R & B

Five Satins
R&B, otherwise known as rhythm and blues, is a popular form of music in the African American culture that has existed since the 1940s. It was used by record companies originally to describe music recordings which were sold mostly to African Americans in urban communities.

Most rhythm and blues music uses the piano, o­ne or possibly two guitars, bass, drums, and a saxophone. Arrangements were always rehearsed with the occasional use of background vocals. The repetitive parts of these songs usually meshed together to create a rhythmic momentum that produced a mellow texture. Singers engaged themselves with the lyrics of these songs, all while remaining calm, relaxed, and in complete control. Bands would often dress in suits.

RCA Victor marketed black music under the blues and rhythm name in 1948. Louis Jordan dominated rhythm and blues charts with three songs. Two of the top five songs had boogie-woogie type beats that were common in the 1940s. Tympany Five, formed in 1938, had him o­n both sax and vocals with accompanying musicians o­n trumpets, tenor saxophones, a piano, bass, and drums. Lawrence Cohen described this music as being much more grittier than Jordan’s boogie-era blues songs.

In the late 40s, the term rhythm and blues replaced Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade. “The Huckle-Buck,” recorded by Paul Williams, was the number o­ne hit of 1949 and remained o­n the charts for a year. The song was described as having a dirty boogie feel to it because it was quite raunchy. Paul Williams’ concerts with The Hucklebuckers were typically sweaty affairs that got shut down o­n numerous occasions.

Fred Parris
Continuing with the 50s, Johnny Otis signed with Savoy Records and produced some hit songs in 1951 including “Mistrustin’ Blues” and “Cupid’s Boogie,” which were both #1 hits. Otis had ten songs in the top ten that year as well. In July of 1951, Ohio DJ Alan Freed started a late night radio program called “The Moondog Rock Roll House Party,” sponsored by Fred Mintz. He started using the rhythm and blues term along with playing rock and roll music.

Later, rhythm and blues began to be used as a blanket term for other genres such as disco, soul, and funk. Today, R&B is used in place of rhythm and blues. R&B also commonly refers to contemporary R&B, a modern type of soul and funk pop music.