What is rockabilly music? I’ve had to think long and hard to answer that question! Technically, rockabilly is a particularly wild and unrestrained form of music that grew out of the roots of country music and blues music in the early 1950s. It raged strong into the early 60s when it was overshadowed by forms that grew out of it, particularly acts that were part of the British invasion. But the form never really died and it was further defined by a resurgence in the 1980s when elements of punk and jazz were infused into the basic form. It continues to evolve today more than 50 years after it first appeared on the pop scene.
Rockabilly music has undoubtedly influenced virtually every form of rock and roll that has come after it. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and countless other bands and artists site rockabilly music and rockabilly musicians as the most influential force in their development as musicians. Once you become familiar with the sound of rockabilly, you will hear it in many popular songs that you’ve known and loved for years never realizing from where the roots sprung.
By and large, the original rockabilly musicians remain mostly unknown to most lovers of modern pop music and of those that they do know, they don’t really understand their rockabilly roots. For example, Elvis Presley is, as everyone knows, the King of rock and roll. But most people don’t really understand where Elvis started: with rockabilly music. In fact, he’s considered one of–if not the–inventor of the genre.
Similarly, virtually everyone knows the song “Blue Suede Shoes” and they may know it as an Elvis song. However, the song was written by a rockabilly legend named Carl Perkins who had an even bigger hit with it than Elvis did. Carl never had another big hit and is sometimes shrugged off as a “one-hit wonder” because of the fact. However, what most people miss when they dismiss him like this is the incredible influence Perkins has had on modern rock and roll music. The Beatles’ George Harrison idolized Perkins and studied his music intensely. And he was by far not the only one who cites Perkins as a major influence. Perkins’ guitar playing has served as the basis of education for countless young guitarists throughout the years.
So, does any of that actually answer the original question? What is rockabilly anyway? Rockabilly is raw excitement. It’s unrestrained music created by brash, young musicians who were inventing the rules as they were going along. It’s no-holds-barred fun. It makes you dance. It makes you smile. And it makes you want to hear more. To millions of fans throughout the world, it’s the perfect form of rock and roll music!