Could this cathartic jingle by blues legend Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup be the first rock and roll song ever recorded? Rock historian Joseph Burns of Southeastern Louisiana University thinks so.
“An argument can be made for and against every song mentioned,” he said before adding “That’s All Right Mama” is a better fit than all of the other tunes.
This song came out in September 1946 as a rockabilly piece with a blues melody line over top.
As was the case with most of his songs, a cover of “That’s All Right Mama” became one of Elvis Presley’s first hits.
“It’s sung with power, may contain the first guitar solo break, and, as a remake, became one of Elvis’ first singles,” Burns said.
The origin of the term “rock ‘n’ roll” is straightforward, he believes.
“It started as a nautical phrase meaning the movement of the boat up and down and back and forth,” Burns said. “Sometime in the late 1800s to early 1900s, gospel and jubilee music co-opted the term and used it to mean being rocked and rolled in the arms of the Lord. In fact, the first recorded use of the term in a song was ‘Camp Meeting Jubilee’ in 1916.”
Sadly, Arthur never made a fortune from his music. It’s never too late to appreciate his legacy.