This is the "K-4/5-8 Roots of Rock and Roll: An American Journey" page of the "Rockin' the Schools" guide.
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K-4/5-8 Roots of Rock and Roll: An American Journey Print Page




Roots of Rock and Roll: An American Journey

Target Grade Level: K-4 / 5-8

This research guide serves as a resource for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Education Department course, The Roots of Rock and Roll: An American Journey. For additional information on the course and for more teacher resources, see

In the 1950s a new and electrifying musical style called rock and roll swept the airwaves and grabbed the hearts of teenagers across the United States.  This revolutionary music actually grew from strong roots in older styles such as blues, gospel, country, and rhythm and blues.  Students examine classic video performances and recordings to see how musicians brought these earlier musical styles together and connected diverse aspects of American culture.  The Roots of Rock and Roll is offered at two different grade levels.  K-4 students will enjoy singing along with the Rock Hall education ensemble and using U.S. maps to explore various geographical regions of the United States, focusing on several key cities where the roots of rock and roll flourished.  Students in grades 5-8 will dig deeper into the cultural meanings behind this music and analyze musical characteristics of each style.


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    These research databases can be accessed within the Library and Archives.

    • American Song
      Hear and feel the music from America's past, including Motown, Jimi Hendrix, the Mamas and the Papas, and other artists from the rock era. There are songs by and about American Indians, miners, immigrants, slaves, children, pioneers, and cowboys; songs of Civil Rights, political campaigns, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War; and every great American genre is here—from folk and blues to country, gospel, and rock.
    • ArchiveGrid
      ArchiveGrid connects you with primary source material held in archives, special collections, and manuscript collections around the world. You will find historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.
    • International Index to Music Periodicals
      This database provides indexing and abstracts for several hundred international music periodicals from over 20 countries, plus full text for more than 140 of the indexed journals. The database currently includes over 770,000 records, the majority from the most recent ten years of publication.
    • Rock's Back Pages
      Rock’s Backpages is the largest database of rock journalism online, featuring 17,000+ articles on numerous artists. The archive draws on numerous publications from Creem and Trouser Press to Rolling Stone, and from New Musical Express and MelodyMaker to MOJO. Rock's Backpages also features a library of over 100 audio interviews.

    For Your Students

    Cover Art
    The ABCs of rock - Melissa Duke Mooney; Print Mafia Staff
    Call Number: ML3929 .M66 2010
    ISBN: 9781582462936

    Cover Art
    If I only had a horn - Roxane Orgill; Leonard Jenkins (Illustrator)
    Call Number: ML419.A76 O74 1997
    ISBN: 9780395759196

    Jimmie Rodgers - Robert K. Krishef
    Call Number: ML420.R634 K75 1978
    ISBN: 9780822514046



    Grade Level K-4

    These resources, pulled from class discussion and selected from the Library and Archives' collections, will help you to:

    • Identify musicians who represent diverse communities and varied regions that contribute to music heritage in the United States and the development of rock and roll.
    • Perform varied styles and forms of popular music representing the roots of rock and roll.
    • Give examples of people, products, and ideas that move from place to place and make an impact on American culture.

    Grade Level 5-8

    These resources, pulled from class discussion and selected from the Library and Archives' collections, will help you to:

    • Identify musicians who represent diverse communities and varied regions that contribute to music heritage in the United States and the development of rock and roll.
    • Describe varied styles and forms of popular music representing the roots of rock and roll.
    • Give examples of people, products, and ideas that move from place to place and make an impact on American culture.


    Cover Art
    The big book of Blues - Robert Santelli
    Call Number: ML102.B6 S26 2001
    ISBN: 9780141001456

    Cover Art
    Cleveland's gospel music - Frederick L. Burton
    Call Number: ML3187 .B87 2003
    ISBN: 9780738532004

    Cover Art
    Country music, U. S. A. - Bill C. Malone
    Call Number: ML3524 .M35 2002
    ISBN: 9780292752627

    Cover Art
    The pop, rock, and soul reader - David Brackett
    Call Number: ML3477 .B73P6 2009
    ISBN: 9780195365931

    Cover Art
    The rock history reader - Theo Cateforis
    Call Number: ML3534 .R635H57 2013
    ISBN: 9780415892124

    Cover Art
    Rock music styles - Katherine Charlton
    Call Number: ML3534 .C43 2011
    ISBN: 9780078025075

    Cover Art
    Rockin' out - Reebee Garofalo; Steven Waksman
    Call Number: ML3477 .G37 2014
    ISBN: 9780205956807

    Cover Art
    American Popular Music: a multicultural history - Glenn Appell; David Hemphill
    Call Number: ML3477 .A67 2006
    A multicultural approach to popular music appreciation



    Cover Art
    21 - Adele
    Call Number: CD ADEL TWEN 2011
    Includes "Rolling in the Deep."

    Cover Art
    Atlantic Records, 1947-2009 : Time Capsule
    Call Number: CDB COLL ATLA-TI 2009

    Cover Art
    Boddie Recording Company Cleveland, Ohio
    Call Number: CDB COLL BODD 2011

    Cover Art
    El Camino - The Black Keys
    Call Number: CD BLAC-K CAMI 2011
    Includes "Lonely Boy."

    Cover Art
    Goodbye, Babylon
    Call Number: BOX VAR GOODB 2003
    Includes "Keep on the Sunny Side" by the Carter Family

    Got my mojo working; Rock me - Muddy Waters
    Call Number: VIN MUDDY GOT 1957

    Cover Art
    The History of Rhythm and Blues, Part Two
    Call Number: CDB COLL HIST-RH2 2009

    Cover Art
    Robert Johnson
    Call Number: CD JOHNS-R ROBE 2003
    Includes "Cross Road Blues."

    Cover Art
    The Sun years - Johnny Cash
    Call Number: CD CASH-JO SUN-Y 1990
    Includes "I Walk the Line."



    Cover Art
    Atlantic Records : The House that Ahmet Built
    Call Number: DVD ERTE-A ATLA 2007

    Cover Art
    The Best of Hootenanny
    Call Number: DVD COLL HOOT-B 2007

    Cover Art
    Can't you hear the wind howl? : The life & music of Robert Johnson - Produced & directed by Peter W. Meyer
    Call Number: DVD JOHNS-R CANT 2011
    This ambitious mixture of dramatic reconstruction with traditional documentary affords excellent insight into legendary bluesman Robert Johnson's life, the enduring power of his music, and the myth which surrounds him.

    Cover Art
    Mahalia Jackson
    Call Number: DVD JACK-MA POWE 2002
    Includes "Come on Children, Let's Sing."

    Archival Resources

    New to Archives? Check out:

    • American music masters. Lead Belly. (In 4 parts)
      In this Rock Hall/Case Western Reserve University conference on Lead Belly, Weavers member Ronnie Gilbert delivers a keynote address, and American Folklife Center archivist Michael Taft discusses the John and Alan Lomax recordings of Lead Belly at the Library of Congress.
    • American Music Masters. Robert Johnson Tribute Concert. Severance.
      In this Rock Hall/Case Western Reserve University conference on Delta bluesman Robert Johnson, musicians Robert Lockwood, Jr., Cassandra Wilson, Kevin Breit, Marvin Sewell, Taj Mahal, Jimmie Vaughan, Jorma Kaukonen, John Hammond, Keb’ Mo’, and Billy Branch perform in a tribute concert.
    • American Music Masters. Sam Cooke (6 parts)
      In this Rock Hall/Case Western Reserve University conference on Sam Cooke, rock and ethnomusicology scholars, a civil rights leader, members of the radio industry, Cooke's brother, and former members of the Upsetters and the Highway QCs discuss gospel music, memories of Cooke, his music, song writing, and influences.
    • Songwriters to soundmen. Deborah Chessler (2 parts)
      In this Rock Hall program, music manager Deborah Chessler discusses her songwriting process, race relations in Baltimore and the music industry, and her hit song “It’s too soon to know.”
    • ARC-0007 Jerry Wexler Papers
      Consists of correspondence, clippings, manuscript drafts from Wexler's 1993 memoir Rhythm and the Blues, photographs, scrapbooks, and subject files. Wexler's personal correspondence serves as an important focus to the collection, featuring handwritten letters, cards, and other correspondence with individuals such as Stanley Booth, Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, Aretha Franklin, and Dusty Springfield. The Jerry Wexler Papers also include unique, candid photographs of artists such as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Wilson Pickett in the Muscle Shoals Recording Studio.
    • ARC-0008 Immaculate Funk Collection
      The Immaculate Funk Collection consists of 74 Beta SP videocassettes and 28 interview transcripts, dating from 1996 to 1999, and used in the documentary film, Immaculate Funk: The Jerry Wexler Story. The collection documents the influence of Jerry Wexler on the development of mainstream rhythm & blues through interviews with some of the "greats" of rock and roll history, including Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, Tom Dowd, Ahmet Ertegun, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Willie Nelson, John Prine, and Henry Stone.
    • ARC-0048 Specialty Records Collection
      Contains correspondence and promotional materials created by Specialty Records to promote their R&B and gospel artists and their work, including Alex Bradford, Guitar Slim, Joe Liggins, Little Richard, Brother Joe May, Percy Mayfield, Roy Milton, the Original Gospel Harmonettes, the Pilgrim Travelers, Lloyd Price, and the Soul Stirrers (featuring Sam Cooke).
    • ARC-0149 Jazz and Blues Playbill Collection
      Consists of playbills from early jazz and blues concerts (1923-1952), featuring blues artists: Lead Belly, Brownie McGhee, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, and Dinah Washington. The collection provides rich insight into the early jazz and blues scenes that helped shape rock and roll music.
    • ARC-0265 Collection on John Lee Hooker
      Contains various papers related to Hooker's recording career, including contracts, correspondence, invoices, production reports, royalty statements, studio session sheets, tape identification data, and telegrams from 1956 to 1965. The collection provides rich documentation on Hooker's career, as well as an in-depth look at the recording processes of the era.
    • ARC-0310 Ralph Gleason File on Hank Williams
      This file contains a variety of information on Hank Williams, including seven mini notebook pages of an interview Ralph Gleason conducted with Williams on June 1, 1952, and a personal letter to Gleason from Williams's sister, Irene Smith, dated February 19, 1953. The other materials in the file include original manuscripts submitted to Gleason when he worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, an MGM Records biography on Williams, and clippings.
    • ARC-0413 Louis Jordan Collection
      Includes biographical information on Jordan, clippings on his career, annotated lyrics and orchestral parts, photographs, programs, set lists, sheet music, slides, and song lists, as well as a few individual personal items. The collection provides insight into Jordan's personal life as well as his career, with a number of materials related to the 1974 musical revue "New Orleans and All That Jazz," produced by Tommy Walker and featuring Jordan and Didi Wilson at the River Queen Lounge, Marriot Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    YouTube Videos

    Fisk Jubilee Singers, "When I Was Sinkin' Down"

    Alicia Keys, "Fallin'," live at Manchester Cathedral

    B.B. King, "The Thrill is Gone," Playboy Afterdark, 1968

    Staples Singers, "I'll Take You There," 1972

    Jennifer Hudson, "Spotlight"

    Willie Nelson, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore"
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum | Library and Archives
    2809 Woodland Avenue | Cleveland, OH 44115 | 216.515.1956 |

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