A popular cultural legend is the connection between baby boomers and rock‘n’roll. When rock rose in the 1950s, teenage boomers fought for the music against their parents’ stodgy prejudices.
It’s not true.
In 1955, rock was rising from Southern phenomenon to national craze. Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock,” Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” were hits. New York disc jockey Alan Freed was a sensation with his rock‘n’roll radio show and package concerts, spawning imitators nationwide. RCA signed Elvis Presley away from Sun Records.
And the oldest baby boomers were nine years old.
So which teenagers made rock‘n’roll the tidal wave that flooded the nation? The forgotten generation: the war babies, born in the run-up to World War II and during the war itself. These kids were 13 and 14 and 15 in ’55.
By the time that the baby boomers, born from 1946 through ’64, started to hit their teens, the pioneering wave of rock had crashed. Elvis had been drafted, Little Richard had quit rock for religion, scandals had eaten the careers of Alan Freed, Chuck Berry, and fellow pioneer rocker Jerry Lee Lewis, and so on. Producers like Berry Gordy and Phil Spector now created songs and stars as Rolls-Royce created cars — beautifully crafted and gloriously enjoyable, but not as wild as the original rock.
Hail to thee, war babies! You made the world safe for rock‘n’roll!