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1950s rock and roll dream

In the 1950s, Britain was well placed to receive American rock and roll music and culture. It shared a common language, had been exposed to American culture through the stationing of troops in the country, and shared many social developments, including the emergence of distinct youth sub-cultures, which in Britain included the Teddy Boys. Trad Jazz became popular, and many of its musicians were influenced by related American styles, including Boogie Woogie and the Blues. The skiffle craze, led by Lonnie Donegan, utilised amateurish versions of American folk songs and encouraged many of the subsequent generation of rock and roll, folk, R&B and beat musicians to start performing. At the same time British audiences were beginning to encounter American rock and roll, initially through films including Blackboard Jungle (1955) and Rock Around the Clock (1955). Both films contained the Bill Haley & His Comets hit "Rock Around the Clock", which topped the British charts in 1955 and again in 1956, and helped identify rock and roll with teenage delinquency. American rock and roll acts such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly thereafter became major forces in the British charts.

Initial response of the British music industry

The initial response of the British music industry was to attempt to produce copies of American records, recorded with session musicians and often fronted by teen idols. More grassroots British rock and rollers soon began to appear, including Wee Willie Harris and Tommy Steele. The bland or wholly imitative form of much British rock and roll in this period meant that the American product remained dominant. However, in 1958 Britain produced its first "authentic" rock and roll song and star, when Cliff Richard reached number 2 in the charts with "Move It". At the same time, TV shows such as Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! promoted the careers of British rock and rollers like Marty Wilde and Adam Faith. Cliff Richard and his backing band The Shadows, were the most successful home grown rock and roll based acts of the era. Other leading acts included Billy Fury, Joe Brown, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, whose 1960 hit song "Shakin' All Over" became a rock and roll standard.



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