How would you classify 50s Rock and Roll Drumming?


"Uncle Larry"
Not much to add except that rock and roll drumming from the 60's is not the rock and roll drumming of the 50's, with some exceptions of course. The 60's straightened it out all the way. The 50's had that lilt to it. The 60's basically didn't. That swing feel was only there for about a decade.


Platinum Member
It depends on the artist and the song - Most R&R songs from the 50's to have a shuffle beat, so I play swung 8ths on hihat, plus a 2 and 4 backbeat on snare. E.g. Rock around the Clock, Return to Sender, See ya later Alligator.

But some songs definitely have straight eighths, e.g. Lucille and Johnny B. Goode.

Others are a blend of straight and shuffle, like Jailhouse Rock, with straight guitar picking but swung drums, or Whole Lotta Shakin, with straight piano over a swung feel. It becomes a kind of mixture/tension.
(These particular songs can lead to arguments in bands when the guitarist tells the drummer he's playing the wrong feel, because guitarists just can't hear anything in the original recording other than guitar...)
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.
Yeah, just take the lyrics:
way-DOWN in-LOU si-AN a-DOWN in-NEW or-LEANS

It's even sung swung!

Anon La Ply

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.
I had the same impression back in the day. I preferred the power of 60s drumming too (and guitar), but after spending five years in a retro band I now much more appreciate and enjoy the art of tasty, laid back drumming. For instance, check out clips of the Chris Isaak live. Their drummer (dunno who) is pure RnR and his playing is immaculate.


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

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.
Love this guys playing and approach to playing.

This explains exactly what I was hearing on Sunday!