Television helped transform teen culture into a national culture. In 1957, Dick Clark persuaded ABC to include American Bandstand in its network lineup. Running Monday to Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, the show not only spotlighted new forms of dancing, it also showcased many African American recording artists and remained one of television's only integrated programs until the mid-1960s. Television's most popular dance show, it brought rock 'n' roll and the latest fashions in dance and dress to millions of teenagers.
But rock 'n' roll generated extraordinary anger. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called it "a corrupting impulse," and in Hartford, Connecticut, Dr. Francis J. Braceland described rock 'n' roll as "a communicable disease, with music appealing to adolescent insecurity and driving teenagers to do outlandish things." Between 1955 and 1958 there were numerous crusades to ban rock 'n' roll from the airwaves. Meanwhile, executives with the major record companies sought to smooth the jagged edges of rock 'n' roll. Sexually explicit songs were "covered" - rewritten and rerecorded by white performers. The major record companies publicized a series of "kleen" teen idols, beginning with Tommy Sands in 1957.
Most of the criticism of rock 'n' roll focused on Elvis Presley, who more than any other artist most fully fused country music with rhythm and blues. In his first record, he gave the rhythm-and-blues song "That's All Right Mama" a country feel and the country classic "Blue Moon over Kentucky" a rhythm-and-blues swing. It was a unique exhibition of genius. In addition, Presley exuded sexuality. When he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, network executives instructed cameramen to avoid shots of Elvis's suggestive physical movements. Finally, Presley upset segregationists by performing "race music." Head of Sun Records, Sam Phillips, had once claimed, "If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a million dollars." Presley was that white man.
Within five years, the first phase in the history of rock 'n' roll was over. Elvis Presley was inducted into the army; Buddy Holly and Richie Valens died in a plane crash; and Chuck Berry was jailed on charges of transporting a minor across interstate lines for immoral purposes. Meanwhile, Alan Freed was fired from WABC in the midst of a payola scandal; Little Richard's religious conversion led him to stop performing; and Jerry Lee Lewis was in disgrace following his marriage to a thirteen-year-old cousin. Despite these shocks, youth music was not completely absorbed into mainstream culture. By the end of the decade, a new phase in the history of rock 'n' roll had begun, with the rise of the Girl Groups, the Motown sound, and surfer music.
More than half a century after its advent, rock 'n' roll remains the distinctive and dominant form of youthful musical expression. Its persistence is not an accident. Rock 'n' roll emerged as a solution to the psychological and emotional frustrations of the teenager. Prolonged schooling, delayed marriage, and postponed entry into adult careers made rock culture increasingly appealing as a visceral form of cultural rebellion. It offered an expressive outlet for all the pent-up energy, sexuality, and individualism that teens experienced. Indeed, now that the category of youth extends far beyond the teenage years, encompassing both children as young as eight and young adults into their late twenties and early thirties, the appeal of rock and roll has broadened, even as its forms fragmented.