Rock 'n' roll was first released by small, independent record companies and promoted by radio disc jockeys. Appeal of rock 'n' roll to white middle-class teenagers was immediate and caught the major record companies by surprise. As these companies moved to capitalize on the popularity of the style, the market was fueled by cover versions (performances of previously recorded songs) of R & B songs that were edited for suggestive lyrics and expressions and performed in the singing style known as crooning, by white vocalists such as Pat Boone.

By the early 1960s, the popular music industry was assembling professional songwriters, hired studio musicians, and teenage crooners to mass-produce songs that imitated late-1950s rock 'n' roll. In the early 1960s professional songwriters in Manhattan, N.Y., such as Carole King and Neil Sedaka, produced numerous hit songs, many of which were recorded by female ensembles known as girl groups, such as the Ronettes and the Shirelles. Also during this period, the role of the record producer was expanded by Phil Spector, a producer who created hits by using elaborate studio techniques in a dense orchestral approach known as the wall of sound.


Berry Gordy put Detroit, Mich., on the map with his record company Motown. Beginning in 1962 he expanded the crossover market by producing music by black performers for white audiences. Motown was one of the most successful record companies in the 1960s and 1970s, nicknamed Hitsville USA. The company had lots of successful groups like Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, all whom had lots of hit singles. The Sun Records label was created by Sam Phillips out of Memphis, Tenn., but it was made famous by artists like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis who both recorded there. The companies of rock 'n' roll were what helped put artists and entertainers on a platform to reach people. Without the record labels many artists would not have been able to promote their music the way they did.