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There's a line often found in books and magazine articles that claim to tell the history of rock'n'roll that a greasy kid from Memphis named Elvis Presley, goofing around in Sam Phillips' Sun Studio in Memphis in the summer of 1954, belted out a version of Arthur "Big Boy Crudup's That's All Right Mama, and in doing so, brought together the music of white folks and black folks, and invented something called "rock'n'roll". Like most of what is purported to be "the history of rock'n'roll", this is so much hooey. Whites were singing black blues almost within minutes of black "inventing" the blues. If there is something we can call "the truth" (and there is not, but let's pretend), nobody "invented" rock'n'roll, just as no one "invented" the blues or jazz or ragtime, or anything else for that matter. These strains of music, bastardized forms of all the other types of music to found in various regions of America came together in all types of combinations over the years: black men singing ancient Scottish ballads, white men singing cotton patch tunes, classically trained New Orleans Creoles playing the unwritten "rags" of unschooled, uptown blacks, women from the street singing the songs of women from the church, black men with fifes and drums playing the beats from Africa under melodies from Scotland in the hills of Mississippi, waltz's from France sung by African-Americans with accordions whose had come here from Santa Domingo after the slave revolt of 1793, white men in black face, black men in black face, men dressed as women balancing chairs on their face; all of them singing about fucking. These musics all came together, constantly blending and separating, like cells in a petrie dish, and what would would last was the music that someone would pay a buck to hear, the music no one would pay for would fade into obscurity, sometimes to be revived when the dollar was waved from the faraway shores of Europe or Japan. If this sort of thing interets you may I suggest you go and and buy two book by Nick Tosches: Country: The Twisted Roots Of Rock'n'Roll (revised edition, DeCapo Press, 1996) and Where Dead Voices Gather (Little, Brown, 1991), then read them. Then listen to the records he wrote about in those books, much easier to find now than even when they were first released. Then report back here and continue where you left off. By the late 1920's there were dozens of white men singing and recording dirty, lowdown, blues.

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