Saturday, June 9, 2001

50 years ago: “Rocket 88” hit #1 on R&B chart

Rocket 88

Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats

Writer(s): Jackie Brenston, Ike Turner (see lyrics here)

Released: April 1951

First Charted: May 12, 1951

Peak: 15 RB, 6 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 3.8 video, 5.24 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Rocket 88” “has been officially anointed ‘the first rock and roll record ever made’ by generations of white male music journalists.” AH The song “addressed three subjects that would feature in many successful rock songs: cars, women, and liquor.” LW Saxophonist Jackie Brenston was from Clarksdale, Mississippi – the site of the crossroads legend in which bluesman Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil in return for his guitar-playing prowess. LW

Ike Turner’s “rolling boogie-woogie piano…anticipated the style of Jerry Lee Lewis a few years later” LW and Little Richard repeated it nearly note-for-note as the intro to “Good Golly Miss Molly.” AH A damaged speaker cone on the guitar amp led to the distortion sound that became a common feature in future rock songs. LW

The earnings from the song also helped Sam Phillips set up Sun Records, which is the record company most associated with the beginning of rock and roll thanks to launching the careers of Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and Carl Perkins. It was King who suggested that Ike Turner contact Phillips, “a white man who was motivated by a deeply-felt anger at racial injustice, which expressed itself as a belief that if other white people could just see the humanity, and the talent, in black people the way he could, the world would be a much better place.” AH

Ike & His Kings of Rhythm went to Memphis to record with Phillips who incidentally saw the damaged amp as a good thing. He said it would sound different and different was always good. AH The song they performed was “Rocket 88,” a song written by Brenston. In reality, he didn’t so much write the song as reinvent “Cadillac Boogie,” a B-side for the Drops of Joy. AH To Ike’s horror, when the song was released it was credited to Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats instead of Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm. AH


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First posted 3/24/2023; last updated 8/22/2023.

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