American Music History Playlist – 1940’s and 1950’s

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American Music History Playlist - 1940's and 1950'sGROM Audio is celebrating the 1940’s and 50’s in American music. This month we have created a playlist that samples some jazz, blues and  Rock&Roll tracks of those decades.

Our playlist begins with relaxing jazz from Miles Davis, an American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer.  Died in 1991, he was considered as one of the most influential and innovative musicians of the 20th century.  Miles Davis, together with his musical groups, was on the forefront of several major developments of jazz music.

The next is an instrumental from Bo Diddley, feature guitar and harmonica. Diddley is a seminal blue’s artists whose steady rhythms and fast tempo influenced many Rock&Roll artists. His music featured the electric guitar and his own unique method of playing, a tight five-accent clave rhythm, known famously as the “Bo Diddley Beat.”

The list also includes two tracks from Richie Valens. The first track is an acoustic rendition of Valen’s classic ballad “Donna,” which is followed by Valen’s most famous song “La Bamba.” This song has had a second round of fame in the 80’s with the popular Valen’s biopic, featuring Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens. Tragically, Valens died, along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, during a plane crash in February 3, 1959. Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American Rock&Roll star who was one of the pioneering founders of the music during the 50’s.

Our list also includes two tracks from both Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Chuck Berry was not only one of the Founding Fathers of Rock&Roll, but he also defined the Guitar Rock sound. His lyrical narratives were prodigious inspirations to artist like the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix. Elvis Presley, known famously as The King of Rock&Roll, was a prime motivator, along with Founding Father, of Rock. He was able to take blues songs rarely heard at the time and turn them into hits. Songs like “Hound Dog” by Big MaMa Thornton and “That’s Alright Mama” by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup became major Rock memorable under Presley, who defined the swagger and attitude of Rock&Roll alongside its deep ties with the Blues and Country.

In 1952 Bill Haley founded “Bill Haley and His Comets”, an American Rock&Roll band that continued playing until Haley’s death in 1981. The group became extremely popular, and between 1954 and 1956, it placed nine singles into the Top 20 and three more in the Top Ten. They were one of the first white musicians to bring Rock&Roll to the American people and around the world. They were revolutionaries of their time, with their plaid dinner jackets and exuberant stage behavior .  Bill Haley was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  His “Rock Around the Clock”  became one of the most important records in rock and roll history.

Chuck Berry’s famous “Johnny B. Goode” (Go Johnny go) was written by him in 1955. The song is about a poor country boy that plays a guitar “just like ringing a bell”.  The song was released in 1958, and was a major hit among both white and black audiences.  In the beloved “Back to the Future” movie Marty McFly performs this song with the fictional band at the high school dance.  During Marty’s performance, Marvin, the fictional band’s frontman, calls his cousin Chuck and tells him that it might be the “new sound” that Chuck was looking for.

In our playlist jazz is also represented by Louis Armstrong and Gene Kruppa.  Louis Armstrong was one of the most influential figures in jazz music history. His career spanned from 1920 to 1960, covering many different eras of jazz.  “Mack the Knife” song, featured in our playlist, was introduced to the United States hit parade by Louis Armstrong in 1956.  However the song is most closely associated with Bobby Darin, who recorded it in 1958.  We hope you will enjoy Armstrong’s version of it.

Gene Kruppa, an American jazz and big band drummer band leader, actor, and composer.  His unique drum technique is featured in our playlist. He was famous for the ability to execute rim shots (hitting the rim and drumhead at the same time) with distinct precision. His precise control over the rim shots has been widely influential and imitated.   In September 1952 Kruppa and fellow drummer Buddy Rich were invited to perform a ‘drum battle’ at the Carnegie Hall Jazz at the Philharmonic concert. Further drum battles took place at subsequent JATP concerts; the two drummers also faced off in a number of television broadcasts and other venues. Kruppa and Rich recorded two studio albums together, in 1955 and 1962.

This small list of tracks is part of GROM Audio’s celebration of American Music in the 20 Century. Each month GROM will be covering two different decades of the 20th Century. Keep your eyes peeled for the next addition.

Enjoy the November Playlist at


  1. Wikipedia