The first three rock ‘n’ roll songs George Harrison heard changed his life forever. He never forgot the moment he heard them, especially when he made his own career in rock ‘n’ roll.
Before hearing his first rock songs, George listened to all kinds of music
Coming home from school every day, George turned on the radio. He listened to tunes from Jimmie Rodgers, Big Bill Broonzy, Slim Whitman, and various English music-hall numbers.
In 1992, George told Timothy White (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), “I think the first person who really got me interested in guitar was Jimmie Rodgers—’The Singing Brakeman.’
“And my father had some records, and he used to go away to sea, and he brought back this big wind-up gramophone and Jimmie Rodgers records. ‘Waiting for a Train,’ it was called, and ‘Blue Yodel.’ And so I always remember that from when I was a little kid of about eight or seven.
“Later, when I was a little bit older than that, there was this guy from Florida, and he was a huge success in England during the ’50s, and he was called Slim Whitman. Again, there was a singer with a guitar. And then it turned into Bill Haley. And then in Britain we had this big craze called skiffle music, which came out of a traditional jazz, which is kind of Dixieland jazz.”
RELATED: George Harrison Said Rod Stewart Had a Brain That Was as ‘Small as a Marble’
The first three rock ‘n’ roll songs George heard
Rock ‘n’ roll songs came on the radio when George was 13. The genre entered the future musician’s life by way of Fat Domino’s “I’m in Love Again,” Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.”
In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote, “The music sent shivers down his spine and fueled a desire to join a band. In those days anybody could put a band together. One kid drummed on a washboard, another plunked a broom-handle bass, a third faked chords on guitar, another blew into a gob iron (which was what they called a harmonica), and they dubbed themselves a band.”
The three rock songs changed something in George. He never forgot the first time he heard them.
George told White, “But the main thing that really buzzed me, I remember, even before I heard Elvis, was Fats Domino’s ‘I’m in Love Again.’ I can even see exactly where I was when I heard that. There was this little place near where I was born called Wavertree—a district.
“And right there at that point there’s a thing called the Picton Clock Tower. It was just this tower in the middle of the road with this clock on it. And then there used to be this big old art deco cinema called the Abbey.
“And I was just walking across the road there somehow, and I was somewhere around there when I heard Fats Domino: [sings] ‘Yes it’s me, and I’m in love again!’ It must have been on a radio or record player somewhere. And that was like when I [later] heard Ravi’s music. It touched somewhere deep in me.
“When I heard Elvis’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ I was on my bike passing somebody’s house, and they must have had a gramophone playing. I couldn’t believe the sound of that record.”
RELATED: George Harrison’s Temperament in Interviews With The Beatles: ‘Always Direct, He Looked Right at You’
George started playing guitar shortly after
Hearing rock songs made George want to become a musician. His friend offered to sell him a beginner’s guitar for three pounds, 10 shillings. George asked his mother, Louise, for the money, and she obliged.
He practiced on the cheap beginner’s guitar until it broke, but Louise had to buy him a better one. Eventually, he got good enough to impress his future bandmates, Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
Later, Indian music impressed George more than rock ever did, but he never forgot his roots.
RELATED: George Harrison Said the Way Bob Marley Looked and Moved on Stage Was Like Something out of a Dream