Early Rock

Note to visitors: Now that I have no plans to write new reviews, the home page will feature a different artist, era, genre or special series each week. The old home page can be accessed through the About button on the menu bar.


MoonRiver777, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The challenge of covering early rock artists is that rock LPs of that era were comparatively rare, loaded with filler and not particularly popular with the sock hoppers and malt shoppers. In the period from 1956 and 1963, the only rockers to hit the top of the Billboard LP charts were Elvis (six times) and Ricky Nelson (once).

Eventually, the more popular artists were featured in compilation albums of varying quality. Still, a lot of great early rock came from one, two and even three-hit wonders and to omit those 45s would have left an unacceptably large hole in my coverage of the early years of rock ‘n’ roll.

Fortunately, my father is a borderline hoarder and has a pretty good collection (partially inherited from his older brother) of early rock and proto-soul 45s. You’ll find my coverage of those singles in Dad’s 45’s Part 1 (1955-58) and Dad’s 45’s Part 2 (1959-63).

And here are the early rock albums and compilations I reviewed . . . and had a great time doing so:

Bo Diddley – His Best 

Buddy Holly – The Buddy Holly Collection

Carl Perkins – Dance Party

Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight

Cliff Richard and The Shadows – Singles and EPs Collection 1958-1962

Dion and The Belmonts – Greatest Hits

Eddie Cochran – The Best Of Eddie Cochran

The Everly Brothers – The Millennium Collection

Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley – Elvis

Fats Domino – The Fats Domino Jukebox

Little Richard – The Georgia Peach

Roy Orbison – Playlist: The Very Best of Roy Orbison

Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964

One response

  1. Don’t forget Howlin’ Wolf in your review of early rock stars. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Wolf had a band called the House Rockers, the hottest band of their time and place, who played all over the Delta. He did a daily radio show at station KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas on which he advertised his shows, which always drew a crowd. His guitarist, Willie Johnson, was one of the first guitarists to get a fuzz tone out of his amp, and he rocked. His piano player, who called himself “Destruction,” sounded like rolling thunder, and his drummer, Willie Steele, like an aerial blitz. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Wolf and his House Rockers did in West Memphis everything that Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Jimmy Rogers were doing in Chicago: inventing rock ‘n’ roll. Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and every other young rocker in the Memphis area listened to the Wolf and wanted to be him. Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who first recorded Wolf in the early 1950s, later “discovered” Cash, Perkins, Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and others. Phillips said several times that Wolf was the most profound artist he ever worked with, and that the greatest disappointment of his career was when Wolf left him and Memphis and moved to Chicago to record for Chess Records.

    A couple of “albums” (singles compilations) that show Wolf’s sound from that early era are “Howlin’ Wolf: Memphis Days volumes 1 and 2”:


    If you want to hear where rock started, those are as good a place to start as any.

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