How would you classify 50s Rock and Roll Drumming?

mikyok

Platinum Member
...and nobody answer 50s rock and roll!

If you took the music away you wouldn't necessarily know it was rock and roll.

There was some music channel playing a load of Bill Haley yesterday morning and I noticed that the drumming on a lot of early rock and roll is a really odd mismatch of styles.

There is a 2 and 4 backbeat but it also swings which is really strange for pop music especially music which was as raw as rock and roll.

Plus there's elements of early 1900s jazz with everything being played on snare and bass drum.

Is it a clever composition as a backbeat with swing = great dance music or was it just a total fluke? Nobody ever talks about it that much because you had jazz before and 60s pop on the other side, both poles apart.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Bermuda answered this for me once and did a terrific job at it.
To me, it's the big-band swing musicians trying to play straight. It's like a Frenchman speaking fluent English, they still have the accent.
I'm not sure it could ever be truly replicated again in the music world since that generation is gone.

An example would be the chorus of Jail House rock. The bass, guitar and drums have that swing/straight tension as well as this one... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6EeObPCMR8&list=RDk6EeObPCMR8#t=79
 

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
'50s rock was period of transition to the eventual straight-eighth note feel of rock and other contemporary pop musics, from the predominant triplet or swing feel of the '30s and '40s.

So the drummers were often playing ding-dinga-ding on hi-hats and/or ride cymbals and two-and-four backbeats on snare drums.

Best,
skf
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Sorry! Most of that generation...
Actually I know exactly what you mean. I learned how to play 50's rock in the 60's because that is what my band was playing.
I was more interested in 60's rock and R&B.
When my Dad tried to play rock and roll it sound strange to me. He was always swinging it big band style.
It sounded just like Gene Krupa playing rock and roll.


.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I play in some 50s groups, because they are looking for a jazz drummer to play these early rock and roll tunes.

At this point, most of the studio musicians were jazzers, and they had a swing when they played. When Bill Haley came out, rock was still forming out of jazz and blues, both of which use the triplet feel for 8th notes (swing).

All the rockabilly stuff, and the more pop music was coming from jazz and blues, so it still had a pronounced swing to it.

Usually rock was seen as teenager music too, so the studios would record the songs fast and dirty (usually one or two takes), which explains why the recordings are so awful half the time.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Really cool answers folks, glad I'm not alone on this one. Play it regularly myself but never really looked at it.

Crazy how a supposedly simple style of music draws such a wide range of influences.

I always play rock and roll stuff with a swing feel, just doesn't sound right otherwise.

Johnny B Goode is another song that you'll hear so many people play straight but if you put a shuffle on it, it just works.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Most of the music from that period called Rock was produced for dancing. Like the 40's and 50's people went out to clubs to dance for the evening, not just to gather and hangout. Dance bands were where Krupa, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and that generation came from. Much more music was played live for dancing and not recorded for sale. in my opinion the majority of music today is not intended for dancing.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I'll admit to not having been to a club in a while, and will agree with you, but in those days concerts were not the major draw. I guess the biggest early shows were at the small theaters like the Apollo
 
I;m 74 now and I played the music in1958 and played all styles in cleve. O I played rock& roll ,polkas standards and swing and anything they wanted. My style is still R&R with blues and mix. This past weekend I played with a 30 piece German band and played a mix of music, sunday it was a 18 piece swing band and than a jazz trio in the eve piano ,bass and jack in the back. so I had fun weekend thanks to my drums and friends,. jz.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Question: Are the clubs now mostly DJ's? If so I see the dancing but not going to see the group.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Johnny B Goode is another song that you'll hear so many people play straight but if you put a shuffle on it, it just works.
There's a video where Chuck Berry is putting on a concert with The guitarists from the Rolling Stones (I forget if he's Keith or Mick), and Steve Jordan is on drums. Chuck Berry keeps trying to explain the shuffle feel to the guitartist, but he struggles with it.

Eventually when they do get it, Steve Jordan plays a shuffle behind the whole song.

That's one that I do with a rockabilly/50s band, and people in the audience always comment that our version sounds more "authentic", and I'm pretty sure it's because of the shuffle, rather than playing it straight.
 

brady

Platinum Member
Here's Daniel Glass explaining it...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoSw8TX_rg4&index=14&list=PLZfbI09n0ih-gH4-M9Jm3c6r3DiCTcaIV

As everyone has said, this period was pretty much jazz/swing drummers playing a brand new style of music; adapting to straight eighths.

Many songs have a great push/pull with both straight eighths against the drummer playing a swing beat. Check out Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". That's Fred Below playing a fast swing beat behind Chuck's driving straight eighth rhythm. A lost of songs by Little Richard and several others are like that too.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Bermuda answered this for me once and did a terrific job at it.
To me, it's the big-band swing musicians trying to play straight. It's like a Frenchman speaking fluent English, they still have the accent.
I'm not sure it could ever be truly replicated again in the music world since that generation is gone.

An example would be the chorus of Jail House rock. The bass, guitar and drums have that swing/straight tension as well as this one... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6EeObPCMR8&list=RDk6EeObPCMR8#t=79
Exactly. Its also why producers in the early 60s had a problem with the new pop drummers, they didn't understand the straight playing, especially the bass drum technique.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
How would you classify 50s Rock and Roll Drumming?
I've always classified it as weak/wimpy. It wasn't part of the song, it was just there to keep tempo. The bass drum was 1,2,3,4 and the standard fill was the three stroke roll on the snare, tom, tom.

I lived through the era(s) when R&R got "harder". All the instrumentation and vocals progressed and I loved it.

That's just how I heard it, thru my ears.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
There are many subtleties to it that makes it much more substantial than it appears at face value. I'm not sure that statement would classify 50' Rock drumming, but it does describe it in such a way.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
I remember at High School dances a lot of people would dance to Stairway To Heaven.
It was a strange thing making the transition from slow romantic shuffle to the guitar solo and Bonham slamming towards the end of that song, but somehow a lot of people stayed on the floor until the song's end. It was the seventies...
 
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