Curated by
The Ponderosa Stomp Foundation

Good Rocking Tonight: Rock ‘n’ Roll Roots in New Orleans Tour

This tour traces the Crescent City’s contributions to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. In the 1940s Black New Orleanians established new stops on the Chitlin Circuit like Hayes’ Chicken Shack and the renowned Dew Drop Inn, where local talent connected with the country’s top rhythm and blues artists, and caught the ear of music industry professionals.

Several records crucial to the rise of rock ‘n’ roll, cut at J&M Studio, emerged from this milieu. Roy Brown recorded “Good Rocking Tonight” with a group he met at the Robin Hood, after pitching it to a bandleaders at Foster’s Hotel and the Dew Drop. It was a smash for DeLuxe Records in 1948, and Brown left his regular slot at the Downbeat Club to tour the country, bringing the term “rock” into the mainstream.

DeLuxe used Al Young, owner of the Bop Shop, as a talent scout in New Orleans. Young joined another record man, Lew Chudd of Imperial, on a trip to the Hideaway in 1949, where he was knocked out by Fats Domino. The young pianist got his headlining gig there after playing as a sideman up the street at the swanky Club Desire. Chudd sent Domino to J&M to record with bandleader Dave Bartholomew.

Bartholomew collaborated with Domino to produce “The Fat Man,” another seminal hit from New Orleans. The song’s heavy rhythm gives it a claim as the first rock ‘n’ roll record, with future Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drummer Earl Palmer laying down the beat.

For more on the roots of rock ‘n’ roll in New Orleans, click here.

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Videos

From WWOZ's Tricentennial Music Moments: a short video about Fats Domino's big break at the Hideaway.

Dave Bartholomew and Herbert Hardesty recall their work with Fats Domino at the 2009 Ponderosa Stomp History Conference.

Charles Connor recounts crafting some of rock 'n' roll's foundational beats as a drummer with Little Richard at the 2017 Ponderosa Stomp Music History Conference.