Rock 'n' Roll America

Sweet Little Sixteen

Series 1 - Episode 1 Sweet Little Sixteen



You could trace rock 'n' roll's evolution back ad infinitum without finding its genesis within one single artist or song. But you have to start somewhere, so this fine three-part history begins in 1949 with Fats Domino, whose signature piano triplet initially irked some of his contemporaries. "A lot of musicians in New Orleans didn't want to play behind Fats because his music was so simple," says former Little Richard drummer Charles Connor.

Simple maybe, but it sure made people dance. It also helped pave the way for the first rock 'n' roll number one — Rock Around The Clock. Bill Haley had the hit, but it was the contributions of several edgier characters that launched the genre into the stratosphere. Elvis had the moves, Chuck Berry had the lyrics, but nobody radiated as much primal energy as Little Richard. "I'm the king of rock 'n' roll," he exclaims to a rather bemused BBC presenter.


Documentary examining the most important era in the history of popular music - the birth of rock 'n' roll. The opening programme focuses on the origins of the sound in 1950s America when the rhythm-driven mix of blues, boogie woogie and vocal harmony was nurtured by small independent record labels and championed by young music pioneers such as Fats Domino and Little Richard. This episode also looks at the start of Elvis Presley's career in Memphis and examines the impact the film industry had on the rock movement. Contributors include Tom Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis and Don Everly.

Cast & Crew

Contributor Tom Jones
Contributor Jerry Lee Lewis
Contributor Don Everly
Director Matt O'Casey
Producer Matt O'Casey
Series Producer Mark Cooper
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Documentary Music