Ever wondered why Elvis Presley’s music was unique to the extent that one could differentiate his musical style from Rock n’Roll? Well its probably because The King (Elvis Presley) revolutionized Rock n’ Roll to an extent of developing another musical genre called Rockabilly. Although the name Rockabilly was not used among the mainstream, they are some specific qualities that makes this musical genre worthwhile to recognize from Rock n’ Roll.
The word Rockabilly comes from Rock N’ Roll and Hillbilly, and although it was firstly used as an insult, the artists embraced the title. As Elvis Presley’s former neighbor Barbara Pittman states in an interview: “It was so new and it was so easy. It was a three chord change. ‘Rockabilly’ was actually an insult to the southern rockers at that time. Over the years it has picked up a little dignity. It was their way of calling us ‘hillbillies’.”
Rockabilly is a Musical Genre that is generally the combination of Rock N’ Roll and country music, with the occasional rhythm blues. As Pittman said, it is usually a very simple chord progression, with the occasional rhythm blues guitar riffs and solos, the drum usually follows the traditional Rock N’ Roll rhythms, and the double bass that is distinctive of Country music. Also, as in Country music, the rhythm accentuates every two time measures, as if clapping (of course clapping is also involved also into the music itself). To get a better sense of the of the overlaying genres look at the musical genre map.
This musical genre surged around the 1950’s. Among the pioneers of Rockabilly there is Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Bob Luman, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
To get a better sense of the special peculiarities of Rockabilly, listen to Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog. The song revolves around the simple three chord progression, the second time measure is accentuated by the snare drum, the driving double bass giving it that country feel, the blues driving guitar that has a solo that just has rhythm blues written everywhere, and of course the incorporation of clapping. The rhythm is that of rock n’ roll, which pretty much sums up the whole deal behind Rockabilly.