Recently, my son-in-law and I were performing a tedious task and to help pass the time, I asked him to name the greatest rock ‘n roll group or artist of all time.
I suggested The Beatles should be #1 and probably Elvis #2 and after that, the race is on.
Of course, that’s just one man’s opinion and without any clearly-defined criteria to use as a filter.
So, let’s set up some ground rules before pressing on with this article.
First, there will never b e total agreement on any of this but I it’s a great conversation starter.
In terms of the rock ‘n roll era, it started in the 50’s.
Many think the first rock song was the 1951 hit, “Rocket 88” recorded by Ike Turner and made famous by the vocals and saxophone work of Jackie Brenston with the Kings of Rhythm band.
It was recorded by Sam Phillips.
In 1969, at Woodstock, Sha-Na-Na sang, “Rock ‘n roll will never die!”
But, a United Kingdom publication, The Critic, claims rock ‘n roll went south (belly-up ) early in the 80’s.
They contend the de-industrialization of both Detroit, Michigan and Liverpool, England, both hot beds of rock ‘n roll, lead to the break-up of the class systems that fed the rock product for years.
The article went on further to claim The Clash’s “London Calling” album (December, 1979) and Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” (October, 1980) sounded the death knell for the rock era.
Now, those points can be argued but let’s agree on the early days.
They called Elvis Presley “The King of Rock ‘n Roll” and from 1950 to 1958, he logged 10 #1 hits.
But Richard Wayne Penniman, otherwise known as “Little Richard”, had a string of singles and 2 albums from 1955-1958.
How about, “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally” “Goods Golly Miss Molly”, “Slippin’ and Slidin’”, “Lucille”, “Rip It Up”, “Ready Teddy” and “Jenny Jenny”.
That era also introduced us to Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Chubby Checker, Bo Diddley, Little Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and one of my favorites, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business”, “The Godfather”, James Brown.
Now I purposely left one early rock star out.
I meat him years ago at an LK restaurant when his entourage was headed home after a concert in Columbus, Ohio in the wee small hours of a Saturday morning.
The minute he walked in with his band and singers, I knew it was Fats.
So, I screwed up enough courage to go over to his table and introduce myself.
I called him, “Mr. Domino” and he said, “Nice to meet you and it’s ‘Fats’, not Mr. Domino.”
The man had enough rings on his hands to start a small jewelry business.
That’s my brush with fame.
Today, there’d be an annoying, staged Facebook photo to back up my story.
There was also the “Rock-a-Billy” influence in the mid 50’s with Elvis, Car Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and even Johnny Cash.
And, the “Doo Woppers” spiced up the era as well.
Growing up in the big cities in the 40’s and harmonizing on street corners and around burn barrels, these “Doo Woppers” rolled through the 50’s and into the sixties with tight harmonies and minimal instruments.
“Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers”, “Del-Vikings”, “The Jarmels”, “The Platters”, “The Tokens”, The Marcels” and “Dion and the Belmonts”, just scratch the surface.
One of my youthful faves was “Little Darling” by The Diamonds, from 1957.
So we’ve established a start and potential finish line to for this talk about the top rock ‘n roll act(s) of all time.
I mentioned earlier that Elvis logged 10 #1 hits from 1950-1958.
He added 7 more from 1958-1969.
With the “British Invasion” of the 60’s, the Beatles logged 18 #1 hits while Motown’s “The Supremes” collected a dozen from ’58-’69.
In the 70’s top dog with #1 hits was the Bee Gees (9), Elton John (6) with Stevie Wonder, former Beatles Paul McCartney and Wings and the Eagles with 5 each. The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross (minus The Supremes) logged 4 apiece.
In the 80’s, Michael Jackson (without his brothers) lead the way with 9 #1 hits as Madonna, Whitney Houston and Phil Collins all had 7.
So, I went to additional sources to determine the top rock dog.
According to Wall Street.com, “24/7 Tempo, using Spotify, Facebook, Ranker, and Billboard 200 charts, here’s what I found.
The top 10 bands were:
The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Elvis, Guns & Roses, Aerosmith, Nirvana, Queen and U-2.
The top 10 singers?
James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Sam Cooke, Elvis, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.
The top 10 bands listed were:
Queen, The Doors, Nirvana, The Who, U-2, Led Zeppelin, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
I’m still carrying a torch for Neil Sedaka.
He should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
That Lou Reed got in before he did is a crime.
One man’s opinion, though.
As is most of this article.
Did we answer the initial question?
Probably not but I just wanted to get your memory banks bubbling.