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Victorian Rock Music
Status: True
Most people think rock music got its start as an identifiable genre in the 1950s with artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley. Not so. As Paul Collins points out in the current issue of The Believer, there was a thriving tradition of rock music during the nineteenth century. In fact, rock music was invented in 1785 by a retired sailor named Peter Crosthwaite in the Lake District village of Keswick. Of course, the nineteenth-century version of rock music was a bit more low-key than its twentieth-century successor, since it involved music played with rocks, as opposed to guitars and drums.

When I first saw Collins's article, I thought he had to be joking. But no, a little research confirmed that Victorian rock music was quite real. I found an article in the Galphin Society Journal (Aug, 1989) about the "Till Family Rock Band," a group that toured quite widely during the 1880s, written by a modern-day member of the family, A.M. Till. He writes:
Their rock harmonicon was constructed from stones from near their home. The first lithophone of this kind, made from stones found in the Lake District was built in 1785, and from that time until the late nineteenth century several so-called 'rock bands' became well known. The late Professor James Blades has written about them in his textbook on percussion, and also, under 'Lithophone', in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (London, 1984). He also recorded briefly the 5-octave Richardson rock harmonica (constructed in 1840). These instruments have a wonderful, lively tone.
Below is a picture of the Till Family Rock Band, posing with their rocks. They look like rockers to me.
image
EntertainmentHistory
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 05, 2006


Also known as "Music with Rocks In" on Discworld.
Posted by JoeDaJuggler  in  St. Louis, MO  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  12:31 AM
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that.
Posted by Smerk  in  to mischief  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  01:10 AM
I hope they didn't take their fans for granite.
Posted by cvirtue  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  08:14 AM
For that, cvirtue, you should be wheeled out and shot.
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Jun 07, 2006  at  03:52 AM
Oh, come on outeast...don't you marble at their ingenuity?
Posted by Nymph  on  Fri Jun 09, 2006  at  08:01 AM
It was rather igneous of them to use rocks that way, I thought it was coal. (ok - I'm done hehehe)
Posted by Nymph  on  Fri Jun 09, 2006  at  08:05 AM
Stop making these awful puns or I Shale be forced to Breccia necks, ok? I
Posted by outeast  on  Fri Jun 09, 2006  at  09:59 AM
This is the coolest thing I've seen for a long time. I want to start one of these rock bands.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Muleshoe, Texas, USA  on  Fri Jun 09, 2006  at  06:45 PM
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