Tom Aswell is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for 25 years. His work has appeared in nine Louisiana newspapers including The Advocate and News-Star. The former disc jockey owned and coached a semi-pro baseball team and has worked for Louisiana's Office of Risk Management since 1991. He lives with his wife in Denham Springs, La.
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Louisiana Rocks! The True Genesis of Rock & Roll
An expansive study of the beloved all-American music form of rock 'n' roll, this in-depth history argues that rock 'n' roll started in New Orleans in 1947 when Roy Brown recorded Good Rockin' Tonight. With verve and the authority of a true expert, Tom Aswell considers Louisiana influences such as swamp pop, Cajun, zydeco, R&B, rockabilly, country and blues music to detail the ways these musical forms mixed and gave birth to rock 'n' roll as we know it today.
Louisiana's musicians were making rock 'n' roll history well before Bill Haley recorded the legendary Rock Around the Clock in 1955. In 1949, Fats Domino recorded The Fat Man in New Orleans and Hank Williams, while living in Bossier City, performed on The Louisiana Hayride and introduced what would become known as rockabilly with the release of Lovesick Blues. The rest is musical history.
Including profiles of such iconic figures as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Etta James, Buckwheat Zydeco, Percy Sledge and Warren Storm, the book also discusses the role played by independent recording studios and locally owned radio stations in the promotion of local artists and their music. Aswell presents the incredible story of rock 'n' roll and its myriad Louisiana influences as it truly has never been told before.
What is the most interesting thing readers can learn from your book Louisiana Rocks!?
The incredible number of top rock & roll artists with direct ties to Louisiana and the number of Billboard Top 100 songs with Louisiana roots (House of the Rising Sun, Hit the Road, Jack)
What motivated you to tell this story?
John Fred suggested the book in 1981 but I did nothing until April 15, 2005. That was the day John Fred died. I did my first interview (Joe Stampley) the following day.
How do you think this story resonates with Louisiana (culture, readers, history, Louisianans, etc.)?
Louisiana has always been known for three things: Great food, colorful politics, and damned good music. I don’t cook, I hate politics, but I love Louisiana music.
Why is this topic interesting to you? What would you like people to learn about this topic?
My interests dates back to my days as a disc jock at KRUS in Ruston. Two great musicians had worked there during my childhood: Merle Kilgore and Tommy Blake. I felt honored to follow them.
What excites you about the festival?
Anything that promotes Louisiana music is exciting to me.
What should people look forward to by coming to your presentation at the festival?
They will learn things they didn’t know about Louisiana music and Louisiana musicians (guaranteed).
Why is it that 706 Union Avenue in Memphis is such a tourist attraction? Because it has been promoted properly. It’s the former home of Sun Records and one can purchase T-shirts, cups, Sun recordings of Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash. But the former home of Cosmo Matassa’s recording studio on South Rampart Street in New Orleans where so many wonderful rock ‘n’ roll and R&B songs were recorded (like Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti, Fats Domino’s The Fat Man, Lloyd Price’s Stagger Lee, Shirley and Lee’s Feel So Fine, Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-In-Law, Smiley Lewis’s I Hear You Knockin’ and so many other great songs) is a Laundromat! A Laundromat! Why in the world has that not been converted into a major tourist attraction? A Museum? The same for the Dewdrop Inn on LaSalle Street where so many great African American singers performed (Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Ivory Joe Hunter, Little Richard, Irma Thomas, et al).
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