History 17B Lecture 18 War of the Generations Page 5

C.  The Taming of Rock 'n' Roll

1.  Corporate Takeover and the Cover song

LewisMarriage.jpg (43099 bytes) Lucky for parents, the conditions by the end of the decade were right for the taming of rock 'n' roll.  Rock music itself was changing.  In the late 1950s, the payola scandal severely damaged the independent rock industry and did little to give parents a better impression of rock 'n' roll.  Accused of taking bribes to play songs over the airwaves, the indictment of DJs like Alan Freed gave an impression of corruption in the rock industry.  And Jerry Lee Lewis' marriage to his thirteen year old cousin (without properly divorcing his wife) proved further to critics of the disgusting lack of morals rock music and its icons promoted.  Alan Freed fell from popularity and Jerry Lee Lewis' music was boycotted by DJs.


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Ritchie Valens
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Buddy Holly

There was also a loss of many original rock stars under a number of circumstances:  Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens both died in a plane crash, Elvis went off to the army, Little Richard went into the priesthood, and Chuck Berry was arrested for statutory rape.
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Little Richard

But most important was that rock music had become a multi-million dollar industry.  Enter America's corporations.  Independent record companies which had fueled the birth of rock music simply could no longer compete in the competitive market that corporations came to control.  

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Ricky Nelson
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Paul Anka
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Pat Boone

Singers such as Pat Boone (who became famous singing cover  versions in the early 1950s), Paul Anka, Ricky Nelson, Fabien, Tommy Conn, and Johnny Mathis now dominated the music scene with clean cut, acceptable, and polite entertainment - just what parents wanted.  (Paul Anka's DIANA)

Try as they  might, rock 'n' roll could not be abolished, but it could be tamed.  The spirit of rebellion was stifled and the strong regional accents were extinguished.  Adults had achieved a homogenized sound which kept rock within the boundaries of respectable music.  And the kids' reaction?  They didn't seem to mind.  

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But what parents had achieved was only a temporary reprieve from the twanging guitar and lamentable croak of rock 'n' roll until the British invasion of 1962 - but that's a subject for a later lecture....(SHE LOVES YOU).


1950s LINKS -- This site on my web page details a number of other good web sites dealing with topics discussed in this lecture.
ELVIS MUSIC.NET -- All Elvis, all the time.  Lot's of music here, including recordings from early live performances.