8 Rock Bands from the ’50s That Shaped the Genre

The sounds of 1950s rock and roll were so quintessential and delightful that they remain fundamental. The genre was just coming alive but somehow there were incredible standout acts that have lasted throughout the years, including numerous bands and performers who shaped what was to come.

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Here are eight legendary bands from the 1950s that helped define music born from the blues and made electric.

1. The Crickets

Oh Buddy Holly, why did you leave us so soon? The frontman for The Crickets died at 22 years old in a plane crash that also took the lives of other rock legends like radio host and musician The Big Bopper and songwriter Ritchie Valens. But just as Elvis Presley was beginning to take over mainstream rock, there could have been another shoulder-to-shoulder. Holly was that good. He and his band the Crickets, founded in 1957, remain a big musical what-if.

2. The Everly Brothers

Founded in 1956 and comprised of brothers Don and Phil Everly, the duo is known for songs like “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Bye Bye Love.” Their energy, attitude and flare for the genre are impossible to miss, even as the two perform with poorly miked acoustic guitars.

3. The Platters

Founded in 1952, the band is famous for songs like “Only You” and “Earth Angel.” The original group was comprised of Herb Reed, Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter and Joe Jefferson. The group was one of the earliest and biggest in the burgeoning rock and roll era.

4. Bill Haley & His Comets

Formed in 1947, this group bridged early rock sensibilities along with country elements to create a distinct rockabilly sound. The band’s big hit, below, is the classic, “Rock Around the Clock,” a great song in its own right. It was made even more famous as the opening theme song to the television show Happy Days for the series’ first two seasons.

5. The Drifters

Formed in 1953, this group went through several iterations and even included legendary singer, Ben E. King. But the band’s first big moment of fame came in the ’50s with hits like “Ruby Baby” and “There Goes My Baby.”

6. The Isley Brothers

Formed in 1954, the group became legends in 1959 thanks to the song that will be a hit forever, “Shout.” The group is doubly famous because it was one of the first American bands to feature up-and-coming six-string player Jimi Hendrix before he became Jimi Hendrix.

7. Little Richard

Perhaps the man most responsible for the stylings of rock and roll, Little Richard, personified the glamor and the edge of the music. His all-time classic song, “Tutti Frutti,” came out in 1955.

8. Chuck Berry

John Lennon once said that rock ‘n’ roll should just be called Chuck Berry. Here, we’ve saved perhaps the best for last. His 1958 song “Johnny B. Good, is the rock song. It’s even on the Voyager spacecraft Golden Record, which is flying through space to meet any aliens who come across Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.

Photo by Steve Oroz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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