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Road Test: 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88

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Road Test: 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 - Rocket Launcher

Did Oldsmobile inspire the first rock 'n' roll song? Possibly, but its Futuramic 88 was the first modern musclecar

Ike Turner's Fats Waller-like stride piano sets off two minutes, 51 seconds that changed music and signaled a new age of automotive power in America. The fuzz guitar, reportedly the result of a speaker damaged while Turner's Kings of Rhythm were on tour, that quickly joins in is part of the new sound. Raymond Hill's tenor sax break, taking 56 seconds, could've come from blues or jazz. It's the beat that pulls this all together into something new, although the tune owed much to rhythm and blues songs of the era. Indeed, the tune made the R&B charts-after all, there was no rock-'n'-roll Top 40 at the time, since many consider "Rocket 88" the very first song of the genre.

Whether you agree, there's no denying the impact of the opening line of "Rocket 88," sung by Jackie Brenston. One manufacturer, Oldsmobile, had successfully challenged the garage-built street primacy of the hot rod with a smooth, quick car, shiny and new and straight from the factory. The 1949 Rocket 88 came with the same high-compression (7.25:1) overhead-valve V-8 installed in the larger, heavier Ninety-Eight; thus, the Great American Musclecar was born. And it was launched with a high-compression, short-stroke power to match a postwar exuberance that had automobile styling mimicking the conveyances of the emerging space age.

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Lots of debate on both issues. I know Rocket 88 well and it does not particularly strike me as 'rock-n-roll' nor innovative. Likewise, tho the 88 was unquestionably hotter than many others, it does not stand as head-n-shoulders above the crowd as the Chrysler 300, which gets my vote, tho both were actively raced & rodded.

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