billy haley and the comets drummer

Old Drummer

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Johnny be Good is also a swing beat, but it might be the the most classic R&R song of all time.
Boy do I disagree.

True, back in the 1950's and 1960's there was sometimes some overlap between swing and rock, and every now and then a beat would be somewhere in between them. Early recordings of "Johnny B. Goode" fell into this in between territory, but no way is Chuck Berry's iconic guitar riffs or vocal delivery swing. I don't hear triplets, the hallmark of swing, but rather quarter notes, eighth notes, and 16th notes--the straight 4 of rock rather than the loose feel of swing. Moreover, over time "Johnny B. Goode" came to be played by even Berry's drummers with more of a rock feel, and that's the way I always played it. Here is a later recording of the song that to my mind is definitely rock:


For comparison purposes, here is the song played swing:


Actually, the swing version isn't very swingy, so to speak, because the guitar riffs and vocal delivery aren't really swing, though the drummer does play more of a swing beat than is usual for that song. Even then, I wouldn't call his beat flat-out swing, though it's closer to swing than rock and I gather the whole point is to play the song with more of a swing feel than usual.

A reasonable rule of thumb is to ask what the drummer's bass drum is doing. If it's playing quarter notes on every beat, the song is positioned for swing. The bass drum part on rock songs will usually be some variation of 1 and 3, not straight quarter notes. Unfortunately, Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" blew this rule out of the water with a drummer playing straight quarter notes on the bass drum in a rock song (something that always puzzled me because I didn't consider that beat old time rock at all). Then by the 1980's, or maybe before with disco, there were a lot of rockish songs with bass drums playing all the quarter notes. However, the drummers were still playing 8th notes on the ride rather than triplets and otherwise playing the songs rock.

I dunno, but just listen to "Rock Around the Clock" and compare it to "Johnny B. Goode." The vocals in the first are clearly swing, either the triplets or the doted 8th notes followed by a 16th note (depending on how you want to write it) while the vocals in "Johnny B. Goode" are clearly rock. The songs just have different feels.
 

A.TomicMorganic

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Boy do I disagree.

True, back in the 1950's and 1960's there was sometimes some overlap between swing and rock, and every now and then a beat would be somewhere in between them. Early recordings of "Johnny B. Goode" fell into this in between territory, but no way is Chuck Berry's iconic guitar riffs or vocal delivery swing. I don't hear triplets, the hallmark of swing, but rather quarter notes, eighth notes, and 16th notes--the straight 4 of rock rather than the loose feel of swing. Moreover, over time "Johnny B. Goode" came to be played by even Berry's drummers with more of a rock feel, and that's the way I always played it. Here is a later recording of the song that to my mind is definitely rock:


For comparison purposes, here is the song played swing:


Actually, the swing version isn't very swingy, so to speak, because the guitar riffs and vocal delivery aren't really swing, though the drummer does play more of a swing beat than is usual for that song. Even then, I wouldn't call his beat flat-out swing, though it's closer to swing than rock and I gather the whole point is to play the song with more of a swing feel than usual.

A reasonable rule of thumb is to ask what the drummer's bass drum is doing. If it's playing quarter notes on every beat, the song is positioned for swing. The bass drum part on rock songs will usually be some variation of 1 and 3, not straight quarter notes. Unfortunately, Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" blew this rule out of the water with a drummer playing straight quarter notes on the bass drum in a rock song (something that always puzzled me because I didn't consider that beat old time rock at all). Then by the 1980's, or maybe before with disco, there were a lot of rockish songs with bass drums playing all the quarter notes. However, the drummers were still playing 8th notes on the ride rather than triplets and otherwise playing the songs rock.

I dunno, but just listen to "Rock Around the Clock" and compare it to "Johnny B. Goode." The vocals in the first are clearly swing, either the triplets or the doted 8th notes followed by a 16th note (depending on how you want to write it) while the vocals in "Johnny B. Goode" are clearly rock. The songs just have different feels.
I agree about the different feels, but the drumming on JbeG is not straight eighth notes. It is more like the N.O. in between feel. You see the same thing in jump blues bands. Some swing smooth and others are more raw, with the in between feel. And we are talking about drummers here not guitar player or singers or piano players who eventually pulled the drummers to eighth notes.
 

Old Drummer

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Well as it happens, a friend of mine just wrote two articles about this very topic! They're worth reading - lots of great history on the background of the band, the song and the birth of rock and roll.
Part one: https://pleasekillme.com/rock-roll-wildwood-new-jersey/
Part two: https://pleasekillme.com/wildwood-part-2/
I just read your friend's articles, and although he makes a good case for Wildwood as an important birthplace of rock 'n' roll and includes a lot of interesting historical details, I can't find a coherent definition of the musical genre that distinguishes it from other genres. Your friend seems to believe that he can distinguish rock 'n' roll from other musical genres, and repeatedly contrasts it with R&B especially, but doesn't tell the reader what criteria he uses to make these distinctions.

In the first article he broaches the question of what rock 'n' roll is, tosses out a couple possible explanations, and then dismisses them to write that rock 'n' roll is about danger and rebellious kids. Well, other musical genres, especially the blues, are about danger (it's hard to beat selling your soul to the devil as a dangerous deed) so what we're left with is rebellious kids.

And that's been my working theory all along, though to be more precise, I think rock 'n' roll is more or less any pop music that appealed to baby boomers (and worried their parents). True, the teenagers of the 1950's weren't yet baby boomers, but they always served as kind of the big brothers and sisters to the boomers. Indeed, the early rock stars (e.g., the Beatles and Dylan) were all slightly older than the boomers. Then, as the boomers moved into adulthood and old age, other musical genres with different names (new wave, metal, rap, etc.) began appealing to the rebellious kids.

But I also really think white teenagers and 20-somethings are the salient demographic. This is the old race theory and I think it's correct. It took white musicians playing black music to "sanitize" it enough to appeal to a white mass market. Black music was still too dangerous.

I would therefore conjecture that it was probably the association of "Rock Around the Clock" with the movie "Blackboard Jungle" that enabled it to become regarded as the first rock 'n' roll song. That is, I doubt it was the song itself as much as it was its association with teenage rebellion.

But here is how your friend explains the stature of that song in musical history:

“Rock Around The Clock,” was a perfect record in every way. It could not be called a rhythm and blues record. It was not a hillbilly record. It was not jazz. Something happened that day in the rushed session at the Pythian Temple that blended all those things together, and something entirely new was the result. It was lightning in a bottle.
“Rock Around The Clock” was a Rock & Roll record. “Rock Around The Clock” was the first Rock & Roll record. Unlike all the other records that came close to Rock & Roll in the years preceding it, “Rock Around The Clock” had no ambiguity about what it was. This was Rock & Roll. It had arrived."

Sorry, I can't find an explanation here. He tells us what the song is not (it's not R&B, hillbilly, or jazz) though doesn't tell us why it's not these things. He just asserts this as fact. Then he writes that it's "lightening in a bottle" (whatever the heck that is). He wraps up by writing that there's "no ambiguity" about the song being rock 'n' roll, even though his entire description of the genre is incredibly ambiguous.

To my mind, the strength of the articles is their historical details and emphasis on the importance of places conducive to the flourishing of musical experimentation. I'm not sure that Wildwood holds quite the importance he credits it with. If so, we have rock 'n' roll emerging out of bars the kids were too young to enter in a summer vacation destination for their parents (which you have to admit is an odd setting for music of teenage rebellion to be born). However, I am generally persuaded that musical hot spots appear from time to time, and gather credit for them goes to a smattering of club owners oriented toward promoting cutting edge music together with an audience with the cash and leisure to patronize those venues. Wildwood appears to have been one of these hot spots, and that's interesting.
 

Elvis

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Re: Rock vs. Swing - I think Mongrel is half right and half wrong. It IS attitude, but its also a beat. That driving backbeat.
The closest swing comes to that is the triplet beat, but it never brings it completely home. It pushes and pulses, but it doesn't have the same drive that Rock'n'Roll has.
With Rock around the clock, you have a transitional piece, in that the drums help drive the rhythm with the backbeat, but its not brought completely home. I have to admit its one of the oddest Rock'n'Roll songs to play, from a drummers perspective and I still have trouble with getting it exactly correct....but maybe it shouldn't be.
Anyway, its a good analogy for the whole decade. Those infantile days of the new genre. As someone else here stated earlier, there were none before them to follow. They were making it up as they went but they helped lay down the ground work for the rest of us to build on.
If you ever want to study pop music, by decade, the 50's were a fascinating time to study. Most of us here do not know a world where Rock'n'Roll, and all the varients that followed, did not exist, so we sometimes find it difficult to figure out what, to us, has long been pigeon-holed as a certain and definate "thing", in its embryonic form. Its kinda there, but not what we're used to. Still, its Rock'n'Roll.
Dick Boccelli may not be the exact drummer we try to cop from the recording, and he may not have been the only drummer Bill Haley played with, with The Comets, but he was lucky enough to have gotten in on the ground foor and play with the one of the most remarkable bands of its era.
RIP Dick. You did good.

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Re: Johnny B. Goode - Sometimes its easy to confuse a shuffle for a swing beat. Sometimes, either can apply. I've always played it as a shuffle. Works for me and everyone I've played with.


Elvis
 

Old Drummer

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Re: Rock vs. Swing - I think Mongrel is half right and half wrong. It IS attitude, but its also a beat. That driving backbeat.
The closest swing comes to that is the triplet beat, but it never brings it completely home. It pushes and pulses, but it doesn't have the same drive that Rock'n'Roll has.
With Rock around the clock, you have a transitional piece, in that the drums help drive the rhythm with the backbeat, but its not brought completely home. I have to admit its one of the oddest Rock'n'Roll songs to play, from a drummers perspective and I still have trouble with getting it exactly correct....but maybe it shouldn't be.
Anyway, its a good analogy for the whole decade. Those infantile days of the new genre. As someone else here stated earlier, there were none before them to follow. They were making it up as they went but they helped lay down the ground work for the rest of us to build on.
If you ever want to study pop music, by decade, the 50's were a fascinating time to study. Most of us here do not know a world where Rock'n'Roll, and all the varients that followed, did not exist, so we sometimes find it difficult to figure out what, to us, has long been pigeon-holed as a certain and definate "thing", in its embryonic form. Its kinda there, but not what we're used to. Still, its Rock'n'Roll.
Dick Boccelli may not be the exact drummer we try to cop from the recording, and he may not have been the only drummer Bill Haley played with, with The Comets, but he was lucky enough to have gotten in on the ground foor and play with the one of the most remarkable bands of its era.
RIP Dick. You did good.

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Re: Johnny B. Goode - Sometimes its easy to confuse a shuffle for a swing beat. Sometimes, either can apply. I've always played it as a shuffle. Works for me and everyone I've played with.


Elvis
How would you describe the difference between a shuffle and a swing beat? I'm genuinely curious. I played in a band for awhile in which the guys would sometimes refer to a song as a shuffle, but that's the only place I've ever heard the term and I thought it might be a regional dialect. I understood what they meant, though, and guess would myself describe a shuffle as a swing that doesn't swing a whole lot.

PS. I always played Johnny B. Goode rock, which among other characteristics involves double-timing the ride from the original shuffle (I guess) beat, but by the late 1960's when I started playing it, that was just how it was played by every local band I heard. More broadly, while I'm far from an expert on the history of rock 'n' roll drumming, my sense is that it wasn't until the early 1960's that drummers began playing what I consider rock beats. During the 1950's they all seemed still stuck in the swing era and continued to adapt that beat to rock. Sometime during the early 1960's a very different drum beat emerged for rock. I personally associated that new rock beat with Ringo, though never thought he invented it. He just displayed it (although sometimes he played "shuffle" beats too). Of course, since rock was around before drummers played what I consider rock beats, I suppose those earlier beats are rock too.
 

JOE COOL

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earl palmer was mentioned above...he drummed for little richard

 


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