Rockabilly is a style of dress popularized by the rock and roll music subculture in the United States, especially in the South, of the 1950s. The dress style is most commonly associated with Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, James Dean, Johnny Cash and Eddy Cochran.
The first wave of rockabilly fans in the United Kingdom were called Teddy Boys because they wore long, Edwardian-style frock coats, along with tight black drainpipe trousers and brothel creeper shoes. Another group in the 1950s that were followers of rockabilly were the Ton-Up boys, who rode British motorcycles and would later be known as rockers in the early 1960s. The rockers had adopted the classic greaser look of T-shirts, jeans, and leather jackets to go with their heavily slicked pompadour haircuts.
- Dickies original 874 work pants
- Slim-cut dark denims, cuffed up
- Leather jacket, motorcycle jacket, wool tweed jacket
- Motorcycle boots
- White T-shirts
- Halter top or halter dress
- No thin straps
- Sweeatheart neckline
- Full skirt
The term is a portmanteau of "rock" and "hillbilly," which is in reference to the country music that inspired its sound. Other important influences on the early development of rockabilly include western swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues, and electric blues.
In 1956, rockabilly music went national after the release of three new classic songs by Cash, Perkins, and Presley were released: "Folsom Prison Blues" by Cash, and "Blue Suede Shoes" by Perkins, both on Sun; and "Heartbreak Hotel" by Presley on RCA. Other rockabilly tunes released this month included "See You Later, Alligator" by Roy Hall and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" by the Commodores (no relation to the '70s Motown group).
The influence and success of the style waned in the late 1950s; nonetheless, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, rockabilly enjoyed a major revival. An interest in the genre endures even in the 21st century, often within a subculture. Rockabilly has left a legacy, spawning a variety of sub-styles and influencing other genres such as punk rock.
As one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music to become a national phenomenon, the rockabilly subculture cultivated an attitude of rebellion, sexuality, and freedom that is now definitive of youth cultures.
The rockers loved 1950s rock and roll artists such as Gene Vincent, and some British rockabilly fans formed bands and played their own version of the music. The most notable of these bands was The Beatles. Long after the band broke up, the members continued to show their interest in rockabilly.
While not true rockabilly, many contemporary indie pop, blues rock, and country rock groups from the US, like Kings of Leon, Black Keys, Blackfoot, and the White Stripes, were heavily influenced by rockabilly.
Presley's first recording, a blues song titled "That's All Right Mama", was previously recorded in 1946 by Arthur Crudup. In this recording Presley married "black" and "white" genres to an extent that it was denied airplay on (white) country radio stations and (black) R&B stations, dismissed for being defined as both "black" and "white" music. Record Producer Sam Phillips was told by country deejays that Presley's "That's Alright Mama" was "black music" and lamented they would be "run out of town" for playing it. Similarly, R&B deejays categorized it as a (white) country song. When the song was finally played by one rogue deejay, Dewey Phillips, Presley's recording created so much excitement it was described as having waged war on segregated radio stations. "The Sun recordings were the first salvos in an undeclared war on segregated radio stations nationwide."
All of Presley's early records combined a blues song on one side and a country song on the other, but both sung in the same vein.
Presley's unique musical style rocketed him into the spotlight, and drew masses of followers: "But it's Presley's singing, halfway between a country western and a R&B rock 'n' roll style that has sent teenagers into a trance. Whether you like it or not, there will always be an Elvis Presley."