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If everything that came before laid the groundwork, "Rock Around the Clock" introduced the music to a global audience.For a few years it became the most commercially successful form of rock and roll.Louis, Memphis, New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo (See: Second Great Migration (African American)) meant that black and white residents were living in close proximity in larger numbers than ever before, and as a result heard each other's music and even began to emulate each other's fashions.Radio stations that made white and black forms of music available to both groups, the development and spread of the gramophone record, and African-American musical styles such as jazz and swing which were taken up by white musicians, aided this process of "cultural collision".Its origins were in African-American vocal groups of the 1930s and 40s, like the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, who had enjoyed considerable commercial success with arrangements based on close harmonies.By 1954, as rock and roll was beginning to emerge, a number of similar acts began to cross over from the R&B charts to mainstream success, often with added honking brass and saxophone, with the Crows, the Penguins, the El Dorados and the Turbans all scoring major hits.Three months earlier, on April 12, 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock".

The more familiar sound of these covers may have been more palatable to white audiences, there may have been an element of prejudice, but labels aimed at the white market also had much better distribution networks and were generally much more profitable.

Commentators differ in their views of which of these forms were most important and the degree to which the new music was a re-branding of African-American rhythm and blues for a white market, or a new hybrid of black and white forms.

In the 1930s, jazz, and particularly swing, both in urban-based dance bands and blues-influenced country swing (Jimmie Rodgers, Moon Mullican and other similar singers), were among the first music to present African-American sounds for a predominantly white audience.

During and immediately after World War II, with shortages of fuel and limitations on audiences and available personnel, large jazz bands were less economical and tended to be replaced by smaller combos, using guitars, bass and drums. Similarly, country boogie and Chicago electric blues supplied many of the elements that would be seen as characteristic of rock and roll.

There were also changes in the record industry, with the rise of independent labels like Atlantic, Sun and Chess servicing niche audiences and a similar rise of radio stations that played their music.

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