The Birth of Rock: Music of the 1950s Quiz


By: Staff

6 Min Quiz

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About This Quiz

The 1950s may seem like a sweet and innocent time, but rock 'n' roll took the world by storm during the decade, mixing with country and jazz and inspiring more diversity than you might expect. See how much you know about the decade's music.

The song "Rocket 88," released in 1951, is often credited with ushering in the era of rock 'n' roll. Who recorded it?

It was written about an Oldsmobile 88 as the band drove to Memphis, Tennessee, for a recording session


Like we said, it was an era of varied musical genres, with perhaps nothing stranger than a cowboy belting out a kid's holiday song that hit No. 1 as the decade began. What musician and song made up this strange pair?

"Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" ushered in the holiday season and the decade.


Who had the most No. 1 pop hits in the 1950s?

They don't call him the King for nothing. Ten of his songs hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart during the decade.


Known for hits including "Crazy" and "Walking After Midnight," this country singer died in a plane crash in 1963.

Future superstar Willie Nelson wrote "Crazy," one of the songs that made Cline a star before her tragic death.


She became more well-known for the movie "Pillow Talk" with Rock Hudson, but this singer also had the top hit by a woman in the 1950s. Who is she?

"Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" came in at No. 4 on Radio Gold's top hits for the 1950s.


At a time when most women were quiet on the issue, this singer spoke out against the idea of blaming women for the wrongdoings of men with her song "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels."

Kitty Wells' song was recorded in response to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life" in 1952 and banned by the Grand Ole Opry. It became a huge hit, selling more than 1 million copies.


A hit for Bill Haley & His Comets in 1954, this song was reintroduced to the world as a TV theme song on "Happy Days" in 1974.

The TV show rocketed "Rock Around the Clock" to the Billboard charts in 1974, 20 years after its original release.


Speaking of the reintroduction of music, in the movie "Back to the Future," what song does Marty McFly play at his parent's prom, prompting stunned and disapproving looks from the crowd?

While he rocks on Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," promgoers aren't thrilled. "I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet," Marty tells the crowd, "but your kids are gonna love it."


Elvis may be synonymous with the 1950s in the minds of many, but he didn't have his first hit until 1956. What was it?

1956 was a big year for the King — "Heartbreak Hotel" went to No. 1, and he made his first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."


Johnny Cash had his first hit in 1958 with what song, which gave its name to the movie about his life in 2005?

"I Walk the Line" was written by Cash's first wife Vivian Liberto and recorded at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.


His career began in the '40s and continued into the '50s with hits like "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Jambalaya" until his death in 1953.

Williams died in the back of a car on his way to a New Year's gig in Ohio on Jan. 1, 1953.


While we're on the subject of musician deaths, who passed away "the day the music died"?

The three were killed in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959.


This crooner got his start in the 1950s with his first hit "Because of You," and he hasn't slowed yet. To celebrate his 80th birthday in 2006, he recorded an album of duets with Elton John, Barbra Streisand and Bono — and he celebrated turning 85 with duets with Lady Gaga in 2011.

Bennett has also appeared on "The Simpsons" and recorded with Queen Latifah and Amy Winehouse.


This silky-voiced singer, best known for "The Christmas Song," became the first African-American to host a TV variety show in 1956.

Nat King Cole died in 1965, but his daughter, Natalie Cole, continued the family business. In 1991 she brought her father's voice to a new generation with a duet called "Unforgettable."


In 1954 Elvis made his first recordings at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. This song, which became a rockabilly hit, was the flip side of "That's All Right (Mama)."

"Blue Moon of Kentucky" was one of the first rockabilly — a country-blues combo with a rockin' beat — hits by a young Elvis. Elvis would continue to show the world he could break ground in every musical genre out there — and some that he'd invent himself.


This song made Fats Domino a household name in 1956 and was the first song Beatle John Lennon learned on the guitar.

Domino, a New Orleans native, lost his home and nearly all of his possessions in Hurricane Katrina. The Coast Guard rescued him and his family. In 2006 he recorded the album "Alive and Kickin'" and donated some of the proceeds to help other musicians in need.


"Mack the Knife" won this singer a Grammy for record of the year in 1959.

The song resurfaced in 1986 as "Mac Tonight" in an ad for McDonald's. Darin's family sued the company and the ads were taken off the air.


This singer already had hits, including "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be the Day," when he died at just 22 years old.

While his songs live on, his influence on the basics of rock music was even more long-lasting. His band, The Crickets, pioneered the now ubiquitous lineup of two guitars, a bass and drums.


This performer was shown only from the waist up for his third appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1957.

Hip-shaking Elvis led censors to insist he be shown only from the waist up, even during his performance of the gospel song "Peace in the Valley."


Before she became a princess, Grace Kelly starred in this movie musical alongside Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

Oh, the problems of the wealthy. Kelly must decide whether to marry Sinatra or Crosby in the song-filled froth called "High Society."


What Dave Brubeck Quartet recording became the first jazz instrumental to sell more than 1 million copies?

Written by the quartet's sax player Paul Desmond, "Take Five" is still one of the best-selling jazz singles ever.


One of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, this singer had hits in the mid 1950s, including "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly Miss Molly."

Little Richard is credited with helping establish rock 'n' roll as a true music form and with inspiring the Beatles, who covered "Long Tall Sally" in 1964.


Dick Clark introduced her song "Who's Sorry Now" on "American Bandstand" in 1958, catapulting her to success.

While this song was a hit, her lasting influence came after she was attacked in her hotel room in 1974. Her lawsuit cited poor security and resulted in changes across the hotel industry, such as better lighting, deadbolt locks and peepholes in doors.


This group's doo-wop version of "White Christmas" is second only to Bing Crosby's classic in terms of sales.

The Drifters had No. 1 hits with three different lead singers and was called the greatest Atlantic group by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.


Elvis made his movie debut in 1956 in this film — with music, of course — set in Texas following the Civil War.

Elvis went on to make 31 feature films and two documentaries.


In 1958, just two years after being signed by Columbia Records, he released his greatest hits album, which stayed on Billboard's album chart for 10 years. Who was this groundbreaking singer?

Johnny Mathis' album was the first greatest hits album Columbia ever released, starting a tradition that nearly every band, even those without so many great hits, follow to this day.


This musician's hit "I Got a Woman" reached No. 1 on the rhythm and blues charts in 1954. It was the first in a long string of hits for this versatile Georgia native.

Inducted into the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Charles earned the nickname "The Genius" for his piano playing, singing and songwriting abilities.


In 1953 this Southern performer married his 13-year-old cousin, causing a boycott of his records and perpetuating a stereotype of Southern incest and ignorance that continues in some areas to this day.

"The Killer," as Lewis came to be known, overcame the boycott and went on to become one of the most influential rockabilly stars of the 1950s, alongside Carl Perkins and Elvis.


Dale Evans wrote this song that was used at the end of the early 1950s TV show she had with her husband. It has since become as popular as saying "bon voyage" when wishing folks a good trip.

"Happy Trails" was played at the end of both "The Roy Rogers Show" and the show the two shared, "The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show."


"In 1814 we took a little trip along with Col. Jackson down the mighty Mississip'," opens the song that peaked at the end of the 1950s. What's the unlikely topic of this hit by Johnny Horton?

"The Battle of New Orleans" was the No. 1 song of 1959, according to Billboard.


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