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1950 -1960                            back to history

Modesto was right there at the birth of Rock and Roll.   From the late 1930’s with the then Hillbilly Boogie (Rockabilly) the percussive slappin’ bass became the foundations of Rock.   In 1954, that Rockabilly sound became Rock and Roll with the release of Bill Haley and the Comet’s (We’re gonna) Rock Around the Clock and the milestone song that changed music forever, That’s Alright Mama by Elvis Presley and the Blue Moon Boys, featuring bassist Bill Black.

American Graffiti was the first movie that was created around a selection of popular music not written for a movie. These songs were integral to the script and securing the rights to the songs consumed 10% of American Graffiti’s $750,000 budget.
The emerging Rock 'n’ Roll of the late 1950s and the prominence of AM radio created a common soundtrack. The first rock 'n’ roll  before it was played on KBOX beginning in 1953 and, by the late ‘50s, KFIV took over. As the kids in Modesto dragged 10th, 1360 KFIV would play the songs of the day and, since there was only one rock station, everyone shared the same music.
Kent Whitt and the Downbeats were the first Modesto area rock 'n’ roll band. This band included Kent Whitt on drums, Bob DeLeon on Keyboard, Danny Toledo on Sax, Bill Gross on Bass, and Connie Hightman on Guitar. The band was first formed to play school dances at Modesto High School and then became a popular draw in the area, playing the California Ballroom and the Fable Room reguRODDDY RECORDlarly, as well as high school gyms.
Roddy Jackson, living in Merced, founded the Merced Blue Notes with his high school friends in 1956. He was also touring up and down the Central Valley, was signed as a solo act to Specialty Records, and was making recordings like “I’ve Got My Sights on Someone New” that received national airplay. Roddy was the first recorded local rock 'n’ roller.  He joined up with the Downbeats and they became the Modesto area’s first “superband” and played regularly. Later, without Roddy, they did a USO tour throughout Southeast Asia. This band inspired later music legends. Roddy would go on to become a touring musician and recorded songwriter and still performs today. 
Ceres’ Jim Burgett scored a national hit with the singles “Do I Worry?” and others like “Let’s Investigate”. Al Ward and the Epics rounded out the first wave of local Modesto rock 'n’ roll.

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Jim Burgett

The Downbeats

Merced Bluenotes