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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Mr. Tambourine Man"

Wednesday, June 20: 11 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Folk rock didn't necessarily begin here. Four months before the Byrds recorded "Mr. Tambourine Man," the Animals were topping the pop charts with "The House of the Rising Sun." But this combination of song and performance epitomized the genre, with the happy effect of giving Bob Dylan – as songwriter, at least – a Number One hit, peaking on Billboard's Hot 100 on the week of June 26, 1965. The Byrds' debut gave them a powerful lift-off. The only Byrd playing on it, though, was electric 12-string guitarist Jim (later Roger) McGuinn. Producer Terry Melcher, doubtful of the new band's abilities, hired top session musicians (including Leon Russell) to back up the vocals of McGuinn, David Crosby and Gene Clark. Perhaps Melcher had heard the group's originally private 1964 recording of the tune, which sounds like an arrangement for a music box. The Byrds recorded and released "Mr. Tambourine Man" neck and neck with Dylan's own (album-only) acoustic version. "We didn't really like [the song] or even understand it at the time," bassist Chris Hillman later admitted; their manager had pushed it on them. Drenched in the 12-string jangle of McGuinn's Rickenbacker guitar and ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Uncle John's Band"

Wednesday, May 30: 12:42 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

The Grateful Dead capped the Sixties with Live/Dead, a double-album that confirmed them as masters of acid-improv. But the spring of 1970 found the group's sound radically redirected on Workingman's Dead. Breezy harmonies and beer-soaked ballads replaced the previous blend of liquid noodling and lysergic lyrics, and no song illustrated the change more succinctly than the opening track, "Uncle John's Band." Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter recalled the song's origins in a 1991 interview with Grateful Dead historian Blair Jackson. According to Garcia, "At that time I was listening to records of the Bulgarian Women's Choir and also this Greek-Macedonian music, and on one of those records there was a... little turn of melody that was so lovely...  I thought, 'Gee, if I could get this into a song it would be so great.' So, I stole it." Eventually, Hunter received a tape of the band's finished arrangement. "I played it over and over [and] kept hearing the words 'God damn, Uncle John's mad'... and it  took a while for that to turn into 'Come hear Uncle John's Band,' and that's one of those little things where the ...


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Album Notes: the Mamas and the Papas' "If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears"

Friday, May 25: 12 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The Mamas and the Papas censored cover for If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

For the week of May 21, 1966, the Mamas and the Papas debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, peaked at Number One on the Billboard 200. The group of New York folk vagabonds whose post-beatnik image and soaring harmonies bridged folk rock and imminent psychedelia had emerged from the "New Folk" movement of the late Fifties and early Sixties, delivering a seminal debut album with an unexpectedly controversial cover. 

John Phillips had been a member of the Journeymen, a folk trio that also included Dick Weissmann and Scott McKenzie. (McKenzie would go on record a song of Phillips’, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” that became a hit during the summer of 1967.) In a similar vein, Cass Elliot had been in the Big Three, while Denny Doherty belonged to the Halifax Three. Both Elliot and Doherty came together in the Mugwumps, which also included John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky, later of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Michelle Phillips was an aspiring model (born Holly Michelle Gilliam) and the wife of John Phillips.

the mamas and the papas california dreaminJohn, Michelle and Doherty performed in the New Journeymen, a temporary group put together to fulfill contractual obligations after the ...


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The Story of "Ohio"

Thursday, May 17: 11 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The single for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio"/"Find The Cost Of Freedom"

In May 1970, Neil Young came to his bandmates David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills with a powerful new song: "Ohio." After three days of agitated student-led protests of the invasion of Cambodia, the already incendiary situation at Kent State University exploded on the afternoon of May 4, 1970, when 28 National Guardsmen fired as many as 67 shots into a crowd of people. The 13-second barrage killed four students – Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer – and injured nine more. In the wake of the tragedy, President Richard Nixon's military orders in Southeast Asia came under increasingly fervent scrutiny, while John Paul Filo's Pulitzer prize–winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio screaming beside the lifeless body of Jeffrey Miller was forever ingrained into the American social consciousness as a poignant reminder of the domestic turmoil during the Vietnam Era. Other images from the shooting appeared as part of the May 15,1970 Life magazine cover story, an issue that reportedly found its way to Neil Young via David Crosby.

In the liner notes of his 1977 anthology, Decade, Young wrote: "It's still hard to believe I had to write this song. It's ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"

Wednesday, April 25: 1 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

The Band recognized that while the soul of a song lived in its performance, its style was found in the arrangement. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is an exquisitely structured song:  acoustic guitar frames the verses, Levon Helm's drums roll into a moving chorus, and Garth Hudson adds faux harmonica with organ and a real trumpet. Recorded in 1969 and released on the Band's self-titled second album, the song's arrangement created a dramatic tableau for the poignant vocals. It's perhaps ironic that rock's most famous song about the Civil War was written by a Canadian, Robbie Roberston. It had to be sung, however, by the Band's only U.S. citizen: Arkansas native Helm. Helm is as vividly natural in this Southern role as when he played Loretta Lynn's father in the film Coal Miner's Daughter. The song's Virgil Caine meets his rebel's death, and he dies nobly. Joan Baez' cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which appeared on her album Blessed Are…, reached Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. The Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ...


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Rock Hall Sessions: Interview with Bethesda

Friday, February 17: 4 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Members of the band Bethesda interviewed at the Rock Hall

Although Bethesda is an Ohio-bred band whose homespun tales and sounds are grounded in the folk tradition, the members' ecletic musical backgrounds, creative energy and flair for the dramatic ensure that they're never beholden to the trappings of one particular style. Instead, the group's core of musicians – violinist Christopher Black, bassist Dan Corby, vocalist Shanna Delaney, guitarist/vocalist Eric Ling, drummer Justin Rife and guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Jesse Sloan – have cultivated a refreshingly vibrant sound that has made them a band to watch. Their music has been slated to appear in programming on Showtime, MTV, Oxygen, VH1 and E!; they've shared the stage with such noted indie acts as Azure Ray and fellow Ohio native, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and exposure on more than 200 independent and college radio stations nationwide has given them serious buzz. 

Delaney hails from Circleville, Ohio, while Ling grew up in nearby Bellefontaine. Sloan originally came from Florida, Rife from Tallmadge, Ohio, Corby from Chardon, Ohio, and Black was most recently living in Connecticut. The members brought divergent tastes, with Rife coming from a background playing in punk bands and Delaney having found her voice in musical theater. Ling was a student ...


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Album Notes: Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash"

Wednesday, January 11: 4 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Despite the subtitle of Johnny Cash's 1963 compilation album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash, the 12 tracks more accurately represent a nicely curated assemblage of singles and recordings from the Man in Black's late Fifties to the early Sixties catalog. As an undisputed legend of American song, a titanic figure on par with Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly and Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash arguably sang more types of songs, including folk, country, blues and gospel, than any of his peers or predecessors – and this album illustrates that versatility.

Although present at the genesis of rock and roll as one of the earliest signings to Sam Phillips' Sun Records in 1955, Cash recorded for nearly three decades with Columbia Records, a fruitful period that produced an estimated 1,400 songs. Cash's 16th album, Ring of Fire did, in fact, feature some of his best material, and on the week of January 11, 1964, it became the Number One album on Billboard's new Country Album chart.

The title track, "Ring Of Fire," written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore, is indicative of the idiosyncratic genius that's a hallmark of Cash's songwriting, with its ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "The Sounds Of Silence"

Wednesday, January 4: 1 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
"The Sounds Of Silence" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

On the week of January 1, 1966, Simon and Garfunkel started a weeklong run at Number One on the Billboard charts with "The Sounds Of Silence." They were knocked out of that spot on January 8 by the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out," but returned to the Number One slot for one more week on January 22. 

Simon and Garfunkel started as Tom and Jerry, Everly Brothers wannabees from Queens, New York. They had a minor 1957 hit with "Hey, Schoolgirl" (Number 49 on Billboard charts), and seemed destined for footnote status in the saga of rock and roll's golden age. After years apart, they resurfaced under their real names as topical folk singers. In the fall of 1964, Simon and Garfunkel released an acoustic album called Wednesday Morning 3 A.M., which included an arrangement of "The Sounds of Silence" that only included vocals and acoustic guitar.

With the folk revival all but over, the record was universally ignored and the duo again split. Folk rock hit a year later, and Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.'s producer Tom Wilson (concurrently helping Bob Dylan "go electric") overdubbed a rock backing track on "The Sounds of Silence ...


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