Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Birth of Rock N' Roll at WOR.

Many people claim that Ike Turner's 1951 recording "Rocket 88" is the first Rock & Roll song. Some say it was Bill Haley's version recorded later that year. Rocket 88 is actually based on a song titled "Cadillac Boogie" by Jimmy Ligginswell recorded in 1947. But there is one earlier credible claim. (there are also dozens of not-so-credible earlier claims)

There are those that say Lloyd "Tiny" Grimes is the inventor of Rock and Roll. A tune called "Tiny's Boogie Woogie", recorded at 710 WOR-AM studios in NYC on August 14, 1946, is the very first Rock and Roll recording. So if you beleive, then Rock n' roll came not from 52nd street, not from Nashville, and notCleveland Ohio.. but Broadway.

WOR did a lot of studio sessions in those days. Miles Davis, Charlie
Parker, Max Roach, which starts to make sense when you read that Tiny was a jazz guitarist who played a 4-string guitar. He performed with Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Coleman Hawkins. In 1944 Tiny was at WOR with Charlie Parker. they recorded the infamous song "Cherokee", but also another named "Tiny's Tempo." The backing band was tiny's quartet. Some of these recordings were issued on the Savoy label, others on the WOR Features label. As the industry mag Metronome wrote:
"So many small record companies recorded at WOR that WOR decided it should get some of the gravy more directly, and produced this label of its own."
Tiny only had one hit and it was a bebop tune. In 1949s, he had a hit on a jazzed up version of "Loch Lomond" with his then band the Rocking Highlanders. the band performed in kilts whihc is what driove Richard Prysock to go solo.

I remain somewhat agnostic on the "first rock n' roll" credit. His later tune "One is never too old to swing" is just as rock-ish if not more so. Eearly film-maker Barry Shear actually videotaped that tune so with thanks to his good taste we have video.

If you dig Tiny Grimes, you should also check out his recordings with the Art Tatum Trio, The Four Dots, The Cats and The Fiddle, and his work with Silm Gaillard, Richard Prysock, and Slam Stewart.