Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Rock and Roll

Music History Monday: Little Richard: The King and Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll

We mark the death on May 9, 2020 – just two years ago today – of the American musician, singer, and songwriter Richard Wayne Penniman, known universally by his stage name of “Little Richard.” Born on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, he died at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee two years ago today from bone cancer.  He was 87 years old. As a founding inductee to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the following statement was read aloud: “He claims to be ‘the architect of rock and roll’, and history would seem to bear out Little Richard’s boast. More than any other performer—save, perhaps, Elvis Presley – Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona. On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, and Good Golly, Miss Molly defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll.” Along with Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Ike Turner, and Bo Diddley, Little Richard was one of that handful of Black American musicians who synthesized blues, rhythm and blues […]

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Music History Monday: A Rockin’ Day

What July 4th is for Americans; what Bastille Day on July 14th is for the French; what St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th is for the Irish, and what the Black-Necked Crane Festival on November 11th is for the Bhutanese, so January 4th is for fans of rock ‘n’ roll: a day when so much stuff happened as to enshrine it as a major, rock ‘n’ roll holiday! What, pray tell, happened on this day? Thank you for asking. Elvis Presley and Sam Philips It was on January 4, 1954 – 67 years ago today – that Elvis Presley, four days short of his 20th birthday (on January 8), came to the attention of the record producer and founder of Sun Records, Sam Phillips (1923-2003). It was the singular event that vaulted Elvis to stardom. Here’s what happened. On this day in 1954, Elvis made his second visit to the studios of the Memphis Recording Studio, which shared an office with Sun Records. On his first visit – six months before, on July 18, 1953 – Presley had recorded two songs (at his expense) on a two-sided, 10-inch acetate disc, claiming that the recording was a “gift for his mother.” […]

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Music History Monday: Chubby Checker, Dick Clark, and the Power of the Tube!

On this day 58 years ago – August 6, 1960 – the 18 year-old singer and dancer Chubby Checker performed The Twist on American TV for the first time on the rock ‘n’ roll variety show American Bandstand. For reasons we will discuss, American Bandstand was, both artistically and socially, one of the most important programs ever broadcast on television. It aired for an incredible 37 seasons, from October 7, 1952 (when Harry Truman was President of the United States) until October 7, 1989 (three years before the election of Bill Clinton). (In case you were wondering, the longest-running television show of any kind, anywhere, is NBC’s Meet the Press, which made its debut on November 6, 1947; it has run continuously for 70 years and 9 months!) In its 37-year run, some 3000 episodes of American Bandstand were produced.  From 1952 until 1964, the showwasfilmed in Philadelphia at the studios of WFIL, the local ABC affiliate. (That would have been channel 6; having grown up in South Jersey watching Philadelphia TV, it was one of the three network channels we received, along with WCAU – channel 10, which was then the CBS affiliate – and KYW, channel 3, which was […]

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