Chuck Berry and Teenage Culture in the 1950s

2758 Words12 Pages
Chuck Berry and Teenage Culture in the 1950s Teenagers were a new species at the beginning of the 1950's. Before then, adolescents in America had traditionally gone to work to support their family or to start their own family as soon as they were old enough. However, the years of post-war prosperity and the expansion of suburbia provided teenagers (who were too young to remember the scarcities of the Depression and the war effort) with plenty of leisure time. At the same time, advances in technology made vinyl 45's cheap and easily accessible to both artists and listeners. White teenagers bought up pop hits coming off the Billboard 100, although many who were listening to black radio stations preferred rhythm and blues tunes which were always played by black performers. In fact rhythm and blues was pretty much used as a synonym for black music. Chuck Berry was one of the first black musicians to do well with a white audience. Because of his middle class background, his energetic performing style, and his youth-associated lyrics, Chuck Berry broke through the race barrier and became one of the first "rock stars." Berry became a representative of the teenage generation, even though he recorded his first single at the age of 29. His experience growing up, though he was almost 15 years older than many of his fans, was similar enough to the suburban experience that he could easily identify with the restless attitude of white middle class teens. Berry was "a city kid from St. Louis . . . not rooted in the rural past as were the country blues artists at Chess." (DeWitt, 140) The joys of fast cars, young love, and a rockin' beat that Berry prized as a teenager did not diminish with his age. Berry grew up around East St. Louis. Li... ... middle of paper ... ...ve developed in the way it did, but without teenage fans, Chuck Berry might never have recorded a song. Bibliography Berry, Chuck. Chuck Berry: The Autobiography. New York: Harmony Books, 1987. Chapple, Steve and Rebecca Garofolo. Rock 'n' Roll is Here to Pay. Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1977. Cohodas, Nadine. Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000. DeWitt, Howard. Chuck Berry: Rock 'n' Roll Music. Freemont, CA: Horizon Books, 1981. Halberstam, David. The Fifties. New York: Villard Books, 1993. Hendler, Herb. Year by Year in the Rock Era. London: Greenwood Press, 1983. Reese, Krista. Chuck Berry: Mr. Rock and Roll. London: Proteus Books, 1982. Rudolph, Dietmar. A Collector's Guide to the Music of Chuck Berry: Lyrics. http://members.tripod.com/~buitendeboot/LYRICS.HTML. 2001.

More about Chuck Berry and Teenage Culture in the 1950s

Open Document