomer ''rumba'', a common practice of that time. Fats Domino's "Blue Monday (Fats Domino song), Blue Monday," produced by Bartholomew, is another example of this now classic use of tresillo in R&B. Bartholomew's 1949 tresillo-based "Oh Cubanas" is an attempt to blend African American and Afro-Cuban music. The word ''mambo'', larger than any of the other text, is placed prominently on the record label. In his composition "Misery," New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair plays a habanera-like figure in his left hand. The deft use of triplets is a characteristic of Longhair's style. Gerhard Kubik notes that with the exception of New Orleans, early blues lacked complex polyrhythms, and there was a "very specific absence of asymmetric time-line patterns (bell pattern, key patterns) in virtually all early-twentieth-century African American music... only in some New Orleans genres does a hint of simple time line patterns occasionally appear in the form of transient so-called 'stomp' patterns or stop-time chorus. These do not function in the same way as African timelines." In the late 1940s, this changed somewhat when the two-celled time line structure was brought into the blues. New Orleans musicians such as Bartholomew and Longhair incorporated Cuban instruments, as well as the clave pattern and related two-celled figures in songs such as "Carnival Day," (Bartholomew 1949) and "Mardi Gras In New Orleans" (Longhair 1949). While some of these early experiments were awkward fusions, the Afro-Cuban elements were eventually integrated fully into the New Orleans sound. Robert Palmer reports that, in the 1940s, Professor Longhair listened to and played with musicians from the islands and "fell under the spell of Perez Prado's mambo (music), mambo records." He was especially enamored with Afro-Cuban music. Michael Campbell states: "Professor Longhair's influence was... far-reaching. In several of his early recordings, Professor Longhair blended Afro-Cuban rhythms with rhythm and blues. The most explicit is 'Longhair's Blues Rhumba,' where he overlays a straightforward blues with a clave rhythm." Longhair's particular style was known locally as ''rumba-boogie''. In his "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," the pianist employs the 2–3 clave onbeat/offbeat motif in a rumba boogie "guajeo". The syncopated, but straight subdivision feel of Cuban music (as opposed to swung subdivisions) took root in New Orleans R&B during this time. Alexander Stewart states that the popular feel was passed along from "New Orleans—through James Brown's music, to the popular music of the 1970s," adding: "The singular style of rhythm & blues that emerged from New Orleans in the years after World War II played an important role in the development of funk. In a related development, the underlying rhythms of American popular music underwent a basic, yet the generally unacknowledged transition from triplet or shuffle feel to even or straight eighth notes. Concerning the various funk motifs, Stewart states that this model "...is different from a bell pattern, time line (such as clave and tresillo) in that it is not an exact pattern, but more of a loose organizing principle." Johnny Otis released the R&B mambo "Mambo Boogie" in January 1951, featuring congas, maracas, claves, and mambo saxophone guajeos in a blues progression. Ike Turner recorded "Cubano Jump" (1954) an electric guitar instrumental, which is built around several 2–3 clave figures, adopted from the mambo. The Hawketts, in "Mardi Gras Mambo" (1955) (featuring the vocals of a young Art Neville), make a clear reference to Perez Prado in their use of his trademark "Unhh!" in the break after the introduction. Ned Sublette states: "The electric blues cats were very well aware of Latin music, and there was definitely such a thing as ''rhumba blues''; you can hear Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf playing it." He also cites Otis Rush, Ike Turner and Ray Charles, as R&B artists who employed this feel. The use of clave in R&B coincided with the growing dominance of the Back beat (music), backbeat, and the rising popularity of Cuban music in the U.S. In a sense, clave can be distilled down to tresillo (three-side) answered by the backbeat (two-side). File:Tresillo and backbeat.tiff, center, upright=1.8, Tresillo answered by the backbeat, the essence of clave in African American music. The "Bo Diddley beat" (1955) is perhaps the first true fusion of clave (rhythm), 3–2 clave and R&B/rock 'n' roll. Bo Diddley has given different accounts of the riff's origins. Sublette asserts: "In the context of the time, and especially those maracas [heard on the record], 'Bo Diddley' has to be understood as a Latin-tinged record. A rejected cut recorded at the same session was titled only 'Rhumba' on the track sheets." Johnny Otis's "Willie and the Hand Jive" (1958) is another example of this successful blend of 3–2 claves and R&B. Otis used the Cuban instruments claves and maracas on the song. Afro-Cuban music was the conduit by which African American music was "re-Africanized," through the adoption of two-celled figures like clave and Afro-Cuban instruments like the conga drum, bongos, maracas and claves. According to John Storm Roberts, R&B became the vehicle for the return of Cuban elements into mass popular music. Ahmet Ertegun, producer for Atlantic Records, is reported to have said that "Afro-Cuban rhythms added color and excitement to the basic drive of R&B." As Ned Sublette points out though: "By the 1960s, with Cuba the object of a United States embargo that still remains in effect today, the island nation had been forgotten as a source of music. By the time people began to talk about rock and roll as having a history, Cuban music had vanished from North American consciousness."


Early to mid-1950s

At first, only African Americans were buying R&B discs. According to
Jerry Wexler Gerald "Jerry" Wexler (January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008) was a music journalist turned music producer, and was one of the main record industry players behind music from the 1950s through the 1980s. He coined the term " rhythm and blues", ...
of Atlantic Records, sales were localized in African-American markets; there were no white sales or white radio play. During the early 1950s, more white teenagers started to become aware of R&B and began purchasing the music. For example, 40% of 1952 sales at John Dolphin (music producer), Dolphin's of Hollywood record shop, located in an African-American area of Los Angeles, were to whites. Eventually, white teens across the country turned their musical taste toward rhythm and blues. Johnny Otis, who had signed with the Newark, New Jersey-based Savoy Records, produced many R&B hits in 1951, including "Double Crossing Blues", "Mistrustin' Blues" and "Cupid's Boogie", all of which hit number one that year. Otis scored ten top ten hits that year. Other hits include "Gee Baby", "Mambo Boogie" and "All Nite Long". The Clovers, a quintet consisting of a vocal quartet with accompanying guitarist, sang a distinctive-sounding combination of blues and gospel, had the number five hit of the year with "Don't You Know I Love You" on Atlantic. Also in July 1951, Cleveland, Ohio DJ
Alan Freed Albert James "Alan" Freed (December 15, 1921 – January 20, 1965) was an American disc jockey A disc jockey, more commonly abbreviated as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience. Most common types of DJs include Radio ...
started a late-night radio show called "The Moondog Rock Roll House Party" on WKNR, WJW (850 AM). Freed's show was sponsored by Fred Mintz, whose R&B record store had a primarily African American clientele. Freed began referring to the rhythm and blues music he played as "rock and roll". In 1951, Little Richard Penniman began recording for RCA Records in the jump blues style of late 1940s stars Roy Brown and Billy Wright. However, it was not until he recorded a demo in 1954 that caught the attention of Specialty Records that the world would start to hear his new uptempo funky rhythm and blues that would catapult him to fame in 1955 and help define the sound of rock 'n' roll. A rapid succession of rhythm and blues hits followed, beginning with "Tutti Frutti (song), Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally", which would influence performers such as James Brown,White, Charles. (2003), p. 231. ''The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography.'' Omnibus Press. Elvis Presley,White (2003), p. 227 and Otis Redding.White (2003), p. 231 Ruth Brown, performing on the Atlantic label, placed hits in the top five every year from 1951 through 1954: "Teardrops from My Eyes", "Five, Ten, Fifteen Hours", "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and "What a Dream". Faye Adams's "Shake a Hand" made it to number two in 1952. In 1953, the R&B record-buying public made Willie Mae Thornton's original recording of Leiber and Stoller's "Hound Dog (song), Hound Dog" the year's number three hit. Ruth Brown was very prominent among female R&B stars; her popularity most likely came from "her deeply rooted vocal delivery in African American tradition" That same year The Orioles, a doo-wop group, had the number four hit of the year with "Crying in the Chapel". Fats Domino made the top 30 of the pop charts in 1952 and 1953, then the top 10 with "Ain't That a Shame". Ray Charles came to national prominence in 1955 with "I Got a Woman". Big Bill Broonzy said of Charles's music: "He's mixing the blues with the spirituals... I know that's wrong." In 1954 The Chords (US band), the Chords' "Sh-Boom" became the first hit to cross over from the R&B chart to hit the top 10 early in the year. Late in the year, and into 1955, "Hearts of Stone" by the Charms made the top 20. At Chess Records in the spring of 1955, Bo Diddley's debut record "Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley song), Bo Diddley"/"I'm a Man (Bo Diddley song), I'm a Man" climbed to number two on the R&B charts and popularized Bo Diddley's own original rhythm and blues clave-based vamp that would become a mainstay in rock and roll. At the urging of Leonard Chess at Chess Records, Chuck Berry reworked a country music, country fiddle tune with a long history, entitled "Ida Red". The resulting "Maybellene" was not only a number three hit on the R&B charts in 1955, but also reached into the top 30 on the pop charts.
Alan Freed Albert James "Alan" Freed (December 15, 1921 – January 20, 1965) was an American disc jockey A disc jockey, more commonly abbreviated as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience. Most common types of DJs include Radio ...
, who had moved to the much larger market of New York City in 1954, helped the record become popular with white teenagers. Freed had been given part of the writing credit by Chess in return for his promotional activities, a common practice at the time. R&B was also a strong influence on
rock and roll Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s.Jim Dawson and Steve Propes, ''What Was the First Rock'n'Roll Recor ...
according to many sources, including an article in the Wall Street Journal in 1985 titled, "Rock! It's Still Rhythm and Blues". In fact, the author stated that the "two terms were used interchangeably" until about 1957. The other sources quoted in the article said that rock and roll combined R&B with pop and country music. Fats Domino was not convinced that there was any new genre. In 1957, he said, "What they call rock 'n' roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans". According to ''Rolling Stone (magazine), Rolling Stone'', "this is a valid statement ... all Fifties rockers, black and white, country born and city bred, were fundamentally influenced by R&B, the black popular music of the late Forties and early Fifties".


Late 1950s

In 1956, an R&B "Top Stars of '56" tour took place, with headliners Al Hibbler, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Carl Perkins, whose "Blue Suede Shoes" was very popular with R&B music buyers. Some of the performers completing the bill were Chuck Berry, Cathy Carr (singer), Cathy Carr, Shirley & Lee, Della Reese, Sam "T-Bird" Jensen, the Cleftones, and the Spaniels with Illinois Jacquet's Big Rockin' Rhythm Band. Cities visited by the tour included Columbia, South Carolina; Annapolis, Maryland; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, New York; and other cities. In Columbia, the concert ended with a near riot as Perkins began his first song as the closing act. Perkins is quoted as saying, "It was dangerous. Lot of kids got hurt". In Annapolis, 50,000 to 70,000 people tried to attend a sold-out performance with 8,000 seats. Roads were clogged for seven hours. Filmmakers took advantage of the popularity of "rhythm and blues" musicians as "rock n roll" musicians beginning in 1956. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner, the Treniers, the Platters, and the Flamingos all made it onto the big screen. Two Elvis Presley records made the R&B top five in 1957: "Jailhouse Rock (song), Jailhouse Rock"/"Treat Me Nice" at number one, and "All Shook Up" at number five, an unprecedented acceptance of a non-African American artist into a music category known for being created by blacks. Nat King Cole, also a
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognize ...
pianist who had two hits on the pop charts in the early 1950s ("Mona Lisa (Nat King Cole song), Mona Lisa" at number two in 1950 and "Too Young (1951 song), Too Young" at number one in 1951), had a record in the top five in the R&B charts in 1958, "Looking Back (Nat King Cole song), Looking Back"/"Do I Like It". In 1959, two black-owned record labels, one of which would become hugely successful, made their debut: Sam Cooke's Sar and Berry Gordy's Motown Records. Brook Benton was at the top of the R&B charts in 1959 and 1960 with one number one and two number two hits. Benton had a certain warmth in his voice that attracted a wide variety of listeners, and his ballads led to comparisons with performers such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Lloyd Price, who in 1952 had a number one hit with "Lawdy Miss Clawdy", regained predominance with a version of "Stagger Lee (song), Stagger Lee" at number one and "Personality (Lloyd Price song), Personality" at number five in 1959. The white bandleader of the Bill Black Combo, Bill Black, who had helped start Elvis Presley's career and was Elvis's bassist in the 1950s, was popular with black listeners. Ninety percent of his record sales were from black people, and his "Smokie, Part 2" (1959) rose to the number one position on black music charts. He was once told that "a lot of those stations still think you're a black group because the sound feels funky and black." Hi Records did not feature pictures of the Combo on early records.


1960s–1970s

Sam Cooke's number five hit "Chain Gang (song), Chain Gang" is indicative of R&B in 1960, as is pop rocker Chubby Checker's number five hit "The Twist (song), The Twist". By the early 1960s, the music industry category previously known as rhythm and blues was being called
soul music Soul music (often referred to simply as soul) is a popular music genre that originated in the African-American culture, African American community throughout the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-America ...

soul music
, and similar music by white artists was labeled blue-eyed soul. Motown Records had its first million-selling single in 1960 with the Miracles' "Shop Around", and in 1961, Stax Records had its first hit with Carla Thomas's "Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)". Stax's next major hit, The Mar-Keys' instrumental "Last Night (Mar-Keys song), Last Night" (also released in 1961), introduced the rawer Memphis soul sound for which Stax became known. In Jamaica, R&B influenced the development of ska. In 1969, black culture and rhythm and blues reached another great achievement when the Grammys added the Rhythm and Blues category, giving academic recognition to the category. By the 1970s, the term "rhythm and blues" was being used as a blanket term for
soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, or ...

soul
,
funk Funk is a music genre that originated in African Americans, African American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). It de-emphasizes ...
, and
disco Disco is a music genre, genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s in music, 1970s from the United States' urban nightclub, nightlife scene. Its sound is typified by four-on-the-floor (music), four-on-the-floor beats, syncopa ...
.


1980s to present

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, hip-hop started to capture the imagination of America's youth. R&B started to become homogenized, with a group of high-profile producers responsible for most R&B hits. It was hard for R&B artists of the era to sell their music or even have their music heard because of the rise of hip-hop, but some adopted a "hip-hop" image, were marketed as such, and often featured rappers on their songs. Newer artists such as Usher (singer), Usher, R. Kelly, Janet Jackson, TLC (group), TLC, Aaliyah, Destiny's Child, Tevin Campbell and Mary J. Blige enjoyed success. L.A. Reid, the CEO of LaFace Records, was responsible for some of R&B's greatest successes in the 1990s in the form of Usher, TLC and Toni Braxton. Later, Reid successfully marketed Boyz II Men. In 2004, 80% of the songs that topped the R&B charts were also at the top of the Hot 100. That period was the all-time peak for R&B and hip hop on the Billboard Hot 100, ''Billboard'' Hot 100 and on Top 40 Radio. From about 2005 to 2013, R&B sales declined. However, since 2010, hip-hop has started to take cues from the R&B sound, choosing to adopt a softer, smoother sound that incorporates traditional R&B with rappers such as Drake (musician), Drake, who has opened an entire new door for the genre. This sound has gained in popularity and created great controversy for both hip-hop and R&B as to how to identify it.


Jews in the business end of rhythm and blues

According to the Jewish writer, music publishing executive, and songwriter Arnold Shaw, during the 1940s in the US, there was generally little opportunity for Jews in the WASP-controlled realm of mass media, mass communications, but the music business was "wide open for Jews as it was for blacks." Jews played a key role in developing and popularizing African American music, including rhythm and blues, and the independent record business was dominated by young Jewish men who promoted the sounds of black music.


British rhythm and blues

British rhythm and blues and blues rock developed in the early 1960s, largely as a response to the recordings of American artists, often brought over by African American servicemen stationed in Britain or seamen visiting ports such as London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Belfast. Many bands, particularly in the developing London club scene, tried to emulate black rhythm and blues performers, resulting in a "rawer" or "grittier" sound than the more popular "beat music, beat groups".V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, ''All Music Guide to Rock: the Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul'' (Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books, 3rd edn., 2002), , pp. 1315–1316. During the 1960s, Geno Washington, the Foundations, and the Equals gained pop hits. Many British black musicians helped form the British R&B scene. These included Geno Washington, an American singer stationed in England with the Air Force. He was invited to join what became Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band by guitarist Pete Gage (guitarist), Pete Gage in 1965 and enjoyed top 40 hit singles and two top 10 albums before the band split up in 1969. Another American G.I. (military), GI, Jimmy James (singer), Jimmy James, born in Jamaica, moved to London after two local number one hits in 1960 with The Vagabonds, who built a strong reputation as a live act. They released a live album and their studio debut, ''The New Religion,'' in 1966 and achieved moderate success with a few singles before the original Vagabonds broke up in 1970. White blues rock musician Alexis Korner formed new jazz rock band CCS in 1970. Interest in the blues would influence major British rock musicians, including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green (musician), Peter Green, and John Mayall, the groups Free and Cream adopted an interest in a wider range of rhythm and blues styles. The Rolling Stones became the second most popular UK band (after The Beatles) and led the "British Invasion" of the US pop charts. The Rolling Stones covered Bobby Womack & the Valentinos' song It's All Over Now", giving them their first UK number one in 1964.Bill Wyman, ''Rolling With the Stones'' (DK Publishing, 2002), , p. 137. Under the influence of blues and R&B, bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, and more jazz-influenced bands like the Graham Bond Organisation and Zoot Money, had blue-eyed soul albums. White R&B musicians popular in the UK included Steve Winwood, Frankie Miller, Scott Walker & the Walker Brothers,
the Animals The Animals were an English rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describ ...
from Newcastle, the Spencer Davis Group, and Van Morrison & Them (band), Them from Belfast. None of these bands exclusively played rhythm and blues, but it remained at the core of their early albums. Champion Jack Dupree was a New Orleans blues and boogie woogie pianist who toured Europe and settled there from 1960, living in Switzerland and Denmark, then in Halifax, England in the 1970s and 1980s, before finally settling in Germany. From the '70s to '80s, Carl Douglas, Hot Chocolate, Delegation, Junior, Central Line, Princess, Jacki Graham, David Grant, the Loose Ends, the Pasadenas and Soul II Soul gained hits on pop or R&B chart. The music of the British Mod (subculture), mod subculture grew out of rhythm and blues and later soul performed by artists who were not available to the small London clubs where the scene originated.V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, ''All Music Guide to Rock: the Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul'' (Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books, 3rd edn., 2002), , pp. 1321–1322. In the late '60s, The Who performed American R&B songs such as the Motown hit "Heat Wave", a song which reflected the young mod lifestyle. Many of these bands enjoyed national success in the UK, but found it difficult to break into the American music market. The British White R&B bands produced music which was very different in tone from that of African-American artists.


See also

* List of artists who reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart * List of number-one rhythm and blues hits (United States) * Music of the United States


References


Further reading and listening

* * Peter Guralnick, Guralnick, Peter. ''Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom''. First ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1986. x, 438 p., ill., chiefly with b&w photos. {{DEFAULTSORT:Rhythm And Blues Rhythm and blues, African-American culture African-American history African-American music African-American society 1940s,