10 Rock Songs You Must Learn To Play 1950s


Many people consider Rock and roll as the epitome of popular music. Electric guitars, leather jackets, incendiary lyrics and a rhythm that absolutely no one can listen without feeling a relentless desire to dance. rock and roll was the prodigal son of music since it has become the voice of every young generation.

But in the 50s, rock and roll were even bigger than you can possibly imagine unless you had the incredible luck to witness it. In fact, 1951 is the year when the phrase rock and roll were born by Ohio’s DJ, Alan Freed, who coined the phrase “rock and roll” while disc jockey at a local club.

With the electric guitar gaining enormous popularity in the 1950s, everything appeared to perfectly align for the revolution that was about to begin.

That very decade, icons as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richards, and Jerry Lee Lewis turned to legends with their sensational music. Let’s take a look at 10 immortal classics you should definitely learn to play.

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Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode

Technical information:

  • Year: 1958
  • Genre: Rock and roll
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Tempo: 168 bpm
  • Played by: Lead and rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: Bb, Eb, F
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): Bb
  • Played with: Pick
  • Amp settings: Mild distortion/overdrive

Chuck Berry was an American singer-songwriter. Furthermore, he is a guitar icon and many see him as the founding father of rock n’ roll. He developed some rhythm and blues (R&B) elements into what is known today as rock and roll, adding it a characteristic style that includes guitar solos and aggressive showmanship.

In fact, Chuck Berry was among the first musicians ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it was opened in 1986. He was cited as having “laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance”.

Moreover, he was ranked 5th on the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list by Rolling Stone magazine.

Jonny B Goode is easily one of the most recognizable songs. Not to mention the electric guitar riff at the beginning of the song elevated to the status of legend.

It is officially credited as “the first rock and roll hit about rock and roll stardom” and is ranked 7th on the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list made by Rolling Stone magazine.

Johnny B. Goode Guitar Tabs

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti

Technical information:

  • Year: 1955
  • Genre: Rock and roll
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Tempo: 185 bpm
  • Played by: Rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: F, Bb, C
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): F
  • Played with: Bare fingers or fingerpick
  • Amp settings: Light distortion

Born as Richard Wayne Penniman, Little Richard is still a highly influential figure in popular music and culture. He contributed greatly to the very foundations of rock and roll, and his music has been cited as the key influence in the invention of several other music genres, such as soul and funk.

Richard was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it first opened in 1986. In addition, Richard won a Lifetime Achievement Award from both the Recording Academy and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

Tutti Frutti is probably the best-known song by Little Richard and it was constantly used for its structure and elements as a model song for rock and roll. He introduced to the world some characteristic features that would later become the industry standard, such as the loud volume, the vocal style emphasizing power and a distinctive rhythm and beat.

Tutti Frutti has also been included in the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Tutti Frutti Guitar Tab

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Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock

Technical information:

  • Year: 1957
  • Genre: Rock and Roll
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 167 bpm
  • Played by: Rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: E, A, B7
  • Special accessories: Capo (1st fret)
  • Scales used (key): Bb minor
  • Played with: Bare fingers or fingerpick
  • Amp settings: Light distortion

Appropriately nicknamed “The King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Aaron Presley is widely considered as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. He was an immensely popular actor and singer who quickly became the leading figure of the rock and roll movement, with his frequent television appearances and his chart-destroying records and singles.

In addition, Elvis was successful in many music genres, such as pop, country, gospel, and blues beside rock and roll, of course, and he is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music. In fact, Elvis Presley won three Grammys, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at the jaw-dropping age of 36 and is part of several music halls of fame.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote the song Jailhouse Rock since Elvis was only a singer and performer, not a songwriter, that went on to have a film release for Elvis’ movie with the same name.

The Rolling Stone Magazine it listed the song as number 67 in the “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list and it was inducted among other 24 Presley’s songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016.

Jailhouse Rock Lead Guitar Tabs
Jailhouse Rock Rhythm Guitar Tabs

Bill Haley – Rock The Joint

Technical information:

  • Year: 1952
  • Genre: Rockabilly
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 174 bpm
  • Played by: Lead and rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: A, D, E, Eb, A#, F, Bb,
  • Special accessories: Capo (1st fret)
  • Scales used (key): E
  • Played with: Pick
  • Amp settings: Light distortion

William John Clifton Haley, better known as Bill Haley, was an American Rock and roll musician. With his band, Bill Haley & The Comets, he helped popularize the rock and roll genre over the 1950s, sometimes even being credited as the first musician to do so, and he has sold over 25 million records worldwide.

Bill Haley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and his popularity was and still is so absolute that in February 2006, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid after him to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death asteroid 79896-Bill Haley.

Rock The Joint is a song that originally belonged to the boogie genre. The song authorship is credited to a group of musicians working at the Gotham record label, based in New York. The authors are Harry Crafton, Wendell Keane, and Harry “Doc” Bagby.

Although several versions have been recorded over the years, Bill Halley’s rendition is probably the most popular, and it is actually widely considered to be the first-ever rockabilly record.

Rock The Joint Guitar Tabs

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Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes

Technical information:

  • Year: 1955
  • Genre: Rockabilly
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 160 bpm
  • Played by: Lead and rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: E, A7, B7, A,
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): D
  • Played with: Pick
  • Amp settings: Light distortion

Carl Lee Perkins was an American singer-songwriter. He is also considered as the personification of the rockabilly era. While his sound is regarded as the personification of the rockabilly sound, notable for never evolving to other genres unlike many icons of his generation did. 

Legendary figures such as The Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, and Johnny Cash versioned his records. His place in the history of popular music is so important that Paul McCartney once stated: “if there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles”.

Blue Suede Shoes is regarded as a rock and roll standard, it is also considered one of the first rockabilly records ever. It incorporates elements of blues, country, and pop and figures such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Eddie Cochran and many others revisioned it.

Several music halls of fame, such as the Rock and Roll, the Rockabilly, the Memphis Music and the Nashville Songwriters halls of fame inducted Carl. He also won a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. 

Blue Suede Shoes Guitar Tab

Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire

Technical information:

  • Year: 1957
  • Genre: Rock and roll/Rockabilly
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 166 bpm
  • Played by: Rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: C, G7, F7
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): C
  • Played with: Bare fingers or fingerpick
  • Amp settings: Light distortion

Jerry Lee Lewis is a rock and roll singer and songwriter. He is also a pianist, commonly known as “The Killer”. Some artists have described him as “rock and roll’s first great wild man”.

He sold 300,000 copies of his first record, Crazy Arms, and rose to international fame with his hit single Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. But his career and popularity were promptly halted by his controversial marriage to his own 13-year-old cousin. Although, he managed to regain some of it when switching to a country career in 1968.

Ottis Blackwell and Jack Hammer wrote great Balls of Fire. The rendition made by Jerry Lee Lewis ranked 96th in the “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list by Rolling Stone magazine and has sold over five million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Moreover, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and was part of the first group of musicians inducted in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. 

Great Balls of Fire Guitar Tabs

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Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats – Rocket 88

Technical information:

  • Year: 1951
  • Genre: Rhythm and Blues/Rock and Roll
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 155 bpm
  • Played by: Lead and rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: E7, A, E, B7,
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): Bb minor
  • Played with: Bare fingers or fingerpick
  • Amp settings: Light distortion

Jackie Breston is one of the few on this list to play an instrument different from a guitar. He was an R&B singer and saxophonist born in Mississippi, who recorded the famous and pioneering song “Rocket 88” with Ike Turner’s band.

He is famous for overshadowed by this single. Despite the fact that it is an iconic rock and roll song, Jackie Brenston was pushed to a corner in rock and roll history.

Rocket 88 was first recorded in 1951 by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner’s band originally named “Kings of Rhythm” as “His Delta Cats”. It reached number one in the Billboards R&B chart, and several influential artists consider it to be the first rock and roll record.

While Jackie Brenston was never inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rocket 88 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Singles in 2018.

Rocket 88 Lead Guitar Tabs
Rocket 88 Rhythm Guitar Tabs

Little Richard – Long Tall Sally

Technical information:

  • Year: 1956
  • Genre: Rock and Roll
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 184 bpm
  • Played by: Rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: F, Bb, C,
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): F
  • Played with: Bare fingers or fingerpick
  • Amp settings: Light distortion

The fact that Little Richard is the only artist who appears a second time on this list can give you some idea of how transcendental he is for the rock and roll history.

Little Richard, with the help of Robert “Bumps” Blackwell and Enotris Johnson, wrote Long Tall Sally. it is a classic 12 bar blues. They released it in March 1956 and it reached number one on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart, staying at the top six for nineteen weeks.

Curiously, the song also peaked at number six on the pop chart, even when credited as a rock and roll song. Long Tall Sally is in the “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list by Rolling Stone magazine, at number 55. The Beatles and Elvis Presley and hundreds of more artists covered this song.

The purpose for the fast tempo in the song is that it would be harder for famous singer Pat Boone to cover it as she had done with Tutti Frutti, reaching number 12 on the pop charts though it didn’t work, since she eventually versioned Long Tall Sally and reached number 8.

Long Tall Sally Guitar Tabs

Johnny Burnette – Train Kept A-Rollin’

Technical information:

  • Year: 1956
  • Genre: Rock and roll
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 168 bpm
  • Played by: Lead and rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: E7, A, E, B7,
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): A
  • Played with: Pick
  • Amp settings: Mild distortion

John Joseph Burnette was a singer and songwriter of rockabilly and pop music. He founded the band that later was called “The Rock and Roll Trio” with his brother Dorsey Burnette and his friend Paul Burlison.

He gained prominence thanks to the inclusion of his song “You’re Sixteen” on the soundtrack of American Graffiti, a 1973 comedy film, and for the version that Ringo Starr made of the same song.

Train Kept A-Rollin’ was first recorded in 1951 by Tiny Bradshaw, in a style called “jump blues”. Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio picked it up in 1956 and made it a guitar riff-driven song, featuring one of the earliest uses of intentionally distorted in guitar in rock and roll music.

Several artists, ranging from The Yardbirds to Aerosmith and Motörhead versioned the song. It was also adapted as a concert opener by the iconic rock band Led Zeppelin, and the version of Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio has been included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit named “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”.

Train Kept A-Rollin’ Guitar Tabs

Buddy Holly – That’ll Be The Day

Technical information:

  • Year: 1957
  • Genre: Rock and roll/Rockabilly
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Tuning: Standard
  • Tempo: 115 bpm
  • Played by: Lead and rhythm guitar
  • Chords used: E7, D, A, B, E
  • Special accessories: No
  • Scales used (key): D
  • Playing style: Fingerpicking
  • Amp settings: Clean guitar

Charles Hardin Holley, better known as Buddy Holly, was an iconic musician, record producer and singer-songwriter from Texas. He made his first appearance on television in 1952 is only 16 years old and, after opening an Elvis Presley show in 1955, he decided to pursue a career in music.

He ranked 13th in the “100 Greatest Artists” list made by Rolling Stone magazine, and he influenced mayor acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Elton John. Tragically he died in a plane crash alongside Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper in 1959.

That’ll Be The Day was written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison in 1957. Norman Petty, Holly ’s producer, was credited as a co-writer, even though he did not contribute to the composition.

The Recording Industry Association of America certified the song as gold in 1957. In addition, the Grammy Hall of Fame included the song in 1998. As well as the National Record Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress.

That’ll Be The Day Guitar Tabs

Conclusion:

You can easily tell by these 10 songs, the 1950s were truly the golden age of rock and roll, acting as the very foundation of modern music as we know it today.

It was a time of legends when talent was around every corner. Rising stars and promising music was broadcasted constantly on the television and on the radio. Genres were being born and standards were being shattered. Although many of the icons in this list are not among us today, they will live on forever through their majestic music. 

They will always be remembered when someone plugs in a guitar and lets his or her soul pour out in every note.

With this list of 10 rock songs of the 1950s you must learn to play, you will be all set for an afternoon of rock and good quality music just by grabbing your guitar, your amp and heading over to the links provided.

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Jacob

I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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