Nailing down the details of the origins of rock and roll has always been a little difficult, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from trying (including yours truly, here on the GMC). The truth is that it all came about from a combination of various musical influences, but it is possible to identify key moments, like the evolution of a song named “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
The song was written in the late 1940s by New Orleans native Roy Brown, when the R&B legend-to-be was still in his early years. He offered it to the older and more-established Wynonie Harris, but the flamboyant performer wasn’t interested so Brown made his own record of the song.
It proved to be good-seller, first locally and then nationally, and that caught the attention of Harris, who decided to record the song after all. But his version was different — it included gospel-style handclapping, a little jive talk, and a few other things from the high-energy Harris. The result was a number-one hit, and something much closer to what would become rock and roll.
Which brings us to the King. In the early days Elvis often recorded R&B classics (as did many others) and his 1954 version of “Good Rockin’ Tonight” was yet another take on the song. It was his second record made at Sun Studios, and in some ways was closer to Brown’s original — but was still a very different animal, and would help propel him to rock stardom.
Roy Brown – “Good Rockin’ Tonight” Wynonie Harris – “Good Rockin’ Tonight”