Visitors explore the Roots of Rock exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The Roots of Rock & Roll

The origins of rock & roll, as told through pioneers in gospel, blues, R&B and country/folk/bluegrass.

Lower Level-Ahmet Ertegun Main Exhibit Hall

This exhibit is divided into individual cases, each devoted to one of rock and roll’s roots: Gospel, Blues, Country/Folk/Bluegrass and R&B. Each section includes a variety of artifacts and brief bios of the key artists.


This section focuses on the origins of rural acoustic music forms that influenced the development of rock music. Featured artists include Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Josh White, Hank Williams, Bob Wills and Bill Monroe.


This section emphasizes the history of the blues, both country and urban, toward the development of rock and the continuation of the blues tradition today in mainstream rock. Featured artists include Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker.


This exhibit draws attention to the gospel tradition and its influence on early R&B, soul and rock and roll. Featured artists include Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Soul Stirrers, the Staple Singers and the Ward Family.

Rhythm and Blues

This exhibit highlights the influence and contributions of early R&B artists in the history of rock. Featured artists include Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Little Willie John, Johnny Otis, Sam Cooke, Charles Brown and Ray Charles, as well as such R&B vocal groups as the Platters and the Coasters.