Genera of music - Rockabilly Z

Genera of music - Rockabilly

If we look at the genera of music, we can see that within pop music there is also the music style Rock. Within Rock, we can also make a division into different music genres, namely: Rock 'n Roll, hard rock, alternative rock, art & experimental rock, metal, punk and indie. Today i want to talk about Rockabilly, a wellknown music style which became popular in the 50’s. After the Second World War, a period began in which young people became familiar with the rise of the rockabilly hype in the 1950s, this style of music appealed to young people enormously.

There was dancing, partying, drinking and subculture like Greaser culture was born in which young people broke away from the conservative thinking of their parents and became rebellious and pushed the boundaries. This led to concerns among parents about alcohol, drug use and sex in the backseat of the car, as well as violence and speeding cars. Cars, hot rod cars were an important part of the rockabilly period, especially cars with a V-8 engine, like Ford Mustang and Cadillac. Cars were also a source of inspiration for music and films. Elvis Presley turned Rockabilly on its head with his own musical style and created many hits and also played in films. But there were more Rockabilly icons at that time. Let me take you back to this time and explain the history of Rockabilly. 

What is Rockabilly?

Rockabilly is a style of music that fits within rock 'n roll music. It is a mixture of hillbilly (country music) and rock and roll. It's a style of country western with rhythm and blues. Rockabilly is often played on a jazz guitar, but also on a western guitar, steel guitar also called Hawaiian guitar.

You have different steel guitars, namely lap steel, resonator, pedal steel. Rockabilly music composition usually consisted of guitar and double bass. Later that expanded with drums piano and wind instruments.

Rockabilly music can be recognized by the fingerpicking guitar playing and the double slap on the double bass. Slap can be compared to a drum and you often heard that in the early years when rockabilly was just emerging, so they used the double beat on the double bass to indicate the rhythm.

Double slap was done on the double bass with the index finger on the string or with the edge of the hand. You can also pick up the string a little harder with the index finger and let it bounce back or you can use several fingers for sound effects. The thumb was used on the bass guitar. Or one alternates it with plucking the strings and letting go, the so-called pizzicato effect. The double slap can be done on both the acoustic and electric guitar. When I thought of weak technique and what that sounds like nowadays, I immediately thought of Mark King from Level 42, who often uses this technique in their music. The basic structure of a rockabilly song consists mainly of a 12 bar blues scheme. A fixed number of bars with usually three chords. To get the Rockabilly sound, the use of tape echo is  unique.

To be able to play rockabilly on a guitar, a semi-acoustic guitar is usually chosen, which is equipped with P-90 pickups. The P-90 pickups provide a somewhat rougher sound. A Gibson guitar is therefore more hum sensitive than a Fender guitar. So you have to be able to play quite a bit to be able to play on a Gibson to be able to control that hum. Notable artists who also played semi-acoustic guitars with P-90 pickups included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison of The Beatles.  


Rockabilly History

We go back in time in music history and come from the late 40s and early 50s. The time when the term Rockabilly became known in the south of the USA. These were two musical styles that were combined, namely Rock 'n Roll and Hillbilly. In the South of America, the music styles western style like country ( hillbilly ) and rhythm and blues were played and this combined with the rock ’n roll. Some say it is a mix of bluegrass and rock 'n roll. Bluegrass is a style of music that falls within the country music due to the fact that bluegrass music was often played at a high tempo, which is also characteristic of rockabilly music. Bill Monroe was a famous Bluegrass artist during the fifties.But there were other musical styles in music history that influenced the creation of Rockabilly.These were the following musical styles:

  • western swing
  • boogie woogie
  • jump blues
  • electric blues

First we go back to 1920, when the musical styles of blues and country music found each other and were combined. Country singer songwriter Vernon Dalhart released two songs, titled Wreck of the old 97 in 1924 which became a hit and sold a million copies and was also covered by several artists and The Prisoner's Song which also became famous.

In the 1930s and 1940s, two new musical styles were added to rock'n roll, namely western swing and boogie woogie. The most famous musician and founder of the western swing style was the American western swing singer Bob Wills. He was also called the King of Western Swing. Besides being a singer, Wills was also a songwriter and leader of several bands, including Texas Playboys of 1934. The characteristic musical style of the Texas Playboys was country singing, which was supported by steel guitar. In 1937, Eldon Shamblin, also a country singer, joined the band and made several jazz arrangements, like tow beat jazz rhytms. They played regularly on Oklahoma, where Eldon was also from. They played regularly on Oklahoma, where Eldon was also from. The band became popular in 1940 and had several hits, including Smoke on the Water, Steel Guitar Rag. In 1950, two more songs reached the top 10, Ida Red likes the Boogie and Faded Love.

Between 1930 and 1940, as I said, there was also an influence of boogie woogie style.In 1938, a veritable boogie rise took place throughout the country and was led by blues musicians Meade Lux and Pete Johnson. Various country artists began to record their music which consisted of singing and bass guitar. The vocals were country style ( hillbilly ) and the bass guitar was used to perform boogie style.

From 1930 to 1950, the Hillbilly band Maddox Brothers and Rose played and consisted of four brothers and a sister. One of the brothers, Fred Maddox, practised the slapping bass on the double bass and applied it to music in 1937. The slapping bass is characteristic of rockabilly music and was played on both the double bass and the bas guitar.

We can say that Carl Perkins is the founder of rockabilly music who got it into the picture to such an extent that he was noticed by record label Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. At the age of thirteen Carl Perkins wrote a song called Movie Magg and ten years later it led to a record deal with Sun Records. He became even more famous in 1955 when he wrote the song Blue Suede Shoes which became a big hit in 1956 and topped several charts. Later, this song became much more famous because Elvis Presley made a cover song of it. Elvis Presley is the number one rockabilly performer and artist of all time which has also a contract by Sun Records.

He was also called The Hillbilly Cat or King of Western Bop because of his own unique musical style which was a basis of country and R&B and with which he attracted audiences and put the rockabilly hype on the map. At the age of nineteen, Elvis sang the song That's All Right Mama as a surprise for his mother and was picked up by Sun Records. That's All Right Mama is originally a 1946 blues song sung and written by Arthur Crudup, Scotty Moore and Bill Black. These three gentlemen teamed up with Elvis and released this song. Elvis' version sounded totally different from the original blues song. Several radio stations at first did not want to broadcast the song because it sounded too black or too white, but that changed when DJ Dewey Phillipps started playing it. This caused an uproar among the radio stations.

In 1955, we can mention two famous rockabilly songs by music artists such as Chuck Berry with the song Maybellene and Bill Haley and His Comets with the song Rock Around the Clock. One year later, in 1956, Elvis came out with the songs Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel. Heartbreak Hotel became his first number one hit and the song was a great inspiration to John Lennon, George Harrison and Robert Plant. This song was not recorded by Sun Records, but by record label RCA in New York. In the same year Johnny Cash released his song entitled Folsom Prison Blues and of course Carl Perkins with the song Blue Suede Shoes. There was a real Rockabilly hype and many musicians started to make rockabilly songs and also female music artists brought out rockabilly songs. After 1960 the popularity of rockabilly declined.

In the nineties to the present we also see rockabilly influences in the songs of various country rock bands.
Think for example of Blackfoot, White Stripes, The Baseballs, The Paladins, Tiger Army.


Rockabilly Artists

Elvis Presley

Johnny Cash

Buddy Holly and The Crickets

Bill Haley and The Comets

Carl Perkins

Ricky Nelson

Charlie Rich

Sparkle Moore

Wanda Jackson

Jerry Lee Lewis

Brenda Lee

Flat Duo Jets

Dorsey Burnette

Janis Martin

Legendary Shack Shakers

The Revere Horton Heat

Billy Lee Riley

Chuck Berry

Tiger Army

Stray Cats

The Blue Moon Boys

Buddy Knox

Hasil Adkins

Sonny Burgess

The Blasters

Link Wray

Eddie Cochran

Roy Orbison

The Cramps

Lee Rocker

Robert Gordon

Dave Edmunds

Charlie Feathers

Dave Alvin

The Flamin Groovies


Rockabilly Documentary & Films

Rockabilly documentary & films

Rebel Without A Cause ( 1955 )

Blackboard Jungle ( 1955 )

Rock Around The Clock ( 1956 )

The Girl Can’t Help It ( 1956 )

Shake Rattle and Rock ( 1956 )

Rock, Rock, Rock ( 1956 )

Rock Baby Rock It ( 1957 )

Don’t Knock The Rock ( 1957 )

Jamboree ( 1957 )

High School Confidential! ( 1957 )

Calypso Heat Wave ( 1957 )

King Creole ( 1958 )

Hot Rod Gang ( 1958 )

Juke Box Rhythm ( 1959 )

Raggare ( Blackjackets ) ( 1959 )

The World’s Greatest Sinner ( 1962 )

Baby The Rain Must Fall ( 1965 )

American Graffiti ( 1973 )

Grease ( 1978 )

The Wanderers ( 1979 )

Boone ( 1983 )

Tutti Frutti ( 1987 )

Cry Baby ( 1990 )

Six-String Samurai ( 1998 )

Walk the Line ( 2005 )

The World Fastest Indian ( 2005 )

Choppertown: The Sinners ( 2005 )

Rebel Beat : The Story of LA Rockabilly ( 2007 )

Red White & Blue ( 2010 )

Tim Timebomb’s RockNRoll Theater ( 2011 )

Tomorrow’s Gone ( 2019 )

Dandilicious ( 2021 )


Elvis films

Love Me Tender ( 1956 )

Jailhouse Rock ( 1957 )

Loving You ( 1957 )

King Creole ( 1958 )

Flaming Star ( 1960 )

G.I. Blues ( 1960 )

Wild in the Country ( 1961 )

Girls!, Girls!, Girls! ( 1962 )

Follow That Dream ( 1962 )

Kid Galahad ( 1962 )

Fun in Acapulco ( 1963 )

It Happened at the World’s Fair ( 1963 )

Viva Las Vegas ( 1964 )

Kissin’ Cousins ( 1964 )

Roustabout ( 1964 )

Tickle Me ( 1965 )

Girl Happy ( 1965 )

Harum Scarum ( 1965 )

Frankie and Johnny ( 1966 )

Paradise, Hawaiian Style ( 1966 )

Spinout ( 1966 )

Clambake ( 1967 )

Double Trouble ( 1967 )

Stay Away, Joe ( 1968 )

Live A Little, Love A Little ( 1968 )

Speedway ( 1968 )

Charro! ( 1969 )

Change of Habit ( 1969 )

The Trouble with Girls ( 1969 )

Elvis On Tour ( 1972 )

Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii ( 1973 )

Elvis in Concert ( 1977 )

Elvis ( 1979 )

This is Elvis ( 1981 )

Elvis ( 2005 )


Rockabilly Songs About Cars


Rockabilly Looks

Rockabilly looks:


Haircut: Waxed hair, Quiff or also called pompadour. The sides of the hair are cut short and one wears a large quiff which is made fat with wax or brylcreem. This is then combed back with a comb or worn at an angle. Nowadays you still see the pompadour/fat quiff, but the sides are shaved instead of cut. If you think of people from the Rockabilly era who also wore such hairstyles, they were Elvis Presley, James Dean, John Travolta, Fonzie from the series Happy Days.

Clothes: leather jacket, Levis jeans, leather belt, plain shirts, shirt, leather boots. ( greaser look ), bowling shirts


half-long hair and long hair.

Curls, both natural curls and curls set with rollers, the so-called Victory rolls. These rollers create a nice big curl in the hair. You also saw it a lot in the forties. Tight fringes cut short in combination with curly hair. When we look at this kind of hairstyle, we think of Marilyn Monroe, Betty Page and Wanda Jackson.

How to wear a bandana


Petticoat, dresses, pinup dresses, blouse with polka dot, cherry pattern, stripes.Blouse and dresses with collar and bow. Bandanas in various prints, especially again cherry and the polka dot pattern. Pencil skirt, high-waisted trousers, shorts, halter dresses, Colours red, pink, yellow, light blue, black, white, navy style. Shoes with low heel and strap, pumps with low heel and high heel and open toe.

Make -up:

Pinup eye makeup


Red lipstick
Tattoo designs

If you are looking for some nice ideas for Rockabilly nails, take a look at this page. You will find cute nail ideas with cherries, polka dots, stripes, skulls and roses, but also pink, red and black shades.


Rockabilly Food

Rockabilly food was widely eaten in the Rockabilly cafes. These were beautiful retro cafes with a black and white tiled floor laid straight or diagonally. The walls were mostly mint green. In the middle was a bar, often made of aluminium with bar stools in front with coloured seats in red, black or white. The tables were often white and square and the chairs were made of aluminium and often covered with leather in the colours red, mint. At the sides often pu leather benches in one piece. On the table was often a cassette with napkins and a set of hotdog sauce bottles. On the wall were often framed posters and vinyl records. The milkshakes were served in tall glasses. A jukebox was a must. Listen to this Rockabilly Ice Cream Song of Frank Triolo

Comfort food







Ice creams

Hot dogs

Soda drinks





Crispy fried chicken

Chicken wings


Rockabilly dance

If you enjoy dancing and you like to dance fast, then Rockabilly dance is for you. Think about the film Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John!

Rockabilly is all about speed. Rockabilly dance is most similar to west coast swing, but you can also see the following dance styles in it, namely jive, stroll, rock 'n roll. Because the rockabilly dance is quite fast, it is even a bit of acrobatics what you see when dancing. But when swinging in rockabilly, one stays more upright than in the regular swing and the difference is that in rockabilly no backstep is made. In the jive there is also a lot of turning. In the videos below you can see how rockabilly jive and rockabilly stroll looks like.


100 Greatest Rockabilly Hits

1. Carl Perkins - Blue Suede Shoes
2. Vernon Taylor - Mystery Train
3. Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel
4. Wanda Jackson - Honey Bop
5. Jack Earls - Slow Down
6. Elvis Presley - All Shook Up
7. Bill Haley - Rock Around The Clock
8. Gene Vincent - Race with the Devil
9. Roy Orbison - Domino
10. Billy Lee Riley - Red Hot
11. Jerry Lee Lewis - Breathless
12. Johnny Cash - Rockabilly Blues
13. Johnny Burnette - Rockabilly Boogie
14. Rockin' Ray Smith - Little Girl
15. Sonny Burgess - Red Headed Woman
16. Eddie Cochran - Summertime Blues
17. Mac Curtis - If I Had Me A Woman
18. Eddie Bond - Rockin' Daddy
19. The Jesters - What's the Matter Baby
20. Stray Cats - Rockabilly Rules
21. Buddy Holly & The Crickets - That 'll Be the Day
22. Ricky Nelson - Hello Mary Lou
23. Warren Smith - Ubangi Stomp
24. Sleepy LaBeef - Honey Hush
25. The Everly Brothers - Bird Dog
26. Eddie Cochran - Skinny Jim
27. Sleepy John Estes - Milk Cow Blues
28. Roy Orbison - Ooby Dooby
29. Jerry Lee Lewis - Be - Bop-A-Lula
30. Elvis Presley - That's All Right Mama
31. Vince Taylor - Brand New Cadillac
32. Stray Cats - Rock This Town
33. Johnny Cash - Get Rhythm
34. Johnny Powers - Waiting For You
35. Dean Beard - Baby Don't Lie to Me
36. Warren Smith - Rock 'n Roll Ruby
37. Bill Justis - College Man
38. Wynonie Harris - Good Rockin' Tonight
39. Charlie Feathers - Bottle to the Baby
40. Wanda Jackson - Fujiyama Mama
41. Janis Martin - Bang Bang
42. Gene Vincent - Pink Thunderbird
43. Frank Thayer - Long Grey Highway
44. Walt Benton - Big Wheel
45. Ellis Kirk And The Town And Country Boys - Sweetie Pie
46. Buddy Holly - Not Fade Away
47. Elvis Presley -  Little Sister
48. Chuck Berry - Johnny B Goode
49. Bill Haley - Shake Rattle and Roll
50. Wanda Jackson - Long Tall Sally

51. Jerry Lee Lewis - Great Balls of Fire
52. Jim Foster - Rag Roof Roadster
53. Johnny Redd - Take A Ride With Me
54. Janis Martin - Little Bit
55. Johnny Jay - Sugar Doll
56. Buddy Covelle - Lorraine
57. Tommy Bell - Midnight Dreams
58. Carl Perkins - Matchbox
59. Andy Anderson - You Shake Me Up
60. Johnny & The Hurricanes - Red River Rock
61. Bill Flag - Go Cat Go
62. The Dazzlers - Something Baby
63.  Buddy Burke - That Big Old Moon
64.  Ray McCoy - I Need It
65.  Jack Turner - Hound Dog
66.  Johnny Cash - Cry, Cry, Cry
67.  Sonny Fisher - Rockin' and Rollin'
68.  The Everly Brothers - Rip It Up
69.  Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue
70.  Jack Scott - Greaseball
71.  Eddie Cochran - C'Mon Everybody
72.  Elvis Presley - Baby, Let's Play House
73.  Johnny Burnette Trio  - Train Kept a Rollin'
74.  Eddie Bond - Flip Flop Mama
75.  Jackie Lee Cochran - Hip Shakin' Mama
76.  Roy Hall - Three Alley Cats
77.  Brenda Lee - Rock-A-Bye Baby Blues
78.  Elvis Presley - Good Rockin' Tonight
79.  Carl Perkins - Boppin' The Blues
80.  Sonny Burgess - We Wanna Boogie
81.  Gene Vincent -  Crazy Legs
82.  Bobby Wood - If I'm A Fool For Loving You
83.  Sonny James - You Got That Touch
84.  Bobby Darin - Queen of The Hop
85.  The Champs - Tequilla
86.  Bobby Vee - Suzie Baby
87.  The Jets - Yes Tonight Josephine
88.  Rolling Stones - Not Fade Away
89.  Marty Wilde - So Glad You're Mine
90.  Robert Gordon - Everbody's Rocking But Me
91.  Tommy Blake - Lordy Hoody
92.  Hayden Thompson - Fairlane Rock
93.  Billy Lee Riley - Flyin' Saucers Rock and Roll
94.  Carl Perkins - Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby
95.  Ronnie Dawson - Rockin' Bones
96.  Ricky Nelson - Believe What You Say
97.  Hershel Almond - Lets Get it On
98.  Jimmy Patton - Love Come Back To Me
99.  Joe Clay - Slipping Out & Sneaking In
100.  Johnny Burnette Trio - Tear It Up


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