Rockabilly is one of the earliest kinds of rock and roll music, dating to the early 1950s. It is a mix of “Rock and Roll” and “Hillbilly”, referring to the style of music that blended western swing, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, western swing-which was basically country singing and steel guitar with big band jazz influences and horn sections-became popular, mixed with other musical genres it formed a new up-tempo sound. Notably Carl Perkins started composing songs with a more rhythmically driving style with country and blues elements and other rock and roll innovators, like Bill Haley, continued to craft the rock and roll sound. In 1954, Bill Haley and His Comets cut, “Rock around the Clock”, and rock and roll was here to stay.
Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and others continued to innovate the rockabilly sound. Elvis’s style in particular made him very popular, bringing rockabilly music into the popular spotlight. The list of great rock and roll and rockabilly artists just goes on and on; Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Wanda Jackson, and Jerry Lee Lewis. These artists went on to craft the rockabilly (and rock and roll) style and influence generations of musicians and shape popular culture for decades to come.
Rockabilly music enjoyed its great popularity in the United States during the 1950s until the early 1960s and fortunately for all of us, a series of revivals in popularity has kept rockabilly and rockabilly style with us to this day!