The photographer Ernest C. Withers shot B.B. King's tour bus ''Big Red'' (above) looking like a large mechanical caterpillar, at a curb outside King's Palace Cafe on Beale Street, Memphis,
with King's entire touring crew, fifteen well-dressed men and a well-dressed woman, lined up in front of the vehicle in their best suits and clean shirts. Well-wishers are leaning out of the windows of the rooming houses above the bus. Cato Walker Jr., drove
the musician's tour bus, circa 1956.
The Platters open the year on top
of both the rhythm and blues and Pop Charts with "The Great Pretender" making it the second rock record to accomplish the latter.
Feedback is invented by The Johnny Burnette
Rock And Roll Trio on their record "The Train Kept A Rollin".
Pop vocalist Kay Starr has a huge smash that winter with "The Rock & Roll Waltz" a song that attempts
to cash in on the term "rock and roll" while appealing to adults rather than kids, proving the industry feels the music is a novelty.
Elvis Presley scores five number
1 hits in a seven month span, causes a sensation with his explosive performance of "Hound Dog" on the Milton Berle Show, appears twice on The Ed Sullivan Show in the fall to enormous ratings and releases his first film that November.
Rock And Roll enters the movies with cheaply made "rockexploitation" films with limited plots and numerous cameos by rockers singing their latest hits. The biggest and best of which is "The
Girl Can't Help It" starring blonde sexpot Jayne Mansfield and featuring performances by Little Richard, Fats Domino and Eddie Cochran.
Gene Vincent is convicted of public
obscenity and fined $10,000 by the state of Virginia for singing the erotic "Woman Love" on stage.
"I Put A Spell On You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins sells over a million
copies but faces a complete radio ban due to its "cannibalistic nature", thus becoming rock's first underground hit.
This would be one of the great transition years in American pop music. Dominating the charts was the untamed hellfire shout-outs of Elvis Presley, not to mention the rhythm and blues-flavored pop of Fats Domino and the Platters.
But plenty of the old guard chaperoned these young rebels: Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Perry Como, and the always-pleasant Ames Brothers. Still, 1956 was the year that rock and roll stood up and demanded to take over the pop charts.
Colonel Tom Parker signed on as Elvis Presley’s manager.
''Heartbreak Hotel'' starts Presley-mania.
Elvis Presley's first film, Love Me Tender released in 1956.
The rock and roll music of white rockers
is called "rockabilly" (rock + hillbilly).
Screamin Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" introduces voodoo into rock and roll.
Wanda Jackson is the "Queen of Rockabilly".
The popularity of rock and roll causes the record industry to boom and allows independent labels to flourish.
In impromptu recording session occurs
at Sun Studios in December 4, 1956 with the million dollar quartet consisting of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
Elektra pioneers the "compilation"
record, containing songs by different musicians.
Buddy Holly had his first official recording session in 1956. It was held in Nashville at producer Owen Bradley’s,
Brenda Lee signs a recording contract at the age of 11, after five years of singing professionally.
Gene Vincent made his first appearance on national TV by performing on The Perry Como Show.
American Bandstand first aired on nationwide
Stereo LPs became available and new releases were issued in both mono (monaural) and stereo (stereophonic) versions.
The Philips original cast recordings of My Fair Lady was one of the first million seller LPs together with Van Cliburn playing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto.
Future Sun recording artist, Hannah Fay (or Hana Fay, as she had been billed) appeared on the Fine label in 1956 (Fine 108) ''It Pays To Be True'' b/w ''Easy To Remember'' and (Fine 1012) ''Oh Why'' b/w ''Searching For Someone Like You''.
Fine Records was owned by three Biloxi residents: Yankee Barhonovich, Marion ''Prof'' Carpenter, and Pee Wee Maddox.
Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" gives Sun Records one of the biggest U.S. hits of the year.
Roy Orbison arrives at the company in March,
whilst Jack Clement is hired as a producer/engineer at $90.00 a week on June 15th, just two months after bringing Billy Riley to the label. During the fall, Jack is also on hand when Jerry Lee Lewis undergoes an impromptu audition at the Sun studio.
After getting out of school in 1956, future Sun performer Dane Stinit saw that the job prospects around Owensboro, Kentucky were slender so he hit the Hillbilly Highway north. He had some
relations in Cary, Indiana, which is virtually an industrial suburb of Chicago, and eventually settled in Lake Station, Indiana which is almost entirely populated by transplanted southerns. Stinit had played in a little local group in Owensboro but had no
thoughts of bucking the odds against making in Nashville. One of his buddies in the group, L. Martin decided to try his luck in Nashville and played with Bill Carlisle, Mel Tillis, Donna Fargo and others before meeting an untimely end in a road accident. Around
Christmas 1965 he went on to the Memphis era.
Future Sun recording
artist, Narvel Felts was seventeen and entered a high school talent contest at Bernie, Missouri, and sing Elvis Presley's ''Baby Let's Play House'' and when they wanted an encore there was a new song he had heard a few times by Carl Perkins, called ''Blue
Suede Shoes''. By chance there was a disc jockey in the audience that night from KDEX radio in Dexter, Missouri, his name was Weldon Grimsley, and the next day and later, Narvel sings the Saturday afternoon radio shows.
''There was a new song I had heard a few times by Carl Perkins, called ''Blue Suede Shoes'', Narvel told to Howard Cockburn. ''By chance there was a disc jockey in the audience that night from KDEX radio in Dexter,
Missouri, his name was Weldon Grimsley, and the next day I was sitting at home listening to the radio, and they said 'if Narvel Felts is listening please contact KDEX immediately'. I ran outside and told my daddy what they had said on the radio. It was cold
winter time and he had the water drained out of the radiator of his 1946 International truck. He put water in the truck and drove me eight miles up the gravel road to Bernie to the nearest phone, and I tool J.W. Grubbs with me and they gave us a little Saturday
afternoon radio show, live. A little while after that, March 1956, I ran across Jerry Mercer one night at the Four way Inn in Dudley, Missouri. He got me up to sing and this led to a regular job in Jerry Mercer's band along about the spring of 1956. We played
a lot of the local clubs in southeast Missouri, north-east Arkansas and some in Illinois and played a package show that summer with Roy Orbison when ''Ooby Dooby'' was his current record. Eddie Bond and The Stompers were also on the show and Eddie's record
on Mercury at the time was ''Rockin' Daddy'', said Felts.