- Hero image from: Hemmings Motor News. Video from: YouTube Art, text and errors by: Chris Breeden

This Oldsmobile changed the world you live in!

The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll - Rocket 88

General Motors introduced their first overhead valve (OHV) V8 engine in the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. The engine and the car would go on to completely change American pop culture, forever. The OHV V8 engines produced by all manufactures during the early 1950's were popular with every American, especially teenagers. The freedom from prying parental eyes that teenagers enjoyed while driving around in high powered cars lead them to look for a new type of music to enjoy.

Enter Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm

Image from: discogs.com

Sometime in early March (the 3rd or the 4th) of 1951 Ike Turner and his band, The Kings of Rhythm were in Mississippi on their way to Memphis, Tennessee when something very fortunate happened to them. Ike Turner says that it was raining and that caused a guitar amplifier to get wet they were carrying in the the trunk of the car. Sam Phillips, Memphis record producer and owner of Sun Records, claims the amp was dropped when the band pulled everything out of the trunk of the car to change a flat tire. Whatever happened the amp had a decidedly different sound when they plug it up in the Sun Records studio.

The amp belonged to Willie Kizart, who was the bands lead guitar player in 1951. Willie stuffed some newspaper around the speaker and liked the sound so much the band decided to go with it. The fuzzy distorted sound is the first example of distortion in Rock 'n' Roll.

Ike didn't sing the vocals on the track they recorded that day. Instead he had the bands saxophone player, Jackie Brenston, who had written the song sing. As a result of that credit for the song rightfully goes to, "Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats".

The song combined lyrics written by Brenston, with music from the 1947 Jimmy Loggins hit, "Cadillac Boogie". The song was inspired by the 1949 instrumental, "Rocket 88 Boogie" Parts 1 and 2.

The combination of music that had a drive to it, the distorted guitar and the popular lyrical subject matter has long pointed to this song being one of the earliest examples of Rock 'n' Roll music. For his efforts, Ike Turner, was paid $20 for making the arrangement and playing the piano on the track.

The Oldsmobile Rocket 88 was one of the cars that spurred the development of early V8 engines in the US. America's love affair with the engine layout was deepened when the engine was introduced in '49. The fascination people had with the engine brought it to the attention of early Rock musicians like Ike Turner. Over the next few years, Rock music and Hot cars would go hand in hand. This musical and mobile alliance would become so intertwined it's hard to think of one without the other!

Keep on Cruisin'!

Art by: Chris Breeden

About the Author:

"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."

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