Rock and roll music is characterized by a strong, steady back beat, catchy melody and the use of electric guitars. It is also characterized by the culture which surrounds it--often one of youth, rebellion, untraditional ideas, sexuality, and excitement. Rock and roll evolved from a variety of music styles including rhythm and blues, blues, folk, country, and jazz.
The earliest rock and roll musicians included Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Little Richard. Fats Domino's "The Fat Man" (1949) is considered one of the first rock and roll songs ever recorded. 1952 was an instrumental year in the early days of rock--Sun Records (where Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley would record) was formed, Fender developed the first relatively inexpensive guitar, and Alan Freed organized what would later be recognized as the first rock and roll concert. The Fender Stratocaster (introduced 1954) and the debut of Dick Clark's American Bandstand would also be influential elements in the developing rock and roll genre.
The 1960's saw an explosion in the popularity of rock and roll and a growing diversity in the music that the term rock music was coming to encompass. During the 1960's Motown Records changed the sound of rock music ushering in soul and gospel-inspired hits which topped the pop and rhythm and blues charts. Bands such as the Rolling Stones played classic rock and roll with a harder edge; groups like the Kinks and Simon and Garfunkel added folk-inspired melodies to the canon of rock and roll.
The 1970's saw the breakup of the Beatles and the death of Elvis Presley, but also the rise of groups like Aerosmith, the Electric Light Orchestra, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson. Groups like Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd contributed to the burgeoning psychedelic music trend. Reggae and country rock exploded in the 1970's, as did glam rock.
Between the end of the 1970's and the present rock and roll has evolved further, with new groups expounding on traditional themes, mixing influences, and striving to develop their own sounds. Rock and roll has changed, and yet remained true to the energy and expressionism of its roots.