Guitarist Lonnie Chatmon and violinist Walter Vinson styled themselves as the \"Mississippi Sheiks\" when they were recorded by an OKeh Records field recording team in Shreveport, Louisiana, in February 1930. At the time, the word \"sheik\" was slang for a suave lover, inspired by Rudolph Valentino's success in the films \"The Sheik\" and \"Son of the Sheik.\" They had recorded before with other players, and the name might not have stuck but for the success of a song from the session entitled \"Sitting on Top of the World.\" Though the guitar and violin pairing was not unique in blues at the time, the song was structured differently than most other commercial blues records, and the melody, as well as the ironic, defiant refrain of the title, stayed with listeners from the first hearing. The song, composed by Vinson, quickly became part of the Southern and Southwestern musical vernacular, with distinctive versions recorded by black and white artists, including Charlie Patton, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Bill Monroe, Ray Charles, Howlin' Wolf and many others. Selected for the 2017 registry.
Several versions of \"Dust My Broom\" had been released by 1951 when Elmore James made this landmark 78-rpm recording for the Trumpet label. Though the song wasn't new, his sound was. James replaced the acoustic, solo blues of Robert Johnson with an electric blues band. James is known to have tinkered with his guitar pickups and fans still argue about how he achieved his signature sound. Whatever combination of guitar and pickup was used in his slide guitar opening, Elmore James created the most recognizable guitar riff in the history of the blues. The influence of \"Dust My Broom\" has been widespread and long-lasting. Many blues and rock artists has since covered \"Dust My Broom\" in the Elmore James arrangement, including Hound Dog Taylor, J.B. Hutto, and the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, featuring slide guitar by Jeremy Spencer. James later recorded \"Dust My Broom\" for other labels, often under different titles including \"Dust My Blues\" or \"I Believe,\" but his signature treatment of the song began with this 1951 Trumpet version. Selected for the 2013 registry.
Songstress Julie London had her biggest hit with her debut single, \"Cry Me a River,\" written by Arthur Hamilton. Though she described her voice as only a \"thimbleful\" of a voice, she added, \"It is kind of over-smoked voice and it automatically sounds intimate.'' Originally written for the film \"Pete Kelly's Blues\" (but ultimately rejected), London's version was produced by Bobby Troup, who would later marry London. Wisely, Troup had London accompanied by only a guitar and bass, Barney Kessel and Ray Leatherwood, respectively. A large ensemble would have overwhelmed her \"thimbleful.\" The result was an enduring sexy, smokey classic. Selected for the 2015 registry.
Asked for a tune that kids could dance The Stroll to, Link Wray came up with this powerfully menacing guitar instrumental on the spot, and the crowd went wild, demanding encores. When he couldn't recreate the distorted sound of his live version in a studio, Wray poked holes in his amp speakers, cranked up the tremolo, and was then able to capture what he wanted in three takes--all for a cost of $57. Originally titled \"Oddball,\" it was renamed after the gang fights in \"West Side Story\" by a record producer's daughter. Wray's primal guitar influenced a generation of rockers including Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, the Kinks, Jimmy Page and Neil Young. Bob Dylan called \"Rumble\" the \"greatest instrumental ever.\" Pete Townshend said, \"... if it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up a guitar.\" Selected for the 2008 registry.
In 1959 solo guitarist John Fahey self-published the first version of this album, pressing only 100 copies and distributing them locally in Washington, D.C. and among his acquaintances. In subsequent years, he re-recorded selections of the album on different occasions, expressing a preference for the more technically demanding performances on the 1967 stereo release. Heavily influenced by classic blues and folk 78-rpm recordings he had collected since his youth, Fahey's solo guitar compositions also incorporate such surprising influences as the work of Charles Ives and Bela Bartok to forge uniquely personal statements. Selected for the 2010 registry.
The last of Roy Orbison's string of hits for Monument records, \"Oh, Pretty Woman\" was his most enduring recording. Orbison and co-writer Bill Dees tapped out the initial rhythm of the song while sitting at Orbison's kitchen table. In the recorded version, this became the infectious and well-known opening guitar riff and propulsive drum beat. Artists as varied as Al Green, John Mayall and Van Halen have covered the song, and 2 Live Crew sampled the opening on their 1989 album, \"As Clean as They Wanna Be.\" That appropriation, made without authorization, led to a 1994 U. S. Supreme Court case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.) which ruled that a commercial song parody qualified as fair use under Section 107 of the U. S. copyright law. Selected for the 2007 registry.
By the mid-1960s, Buck Owens was known for a number of hits and as the progenitor of the Bakersfield sound. This new sound sought to move country music away from the lush arrangements characteristic of most Nashville artists and to return it to traditional bands (without orchestration) playing honky-tonk and proto-rock and roll. Allaying Owens's initial fear that New Yorkers would dislike his music, the band sold out their 1966 Carnegie Hall show. The program featured rollicking versions of \"Act Naturally\" and \"Love's Gonna Live Here Again,\" each enhanced by guitarist Don Rich's crisp percussive licks and drummer Willie Cantu show-stopping raucousness. The tear jerkers, \"In the Palm of Your Hand\" and \"Cryin' Time,\" allowed steel player Tom Brumley to add soulful accents while Owens's vocals edged dangerously close to melodrama. The audience offered a standing ovation and a later critic astutely observed that they had witnessed \"an inspired man render[ing] the greatest performance of his life.\" Selected for the 2013 registry.
The initial success of Simon and Garfunkel can be traced through the evolution of the title of their first hit record. The original, acoustic version released on their debut album, \"Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.,\"was called \"The Sounds of Silence.\" That album sold poorly and the duo split up. Without their knowledge, Columbia Records producer Tom Wilson overdubbed drums, electric guitar and electric bass for the song's release as a single. No stranger to merging rock music with folk lyrics, Wilson, that very day, had worked on Bob Dylan's \"Like a Rolling Stone.\" This new version of \"The Sounds of Silence\" climbed the singles charts, prompting Simon and Garfunkel to reunite to record another album, this time in the folk-rock style of their surprise hit. At that point, the title of the single was changed to \"The Sound of Silence,\" and the album became \"Sounds of Silence.\" The duo's Everly Brothers-influenced harmonies remain, augmented by electric guitars, keyboards, drums and even horns. \"Somewhere They Can't Find Me\" shows the extent that their sound had changed in such a short time, displaying the influence of British guitarist Davey Graham, who contributed the opening of his now classic \"Anji,\" also covered on the album. Simon and Garfunkel would continue to grow as artists, but their success began here, with a re-edited single they knew nothing about. Selected for the 2012 registry.
Ola Belle Reed was born in 1916 in Grassy Creek, North Carolina, a small town near the Virginia and Tennessee border. The area was rich in traditional music, and by her teens she was an accomplished singer, guitarist and clawhammer banjo player, playing at local gatherings before her family relocated to Rising Sun, MD, when she was 18. After many years of performing with her brother, Alex Campbell, she formed a group with husband Bud and her son David. They recorded this album for Rounder Records in 1973. The album mixed older pieces such as \"Wayfaring Pilgrim\" and \"Billy in the Lowground\" that showcased her deep feeling for traditional material, with her own compositions, including \"My Epitaph\" and \"High on a Mountain,\" which has since become part of the Bluegrass, Country and Americana canons in versions by Marty Stuart, Tim O'Brien, Del McCoury and others. Though Reed had been a popular performer around northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania for many years, this album brought her to a much wider audience. By the time of her death in 2002, she was a beloved and influential artist who had mentored many young musicians and was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986. Selected for the 2018 registry.
The Sugarhill Gang's infectious dance number from late 1979 might be said to have launched an entire genre. Although spoken word had been a component of recorded American popular music for decades, this trio's rhythmic rhyming inspired many MC's-to-be and other future rap artists. The album version of \"Rapper's Delight\" is an epic 14-1/2 minute salvo of irreverent stories and creative word play. The song dates from hip-hop's infancy. As such, it does not address subject matter that has given rap music both positive and negative notoriety, but the song's inventive rhymes, complex counter-rhythms, and brash boastfulness presage the tenets of hip hop. \"Rapper's Delight\" also reflects an early instance of music sampling and a legal settlement; it draws its bass line and other features from Chic's 1979 hit \"Good Times.\" As a result, songwriting credits for \"Rapper's Delight\" include that song's composers, Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, as well as Sylvia Robinson and the Sugarhill Gang (Michael Wright, Guy O'Brien, and Henry Jackson). Selected for the 2011 registry.