Zella Mae Mosher, age 62, is sitting on her front stoop on a warm autumn afternoon. She is barefoot and her hair is wrapped up in purple rollers. "It was like a fire just burning up inside of me. My foot was thumping and my hips were bouncing around like a broken washing machine" Zella recalls. She is describing her first encounter with the music of Elvis Presley, America's most celebrated icon.
Americans, for the most part, seldom agree on matters of the arts. Nevertheless, if asked to name the King of rock and roll, they will chant, in unison, "Elvis Presley!" While most will assign Presley as the father of rock, in actuality, they are terribly mistaken. Rock and roll, a musical style that combines the likes of rhythm and blues and country western, was tearing up radio waves long before Presley. It was not yet the revolution it would later become until Elvis entered the scene to rally the troops and win war.
Elvis' immeasurable talent was not the definitive quality that made him the leader of this uprising. Many social, cultural, economic and political aspects would played an acknowledgeable role. It was truly Presley's skin color, charisma, and quirkiness that would push this cultural explosion into mainstream America.
In 1954 the Supreme Court declared "separate but equal" laws unconstitutional. For years, these laws kept interaction between whites and blacks minimal. As schools, rest rooms, restaurants, etc. became integrated, racial tension increased. "America began to wrestle seriously with the legacy of slavery and the unequal treatment of African Americans" (Campbell 79). Rock and roll, deemed "colored music", did not aid in easing these societal woes and thus, would not be well received by white America.
As Chuck berry and Little Richards tunes compelled teens to rip up the...