Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of Rock ‘N’ Roll invented in the early 1950s. It blends Western musical styles with RnB, or even Bluegrass with Rock ‘N’ Roll, making what is considered classic Rock ‘N’ Roll. The name comes from combining the words ‘rock’ and ‘hillbilly’. Other genres that had a strong influence on rockabilly are swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues, and electric blues.
The defining features of this genre are strong rhythms, vocal twangs, and common use of the tape echo. Progressive addition of other instruments and vocal harmonies led to diluting the distinctive sound of rockabilly. The genre was popularized by artists such as Wanda Jackson, Johnny Cash, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Bob Luman, and Jerry Lee Lewis. However, its success diminished in the late 1950s, only for the genre to be revived in the 1970s and 1980s. Even in the 21st century, people are listening to it. Rockabilly has a significant fan base, and it is a popular subculture. It influenced the birth of a variety of sub-styles and genres. Major names in rockabilly music are the Perkins Brothers Band, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and many others.
At the time of the birth of rockabilly, southern rockers considered it an insult because they saw it as a way of calling them ‘hillbillies’. Over the years, that changed, and the first written use of the term was in 1956.
In Great Britain, the first rockabilly enthusiasts were called Teddy Boys because of their characteristic way of dressing. Another group of rockabilly fans was called Ton-Up Boys, and they later became rockers, adopting the greaser look with T-shirts, jeans and leather jackets, along with slick haircuts. Some of these fans would even form their own bands to perform their own version of the music. The most notable of these bands was the Beatles. Paul McCartney and John Lennon had love for Eddie Cochran’s music. Even when the band broke up, members still showed their love for rockabilly as they continued recording individual songs and albums in this genre.
Along with the Beatles, other big British music names were influenced by rockabilly. The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page have all paid their tribute to this style. Today (21st century) many genres are considered as descendants of rockabilly. Indie pop, blues rock, country rock, and bands like Kings of Leon, Black Keys, and White Stripes are influenced by it.