Rockabilly was a uniquely American invention. The music grew out of the rich diversity of American musical forms of the first half of the 20th century. Blues, country, gospel, rhythm and blues, and even elements of jazz could be said to have come together and manifested themselves in a wild new type of music that came to be called rockabilly. The development of rock and roll and rockabilly can be considered among America’s proudest accomplishments. But if it hadn’t have been for the British, rockabilly might not be the vibrant and living musical art form that it is today, almost 60 years after it first hit the pop, country, and R&B charts.
While rockabilly had been brewing for a long time–you could argue that the first songs that could be recognized as “rockabillyish” started appearing in the late 1940s–it really exploded onto the scene in 1954 when Elvis Presley recorded his first rockabilly songs for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. From that point on to the end of the 50s, rockabilly raged and scores of great rockabilly acts turned out hundreds of wonderful rockabilly recordings.
But by the end of the 50s and certainly by the early 60s, other forms of rock and roll had emerged as more popular than rockabilly. Several rockabilly artists who enjoyed great early success found it nearly impossible to break into the top 20 of the pop charts with their music. More refined and developed rock and roll was taking hold in America, leaving many rockabilly artists behind. Ironically, despite the title of this article, it was the British that rang what was nearly the death knell for rockabilly as the Beatles and other bands from the British invasion took over the pop charts.