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“Where else did they copy their styles but from church groups?”: Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pentecostalism in the 1950s South

  • Randall J. Stephens

Abstract

Church leaders and laypeople in the US went on the defensive shortly after rock and roll became a national youth craze in 1955 and 1956. Few of those religious critics would have been aware or capable of understanding that rock ‘n’ roll, in fact, had deep religious roots. Early rockers, all southerners—such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and James Brown—grew up in or regularly attended pentecostal churches. Pentecostalism, a vibrant religious movement that traced its origins to the early 20th century, broke with many of the formalities of traditional protestantism. Believers held mixed-race services during the height of Jim Crow segregation. The faithful spoke in tongues, practiced healing, and cultivated loud, revved-up, beat-driven music. These were not the sedate congregants of mainline churches. Some pentecostal churches incorporated drums, brass instruments, pianos, and even newly invented electric guitars. Rock ‘n’ roll performers looked back to the vibrant churches of their youth, their charismatic pastors, and to flashy singing itinerants for inspiration. In a region that novelist Flannery O'Connor called “Christ-haunted,” the line between secular and sacred, holy and profane was repeatedly crossed by rock musicians. This article traces the black and white pentecostal influence on rock ‘n’ roll in the American South, from performance style and music to dress and religious views. It also analyzes the vital ways that religion took center stage in arguments and debates about the new genre.

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References

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1 Dolores Diamond interview with Elvis Presley, “Presley,” Dig Magazine (June 1958): 8, 10.

2 Davin Seay and Mary Neely, Stairway to Heaven: The Spiritual Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll (New York: Ballantine Books, 1986); Teresa L. Reed, The Holy Profane: Religion in Black Popular Music (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2003); Gene Santoro, Highway 61 Revisited: The Tangled Roots of Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Country Music (New York: Oxford University, 2004), 93–98. In its first stage rock and roll might best be defined as singles-based, black-rooted, mostly vocal music, found on the rhythm and blues as well as country and western charts. See Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll (New York: Pantheon, 1983), viii-xii; and Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Mad (New York: Penguin, 1989), xv-xvi.

3 Charles Reagan Wilson, “‘Just a Little Talk with Jesus’: Elvis Presley, Religious Music, and Southern Spirituality,” in Southern Crossroads: Perspectives on Religion and Culture, ed. Walter H. Conser Jr. and Rodger M. Payne (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2008), 16–18. Mosher, Craig, “Ecstatic Sounds: The Influence of Pentecostalism on Rock and Roll,” Popular Music and Society 31, no. 1 (February 2008): 95112; Martha Bayles, Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994), 127–142; and Tucker, Stephen R., “Pentecostalism and Popular Culture in the South: A Study of Four Musicians,” Journal of Popular Culture 16, no. 3 (Winter 1982): 6878. On religion, pop culture, and secularism, see Chidester, David, “The Church of Baseball, the Fetish of Coca-Cola, and the Potlatch of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Theoretical Models for the Study of Religion in American Popular Culture,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 64, no. 4 (Winter 1996): 743765; Robert A. Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them (Princeton: Princeton University, 2006); Kathryn Lofton, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (Berkeley: University of California, 2011); and “Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age,” The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/secular_age/.

4 “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices,” Pew Research Center, 2008, www.religions.pewforum.org/reports.

5 Flannery O'Connor, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, ed. Sally Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969), 44.

6 For a clear, detailed definition of evangelicalism, see James Davidson Hunter, Evangelicalism: Conservative Religion and the Quandary of Modernity (Rutgers, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1983), 7–9.

7 George F. Ketcham, ed., Yearbook of American Churches (New York: National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, 1951), 234.

8 Bret E Carroll, The Routledge Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Routledge, 2000), 115.

9 Mark Twain, “A Singular Episode: The Reception of Rev. Sam Jones in Heaven” in The Bible According to Mark Twain: Writings on Heaven, Eden, and the Flood, ed. Howard G. Baetzhold and Joseph B. McCullough (Athens: University of Georgia, 1995), 199, 200, 201. For a summary of the prohibitions and behavioral codes of the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), see Valorous Bernard Clear, “The Church of God: A Study in Social Adaptation” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1953), 220–228.

10 “Letter of a Baptist Preacher to His Wife Describing a Pentecostal Meeting at Durant, Fla.,” The Evening Light and Church of God Evangel, July 1, 1910, 2. On pentecostalism, see Roger G. Robins, A. J. Tomlinson: Plainfolk Modernist (New York: Oxford University, 2004); Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2001); Matthew Avery Sutton, Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2007); Anthea D. Butler, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2007); and Randall J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2007).

11 Wallace P. Blackwood, “Pentecost,” Christianity Today, February 15, 1963, 25.

12 Elaine J. Lawless, God's Peculiar People: Women's Voices and Folk Tradition in a Pentecostal Church (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2005), 38.

13 “Gospel-singing, Doomsday-preaching Sects Emerge as a Mighty Movement in World Religion,” Life, June 9, 1958, 122.

14 Roger G. Robins, A. J. Tomlinson: Plainfolk Modernist (New York: Oxford University, 2004), 5; David Martin, “Pentecostalism: An Alternative Form of Modernity and Modernization?” in Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century, ed. Peter L. Berger (Bloomington: Indiana University, 2013); Matthew Avery Sutton, Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2007); Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2001); Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University, 2013).

15 Shayne Lee and Phillip Luke Sinitiere, Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace (New York: New York University, 2009), 22

16 H. L. Mencken, “Yearning Mountaineers' Souls Need Reconversion Nightly, Mencken Finds,” Baltimore Evening Sun, July 13, 1925, 1–2; Clark, William A., “Sanctification in Negro Religion,” Social Forces 15, no. 4 (May 1937): 546, 549; Will Herberg, Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology (1955; Chicago: University of Chicago, 1983), 123; Eddy, Norman G., “Store-Front Religion,” Religion in Life 28, no. 1 (1958–1959): 6885; J. Paul Williams, What Americans Believe and How They Worship (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 434–436. See also Deidre Helen Crumbley, Saved and Sanctified: The Rise of a Storefront Church in Great Migration Philadelphia (Gainesville: University of Florida, 2012), 17–27.

17 Harrison, Ira E., “The Storefront Church as a Revitalization Movement,” Review of Religious Research 7, no. 3 (1966): 161.

18 James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1952; New York: Random House, 2000), 7–8.

19 Jack Conroy, A World to Win (1935; Urbana: University of Illinois, 2000) 36, 37, 38. For additional context, see also Douglas Wixson's “Introduction” to A World to Win, xxiii.

20 Daniel, Vettel Elbert, “Ritual and Stratification in Chicago Negro Churches,” American Sociological Review 7, no. 3 (June 1942): 354355.

21 Ibid., 358, 359.

22 Ibid., 355, 358.

23 James Bright Wilson, “Religious Leaders, Institutions and Organizations among Certain Agricultural Workers in the Central Valley of California,” (PhD diss., University of Southern California, 1944), 273. For a 1942 “Description of a Service” in the Pentecostal Holiness Church, see 273–288.

24 William Alexander Percy, Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son (1941; Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2006), 149.

25 Leo G. Mazow, Thomas Hart Benton and the American Sound (University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2012), 76–79. Thomas Hart Benton, An Artist in America (1937; Columbia: University of Missouri, 1968), 97–98, 100–101; Annett Claudia Richter, “Fiddles, Harmonicas, and Banjos: Thomas Hart Benton and His Role in Constructing Popular Notions of American Folk Music and Musicians” (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 2008), 188–189.

26 Thomas Hart Benton, An Artist in America, 106, 110–111.

27 Bill C. Malone and David Stricklin, Southern Music/American Music (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2003), 104.

28 Nick Tosches, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story (New York: Dell, 1982), 57.

29 Shayne Lee, T. D. Jakes: America's New Preacher (New York: New York University), 1–3, 158–177.

30 Jon Hartley Fox, King of the Queen City: The Story of King Records (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2009), 119–120.

31 Jerma Jackson, “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Evolution of Gospel Music,” in Religion in the American South: Protestants and Others in History and Culture, ed. Beth Barton Schweiger and Donald G. Mathews (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2004), 219–222, 230–232. Paul Oliver, Songsters and Saints: Vocal Traditions on Race Records (Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University, 1984), 170–171, 188–189, 197–198. Teresa L. Reed, The Holy Profane, 35–38.

32 Don Cusic, “Cash, Johnny,” in Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music: Pop, Rock, and Worship, ed. Don Cusic (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC CLIO, 2010), 42.

33 Stephen R. Tucker, “Pentecostalism and Popular Culture in the South,” 68–78. Johnny Cash, Man in Black (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1975), 25. Tammy Wynette with Joan Dew, Stand by Your Man (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), 23–24.

34 B.B. King with David Ritz, B.B. King: The Autobiography (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1997), 16–18.

35 Marc Myers, “A Cultural Conversation with Little Richard: Richard, the First,” Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2010, D5; Preston Lauterbach, The Chitlin' Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011), 152.

36 Charles Sawyer, The Arrival of B. B. King (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1980), 39–40. Myra Lewis with Murray Silver, Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis (New York: William Murrow, 1982), 34–35, 308–311. Little Richard quoted in Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock (New York: De Capo, 1994), 16, 17. Marvin Gaye and Dolly Parton also attended pentecostal churches in their youth.

37 Jimmy Swaggart with Robert Paul Lamb, To Cross a River (Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1977), 28.

38 Jimmy Swaggart with Robert Paul Lamb, To Cross a River, 100. See also Jerry Lee Lewis Subject Folder, Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University. Ann Rowe Seaman, Swaggart: The Unauthorized Biography of an American Evangelist (New York: Continuum, 1999).

39 Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1994), 426. Rev. James E. Hamill to Rev. Ralph M. Riggs, August 1, 1956, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Mo.

40 See, for instance, Bertrand, Michael T., “Elvis Presley and the Politics of Popular Memory,” Southern Cultures 13, no. 3 (2007): 6286; Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations (London: UCL, 1998), 6, 120. Louie Robinson, “The Blackening of White America,” Ebony (May 1980): 158–162; “B.B. King Hears How Presley Copied Style,” Chicago Defender, February 2, 1957, 14; Amiri Baraka, Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music (Berkeley: University of California, 2009), 97, 114, 135; Langston Hughes, “Highway Robbery across the Color Line in Rhythm and Blues,” Chicago Defender, July 2, 1955, 9; and Ralph Matthews, “Thinking Out Loud,” Baltimore Afro-American, March 16, 1957, 16.

41 Mahalia Jackson quoted in Michael T. Bertrand, Race, Rock, and Elvis (Champaign: University of Illinois, 2000), 220.

42 Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel interview with Elvis, March 31, 1972, in Elvis–Word for Word: What He Said, Exactly As He Said It (New York: Harmony Books, 2000), 243. See also Rose Clayton and Dick Heard, Elvis up Close: In the Words of Those Who Knew Him Best (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1994), 13–17; interview with Elvis about religion in Jack Carrell, “I Like Elvis Presley,” Ottawa Citizen, September 8, 1956, 11; and Elvis's 1966 interview with May Mann, quoted in Peter Guralnick, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (Boston: Back Bay Books, 2000), 223.

43 Vince Staten, The Real Elvis: Good Old Boy (Dayton, Ohio: Media Ventures, 1978), 47–48. Brock, Van K., “Assemblies of God: Elvis and Pentecostalism,” Bulletin of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Religion 3 (June 1979): 915. On Elvis's relationship with the Blackwood Brothers, see James R. Goff, Jr., Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2002), 237–238. Saul Pett, “Why Do the Girls Love Elvis?” Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 22, 1956, L-7. “Elvis Says Jumping ‘Arown’ Comes Natural When He Sings”; Saul Pett, “‘It's Just the Way Ah Feel,’ Says Young Elvis”; Louella O. Parsons, “What Makes Elvis Rock?”; Saul Pett, “I Don't Feel Sexy When I Sing, Pleads Diamond Loaded Elvis,” newspapers clippings, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Mo. Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis, 17, 67, 75. See the Elvis Answers Back magazine interview with Elvis on “My True Religion.” Elvis was clearly bothered by claims that he had given up on religion since he became famous. Elvis Presley, “My True Religion,” August 28, 1956, in Jerry Osborne, ed., Elvis, 70.

44 J.D. Sumner quoted in Don Cusic, “Singing with the King: The Groups That Performed With Elvis,” Rejoice! The Gospel Music Magazine (Summer 1988): 13. Peter Guralnick, Careless Love, 233. See also J.D. Sumner with Bob Terrell, Elvis: His Love for Gospel Music and J.D. Sumner (Nashville: W.C.I. Publishing, 1991), 5–19.

45 Don Cusic, “Southern Gospel and Contemporary Christian Music,” in Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, 410.

46 Jennifer Harrison, Elvis as We Knew Him: Our Shared Life in a Small Town in South Memphis (Lincoln, Neb.: iUniverse, 2003), 16–17. See also Elvis Presley Subject Folder, Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University; Charles Wolfe, “Elvis Presley and the Gospel Tradition,” in The Elvis Reader: Texts and Sources on the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, ed. Kevin Quan (New York: St. Martin's, 1992), 13–27; and Joe Moscheo, The Gospel Side of Elvis (New York: Center Street, 2007), 27–36.

47 Paul Wilder interview with Elvis Presley, August 6, 1956, Polk Theatre, Lakeland, Florida, in Jerry Osborne, ed., Elvis, 52–53.

48 James Brown with Bruce Tucker, James Brown: The Godfather of Soul (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1986), 18, 19.

49 “Bishop Grace Is Welcomed by Fervid Followers Here,” Augusta Chronicle, September 21, 1938, 5.

50 “‘Daddy’ Grace Seeks Permit for Church,” Augusta Chronicle, July 3, 1941, 2. Marie W. Dallam, Daddy Grace: A Celebrity Preacher and His House of Prayer (New York: New York University, 2007). Dudley K. Brewer, “Bishop Grace Is Austere Ruler and ‘Daddy’ to All House of Prayer Members,” Augusta Chronicle, November 15, 1935, 6. “Baptizes 200 with Hose and Asks for Cash,” Springfield Republican, August 20, 1945. “Daddy Grace: Grandiloquent Negro Preacher Has a Half-Million Faithful Followers,” Life, October 1, 1945, 51.

51 Alex Poinsett, “Farewell to Daddy: Both Praised and Condemned, Prelate Is as Much an Enigma in Death as He Was in Life,” Ebony (April 1960): 25.

52 James Brown with Bruce Tucker, James Brown, 18, 19. George Lipsitz, Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2007), xix-xx. See also Timothy White, “Searing Fires vs. Sounds of Faith,” Billboard, June 29, 1996, 5.

53 James E. Hamill to Ralph M. Riggs, August 1, 1956, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Mo.

54 Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave, Anti-Rock: The Opposition to Rock ‘n’ Roll (New York: Da Capo, 1993), 27–29. Paul Henry Lang, “Music and Musicians: The Riot in Asbury Park,” New York Herald Tribune, July 22, 1956, D5; James Nelson Goodsell, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Opposition Rises: Adults Criticized Grand Jury Probes Riot State Law Sought,” Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 1958, 3; and “Little Richard Fined in Texas,” Dallas Morning News, August 28, 1956, 5.

55 Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave, Anti-Rock: The Opposition to Rock ‘n’ Roll (New York: Da Capo, 1993), 31, 32–35. For more on anti-rock campaigns, see Michael T. Bertrand, Race, Rock, and Elvis (Champaign: University of Illinois, 2000), 181–184; and Glenn C. Altschuler, All Shook Up: How Rock ‘n’ Roll Changed America (New York: Oxford University, 2003), 105–112.

56 Milton Bracker, “Experts Propose Study of ‘Craze,’” New York Times, February 23, 1957, 12. “Presley Termed Passing Fancy: Minister in Village Asserts Singer Gives Teen-Ager,” New York Times, December 17, 1956, 28. See other critical accounts: Rock ‘n’ roll Called a Disease,” Catholic Choirmaster 42 (Summer 1956): 121; Martin “Butch” Hardman, “Rock ‘n’ Roll: Music or Madness?” Youth for Christ Magazine (October 1958): 10–12; Norman King, “Teen-Age Idol Worship,” Youth for Christ Magazine (March 1959): 6–7; and “Rock ‘n’ roll,” Alabama Baptist, November 1, 1956, 3.

57 Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave, Anti-Rock, 50–53.

58 Verna B. Gordon, letter to the editor, Life, September 17, 1956, 19. See other, similar criticisms here: “Stritch Urges Catholics: Ban Rock and Roll,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 1, 1957, 4; “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hurting Teens, CYO Head Tells Police League,” Boston Globe, May 16, 1960, 4; and Phyllis Battelle, “Rock ‘n’ roll Beat Irks People the Nation Over,” Journal and Guide, June 30, 1956, 15.

59 Tony Zoppi, “Presley Thrills Crowd of 26,500,” Dallas Morning News, October 12, 1956, 2. “Music: Teeners' Hero,” Time, May 14, 1956, 55.

60 Erika Lee Doss, Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1999), 129.

61 “Zion Body Hits Elvis Presley,” Baltimore Afro-American, December 8, 1956, 7.

62 Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave, Anti-Rock, 48–50.

63 Jessie Funston Clubb, “What about Rock ‘n’ Roll?” Home Life (April 1957): 42, 43. For more on the racist element, see Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding, 100; William Ward Ayer, “Jungle Madness in American Music,” Youth For Christ Magazine (November 1956): 19–21; William Ward Ayer, “Are Demon Forces at Work in the World Today?,” Baptist Standard, October 27, 1956, 5–7; and David Wilkerson, “Juvenile Jungle,” C.A. Herald (January 1961): 8–9.

64 Jack Wyrtzen, “Rock and Roll,” C.A. Herald (November 1957): 6–7.

65 Sasha Frere-Jones, “A Paler Shade of White: How Indie Rock Lost Its Soul,” New Yorker, October 22, 2007, 176.

66 John Earl Haynes, Red Scare or Red Menace? American Communism and Anticommunism in the Cold War Era (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996), 184. Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding, 106, 225. See Elvis's answer to the charge of rock as communist subversion in Jerry Osborne, ed., Elvis, 101, 111. Carter quoted in Michael T. Bertrand, Race, Rock, and Elvis, 163.

67 Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding, 139–140.

68 David Anderson, “For the Defense of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” New York Amsterdam News, April 19, 1958, 13.

69 Andrew Young, “SCOPE Orientation, June 18, 1965. Discussion of Problems of Understanding,” 0099–6, KZSU Project South Interviews (SC0066), Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif. www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf7489n969/entire_text/.

70 “‘Rock ‘n’ roll Church Singing Must Go,’ Says Dr. Brewster,” Cleveland Call and Post, February 9, 1957, 6B. See also George E. Pitts, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Department: A Churchman Speaks . . . ,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 22, 1956, A22; George E. Pitts, “Religious Assembly Cracks Down on Jazzy Spirituals,” Pittsburgh Courier, October 25, 1958, 20; and “Ministers Still Protest ‘Swinging’ Gospel Tunes,” Chicago Defender, August 31, 1960, 17.

71 Martin Luther King, Jr., “Advice for Living,” Ebony (April 1958): 392. Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding, 189

72 “Rock-and-Roll Religion,” Christian Herald (September 1956): 12.

73 W. G. Vorpe, “As the Parade Passes By,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1938, 2. If that was not enough, other concerned churchmen were far more specific.

74 Quote from Don Cusic, The Sound Of Light: A History of Gospel and Christian Music (Milwaukee, Wis.: Hal Leonard, 2002), 191.

75 Chaeryl A. Kirk-Duggan, “African American Hymnody,” in Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, ed. Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether (Bloomington: Indiana University, 2006), 992. Clara Ward quoted in “Clara Ward Denies She ‘Rocks ‘n Rolls,’” Baltimore Afro-American, November 26, 1955, 6. See also: “Blast on Gospel Singers' Style Pits Baker against Ward,” Chicago Defender, November 26, 1955, 7; “Clara and LaVerne Argue Origin of the R & B Beat,” New Journal and Guide, December 3, 1955, B20; “Rhythm and Blues not Stolen—Baker,” Philadelphia Tribune, October 15, 1955, 11. For a similar debate, see Is There too Much Rock ‘n’ roll in Religion?Color 11, no. 14 (January 1957): 1213. Pearl Bailey claimed to have sung rockin’ music at her “Holy Roller” brush arbor church in Virginia, which her father pastored, decades before. Larry Grove, “Pearl Says not Everybody Eatin’ Beatle Jelly Beans,” Dallas Morning News, September 18, 1964, 10.

76 William Ward Ayer, “Are Demon Forces at Work in the World Today?,” 7.

77 David Ritz and Ray Charles, Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story (1978; reprint, Cambridge, Mass.: De Capo, 2004), 149, 150. Dave Headlam, “Appropriations of Blues and Gospel in Popular Music,” in The Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel Music, ed. Allan Moore (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2002), 173–175. Though Ray Charles attended a Baptist church with his mother, these services seemed to feature some pentecostal elements. See, Ray Charles Robinson, Jr., with Mary Jane Ross, You Don't Know Me: Reflections of My Father (New York: Harmony Books, 2010), 51–53. See also Milt Jackson quote about the influence of the sanctified church on black soul music in the 1950s in Lerone Bennett, Jr., “The Soul of Soul,” Ebony (December 1961): 116. “Most Played in Juke Boxes,” Billboard, March 25, 1955, 138. Horace C. Boyer, “Black Music Comes of Age,” Black World (November 1973): 43.

78 Big Bill Broonzy quoted in Ralph J. Gleason, “Ray Charles' Motto-‘Singing is Believing,’” Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 27, 1959, 6H. See also Rick Coleman, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Cambridge, Mass.: De Capo, 2006), 4–5. Michael Lydon, Ray Charles: Man and Music (New York: Routledge, 2004), 114.

79 David Ritz and Ray Charles, Brother Ray, 151.

80 Hollie I. West, “Mixing Gospel and the Blues,” Washington Post, July 9, 1972, BW10. Francis Davis, The History of the Blues: The Roots Music of the People (Cambridge, Mass.: De Capo, 2003), 227. See the introduction of the “holy roller” theme in a review of Jackie Wilson's music and TV performance style, “Channel Time,” Los Angeles Tribune, May 30, 1958, 18.

81 Gerri Hirshey, Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music (London: Macmillan, 1984), 26–27; Michael W. Harris, The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church (New York: Oxford University, 1994), 148–150; Ross Laird, Brunswick Records: Chicago and Regional Sessions (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2001), 1045, 1083, 1163, 1174, 1183; “Prominent Visitors,” Chicago Defender, September 13, 1930, 13; Edward Moore, “Recent Disk Recordings Will Please Ravel, Schumann Fans,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 30, 1930, F5. For more on the interplay of African-American blues and gospel music, see Paul Harvey, Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011), 102–105; Burton William Peretti, Lift Every Voice: The History of African American Music (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009), 129–138; Jeff Todd Titon, “Labels: Identifying the Categories of Blues and Gospel,” in The Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel Music, ed., Allan Moore (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2003), 13–19.

82 Elder Beck, “Rock and Roll Sermon” (1956), on Fire In My Bones: Raw + Rare + Otherworldy African-American Gospel, 1944–2007 (New York: Tompkins Square, 2009). Evelyn M.E. Taylor, “Beck, Elder Charles D.,” in Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, ed. W.K. McNeil (New York: Routledge, 2010), 33–34.

83 Milton Perry, “A Minister in Defense of Elvis,” Cleveland Call and Post, January 19, 1957, 7A. See also the remarks of songwriter Samuel “Buck” Ram in Hal Boyle, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Defended as Descendant of Gospel Hymn,” Ocala Star-Banner, August 23, 1956; “Minister Says Rock-n-Roll True U.S. Art,” Chicago Daily Tribune, February 17, 1957, SW16; and “It Can't Be that Bad!” Baltimore Afro-American, July 28, 1956, 4.

84 Mrs. Earl H. Clements to Ralph M. Riggs, August 4, 1956; Mrs. George Arnold to Ralph M. Riggs, September 29, 1956; and G. P. Hertweck to Ralph M. Riggs, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Mo.

85 David Wilkerson, “Rock and Roll: The Devil's Heartbeat,” Pentecostal Evangel, July 12, 1959, 4. David R. Wilkerson, THE DEVIL'S HEARTBEAT ROCK AND ROLL! Teenage Sins Exposed! (Philipsburg, Penn.: Teen-Age Evangelism, n.d.), 3, 8.

86 Homer Tomlinson, The Shout of a King, (Queens, N.Y.: The Church of God, U.S.A. Headquarters, 1968), 21.

87 Jim Stewart radio interview with Elvis Presley, New Orleans, Louisiana, July 10, 1956, in Elvis Presley: The Complete Interviews from 1955–1977 (UK: Synergie OMP, 2011).

88 Barbara Lee Fridinger, “His Singing Causes Demolition,” and Nancy Astinger, “He Needs Christ,” in “Special Panel: What about Elvis Presley?” Youth for Christ (November 1956): 18, 19. See how the controversy from such articles played out in the letters to the editor section of the magazine, “Presley, Pro and Con,” Youth for Christ (January 1957): 6–7; “More Patter on Presley,” Youth for Christ (February 1957): 6–7; “Elvis is Back,” Youth for Christ (March 1957): 6–7; “Elvis is Back,” Youth for Christ (May 1957): 4–5.

89 Bill Sachs, “Folk Talent and Tunes,” Billboard, August 13, 1955, 24. RCA Victor Country and Western Attraction Presents the Caravan Souvenir Folio (Madison, Tenn.: Jamboree Attractions, circa 1953/1954), 15, Rare Books and Scores, souvenir booklets, Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University. “Second Generation—A Family the Picks Together . . .” Billboard, October 18, 1969, 38.

90 Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis, 447. Jimmie Rodgers Snow quoted in “Jimmy Snow Smears R&R; Presley's Ex-Aid, Now an Evangelist, Calls It Sinful,” Variety, March 2, 1960, 1, 54. Jack Castleman, “That ‘Evil Beat’ of Rock Rapped,” Dallas Morning News, September 25, 1961, 1. “Evangelist Jimmie Snow Files for Divorce,” Fort Scott Kansas Tribune, August 15, 1972, 5. “Snow's Son Intense at Pulpit: Preacher Broadcasts from Opry Stage,” Lawrence Journal-World, September 22, 1976, 34.

91 Jimmie Snow, “Called from ‘Show Biz,’” C. A. Herald (January 1961): 5, 7.

92 “Studio Discussion between Sam Phillips, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Van Eaton and Billy Riley,” in Good Rockin’ Tonight (Bop Cat Records, 1974).

93 On the struggles rockers experienced between secular and sacred lives, see James M. Curtis, Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954–1984 (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987), 61.

94 Marc Myers, “A Cultural Conversation with Little Richard,” D5.

95 David Kirby, Little Richard and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll (New York: Continuum, 2009), 154.

96 Richard quoted in “Little Richard Gets the Call,” Billboard, October 21, 1957, 22.

97 Glenn C. Altschuler, All Shook Up, 162–163.

98 Little Richard quoted in Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard, 197.

99 Don Cusic, “Cash, Johnny,” in Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, 42. Bill C. Malone, Don't Get above Your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class (Champaign: University of Illinois, 2002), 110–111.

100 Peter Guralnick, Careless Love, 209, 223, 231, 657. See Craig Mosher, “Ecstatic Sounds,” 100–101. Charles Reagan Wilson, “‘Just a Little Talk with Jesus'.” in Southern Crossroads: Perspectives on Religion and Culture, ed. Walter H. Conser Jr. and Rodger M. Payne (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2008), 16–18. Goff, James R. Jr., “Conflicted by the Spirit: The Religious Life of Elvis Presley,” Assemblies of God Heritage 28 (2008): 2231. Alanna Nash, ed., Elvis and the Memphis Mafia (London: Autumn, 2005), 19.

101 Kevin Crouch and Tanja Crouch, The Gospel According to Elvis (London: Bobcat Books, 2007), 120; Peter Guralnick, Careless Love, 189.

102 Charles Reagan Wilson, “‘Just a Little Talk with Jesus,’” 18; Goff, James R. Jr., “Conflicted by the Spirit.Assemblies of God Heritage 28 (2008): 2231; Peter Guralnick, Careless Love, 173–225; Jess Stearn and Larry Geller Elvis' Search for God (Murfreesboro, Tenn.: Greenleaf Publications, 1998); Larry Geller, Leaves of Elvis' Garden: The Song of His Soul (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Bell Rock, 2007); Alanna Nash, ed., Elvis and the Memphis Mafia, 333–344; and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and Sandra Harmon, Elvis And Me (New York: Putnam, 1985), 195–207.

103 Billy Graham, The Mystery of Iniquity (Minneapolis, Minn.: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1957). Many thanks to Matthew Sutton for this source. See also George Burnham, “Billy Graham Talks to Teens,” C.A. Herald (October 1957): 29.

104 “Two Popular Heroes,” Hartford Courant, May 20, 1957, 10. For a rebuttal, see, William A. Webb, “Dr. Graham's Appeal Is to the Intellect,” Hartford Courant, June 3, 1957, 10. John Steinbeck, “Bryan and Sunday Would Be Proud of Clement's Talk,” Washington Post, August 15, 1956, 8. For similar critique, see “Graham Crusade Like Circus, Cleric Asserts,” Washington Post, June 10, 1957, B6.

105 Samuel A. Floyd, The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States (New York: Oxford University, 1995), 64–65.

106 Earl Calloway, “Gospel Music: The Basis for Rock an’ Roll Pop,” Chicago Defender, September 4, 1969, 18.

107 Benson Saler, Conceptualizing Religion: Immanent Anthropologists, Transcendent Natives, and Unbounded Categories (New York: Oxford University, 1999), 25. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2007), 86, 79, 266, 446.

Special thanks to my research assistants, Austin Steelman and Katie Brinegar. I am also grateful to Hilde Løvdal Stephens, Charles Reagan Wilson, and Larry Eskridge for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of the article.

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Church History
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