The Beatles were first and foremost a rock'n roll band. For John, Paul and George nothing compared to the excitement of finding a new American Rock"n Roll record. Ringo, no surprise collected all blues and country and western recordings. As teenagers in 1956 they were blown away by Bill Hailey and The Comets big hit "Rock Around the Clock". But it was Elvis Presley that set the standard initially. Elvis had the looks, the moves and the music. But in Liverpool rock'n roll was hard to come by. There was always a delay in when a record might appear. John or Paul would often read about a single before they'd get to hear it, let alone buy it.
When John and Paul first met in July of 1957 at the Woolton Fair, or Fete as they were known. John was playing with his skiffle band, The Quarrymen. John was singing "Come Go with Me" by the Del Vikings. According to Paul he seemed to only know the chorus and was making up the verses as he went along. The two were introduced by Paul's friend Ivan Vaughn. Paul showed John how to tune his guitar - John's guitar was tuned like a banjo, in G, as that is how his Mum, Julia, had taught him. Paul proceeded to play Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock" and Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-a-Lula". He also played Jerry Lee Lewis's "A Whole Lot of Shakin'" on the church piano. Two weeks later McCartney became a Quarrymen.
It was this shared love of rock'n roll that brought them together. When Paul introduced George to John, he and George had met on the bus on the way to school, John requested George play an instrumental called "Raunchy" by Bill Justis. George played it and was in.
There Beatles' set included a long list of songs giving each of the three a chance at the lead vocal. In addition to Elvis, the boys covered, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Little Richard, Larry Williams, The Coasters, Eddie Fontaine.
As the years passed and Elvis was sent off to the army, rock'n roll was harder to find. The Beatles looked to Rhythm and Blues for inspiration. There were the girl groups - The Cookies singing the Goffin and King penned "Chains", The Shirelles, "Boy's" and "Baby it's You" and The Marvelettes, "Please Mr. Postman". They also covered Little Eva's version of the Goffin and King gem "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby". The Beatles loved Motown, covering Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)", and The Miracles. "You've Really Got a Hold On Me". A particular favorite R&B singer of John's was Arthur Alexander. John covered "Anna", "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues" and "Soldier of Love". Paul added his signature scream to The Jodimars' "Clarabella" and Chan Romero's "The Hippy Hippy Shake". The Beatles also covered two Isley Brother's tunes - "Shout" and most notably "Twist and Shout.
Rock'n Roll and Rhythm and Blues are deeply ingrained in the Beatles music. The way they rearranged these songs to fit their instrumentation helped them to build a new sound. The influence on their songwriting by Smokey Robinson - call and response, Goffin and King - uptempo numbers that are sad without being slow, along with Buddy Holly's melodic feel, and, of course the Everly's approach to harmony all contributed to the Beatles' Sound.