76 Instrumental Rock and Roll

What was it?

Between 1956 and 1964, instrumentalists and bands that had little or no voice on their songs appeared, being the voice replaced by one of the instruments. It occurred in practically all subgenres and styles.

At first, they were a kind of waiting beat between the death throes of rock and roll and the irruption of the British beat. But, later, it not only remained but also evolved, reaching our days with the help of great specialists.

Bumble and the Stingers – Nut Rocker (1961)

Kim Fowley’s adaptation of the March of the Wooden Soldiers from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker. It is a classic of the original instrumental rock and roll.

Bumble and the Stingers was a band specialized in making rock and roll adaptations of classic melodies. Nut Rocker was their biggest hit and it reached number one in the UK charts in 1962. The recording was made by three African-American musicians from Louisiana who worked for the Rendezvous Records studios in Los Angeles. Later on, when it became a success, a band was created for live performances. It was led by guitarist Billy Bumble, a pseudonym for economics professor R. C. Gamble.

Who were the first ones?

Although Lionel Hapton made his first steps in the 1940s, his starting point was the song Honky Tonk by the organist Bill Doggett. He was on the charts for eight months and he opened the doors for a series of musicians, specialized in different instruments.

Bill Justis, alto sax, was next. He was a jazz professional whose song Raunchy was a success in 1957. That same year, the pianist Paul Gayten released Nervous Boogie. In 1958, The Champs and their song Tequila appeared.

Bill Doggett – Honky Tonk (1956)

Instrumental rhythm and blues song composed by Doggett himself along with Billy Butler, Clifford Scott and Shep Shepherd. It was the starting point for instrumental rock and roll.

William Ballard Doggett was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1916. He was a pianist and organist from the age of nine, by the age of fifteen he had already formed his first band. Trained as a jazz musician, he worked as an instrumentalist and arranger for many of the great figures of the moment, among them The Ink Spots, Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Jordan’s The Tympany Five, with whom he acquired great skills with the Hammond organ. In 1951, he formed his own rhythm and blues trio. He signed with King Records and sold four million copies of the single Honky Tonk.

What about the most important instrumentalist?

1957 was also the year of the consecration of guitarist Duane Eddy, creator of a very personal sound that highlighted distortions and the use of tremolo. He leaned on producer and songwriter Lee Hazlewood.

Another consecration was that of Link Wray, guitarist from Dunn, North Carolina. Due to the consequences of an illness, he could not sing again, so he devoted himself to the instrumentals. In 1958, his Rumble instrumental song was a hit.

Duane Eddy – Peter Gunn (1960)

The adaptation of a song composed by Henry Mancini for a television series by Blake Edwards. It popularized the most important instrumentalist among the pioneers of rock and roll.

Duane Eddy was born in Corning, New York, in 1938. He started playing the guitar when he was only five years old. In his teens his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he played at parties and dances. His influences included jazz, country and blues guitarists, such as Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Charlie Christian or B.B. King. In 1957 he met Lee Hazlewood, who became his first producer, and in 1958 he had his first hit with Rebel Rouser. He was known as mister twang, the onomatopoeic sound of his guitar.

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