Why did cover music figure so prominently in with the development of rock and roll and the record industry in the 1950’s?

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Philly deejay Dick Clark believed that in order to make ‘black music’ acceptable to white audiences they required cover versions by white artists. Because of that, rock and roll music was being accepted into the masses, however there were still more obstacles to face. Black artists believed their music was often undermined by white cover versions. The covering of black artists’ songs by white musicians was almost always an attempt to capitalize on popular songs. Often, not only would white producers give co writing credit to the white performers for the tunes they merely covered, but also they would buy the rights to potential hits from black songwriters, who seldom saw a penny in royalties or received songwriting credit. During this period, black R&B artists, working for small record labels, saw many of their popular songs covered by white artists working for major labels. These cover records, boosted by better marketing and and ties to white deejays, usually outsold the original black version. By 1955, R&B hits regularly crossed over to the pop charts, but inevitably the cover music versions were more successful. According to Little Richard, Elvis Presley’s main legacy was simply making black music popular in mainstream America.

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