Roll ‘Em Pete – 1938 Precursor to Rock & Roll?

Gary: “I was listening to some really old Boogie Woogie and I ran across a song that was recorded in 1938, by Big Joe Turner and pianist Pete Johnson called “Roll ‘Em Pete”.  If you listen carefully to the song, it is the basis of a lot of rock and roll music, which was 12 bar blues and many songs had the same basis.  So I spent some time trying to find a few versions that would support my theory.
Pete Johnson
BigJoeTurnerBig Joe Turner
Roll ‘Em Pete / 1938 Joe Turner and Pete Johnson


1973 Soul Train interview and Roll ‘Em Pete by Chuck Berry /
2001 Cologne Germany / Boogie Woogie Company /
England / Pianist Chase Garrett / great /
and live /
The Man Cave Band / more of a jazz version /
The Ultimate Rotterdam full Orchestra / Jarreau, Hendricks and Elling /
Mr. Boogie Woogie /
Jeannie Cheatham and the Sweat Baby Blues Band (love this one) it’s both Rock and Jazz /
Dixieland Monterey 2011 / Jazz lives /
Boston and the Swing Legacy /
Now just to support my theory more, here is music from 1927 on, Rock and Roll before the 50’s /


Roll ‘Em Pete sounds like a lot of Rock and Roll Songs.  When we were only teenagers, what did we know, it was new and different.  It was new music, written by Richard Peniman, Otis Blackwell and many others, but if you look back far enough it was always there, we just did not know it.

Other than you and I, nobody really cares, Rock and Roll has gone. Jazz is still around in a strange form; it is just very different today. Other than some real musicians like Vince Gill, who stated in the Guitar Festival video that it took Eric Clapton to teach him about Robert Johnson, musicians care but no one else does.


4 responses to “Roll ‘Em Pete – 1938 Precursor to Rock & Roll?

  1. Wow!!! Incredible post! I’m just listening to the original 1938 “Roll ‘Em Pete” right now, and I’m blown away!! 1938…I can’t believe it; seriously, I’m rather speechless at how far ahead of its time that was. (Later on), I just watched the Jeannie Cheatham version of that song, and wow, was it rockin’!

  2. Also, I want to note, that as soon as I heard the very first higher note boogie line intro played by Pete Johnson in “Roll ‘Em Pete”, I immediately thought of Bob Dylan, and specifically more recent Bob Dylan. So I went to “Modern Times”, and it wasn’t in that album; yet, I went through “Love and Theft”, and sure enough! The opening guitar part to the song “Summer Days” lifts the piano line almost identically (albeit in a different register and key)! Just figured you’d get a kick out of that, if you hadn’t heard that song recently (which I haven’t in a while, although “Love and Theft” is a good album and is in my iTunes!). Thanks again.

    • I definitely got a kick out of your observation about the similarity between Dylan’s guitar player’s intro on “Summer Days”, as compared to Pete Johnson’s opening line on “Roll ‘Em Pete”. Very astute of you! – Russ

      • Thank you so much! That means alot to me, as a somewhat aspiring musician (keyboards, guitar, bass, vocals), hearing that from an accomplished sax player/musician such as yourself! I just subscribed to the “DrSaxMusic” channel on Youtube, which appears to be yours’. Have a great one!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.