A lot of bands and musicians say one of their biggest influence musically was The Beatles and contribute the founding of rock and roll to them. Who musically influenced The Beatles though?
The Beatles started out as a rock'n'roll band. Their most admiration went to the rock'n'roll legend Elvis Presley. Another rock'n'roll legend that inspired and influenced the Beatles was Chuck Berry.
The Beatles covered songs from both of these musicians at the beginning of their career, like Chuck's "Rock And Roll Music", Elvis's "That's All Right, Mama" etc.
But I think the guy that influenced most the Beatles was Elvis. Lennon himself said:
Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn't been Elvis, there would not have been the Beatles
The Beatles Encyclopedia
There is also this video where Paul covers Elvis's All Shook Up and it is stated that Elvis was responsible for giving us the Fab Four.
There are other many influences as well, but the one that I believe is worth mentioning the most is Ravi Shankar, a marvelous sitar player and composer. George studied with him for quite some time and that influenced his guitar playing and song composing. Also, he added sitar in a few Beatles songs ("Norwegian Wood" for instance) -- something pioneering for Western pop music.
Here is an image of George with Ravi:
From The Beatles we can see some of their influences:
- Elvis Presley
Of Presley, Lennon said, "Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn't been Elvis, there would not have been the Beatles."
- Carl Perkins
- Little Richard
- Chuck Berry
- Buddy Holly
- Eddie Cochran
- Roy Orbison
- Everly Brothers
- Bob Dylan
- Frank Zappa
- The Lovin' Spoonful
- The Byrds
- The Beach Boys
the Beach Boys, whose 1966 album Pet Sounds amazed and inspired McCartney.
Martin stated, "No one made a greater impact on the Beatles than Brian [Wilson]."
- Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar, with whom Harrison studied for six weeks in India in late 1966, had a significant effect on his musical development during the band's later years
Although some would see him as a "Fifth Beatle" (i.e. one of them himself), their producer and arranger George Martin was an undoubted influence. He had a background in the classical and novelty record business and the Beatles went on to benefit from his experimental outlook and his arranging skills. The string arrangement in Eleanor Rigby, the clever editing in Strawberry Fields Forever, and the orchestral climax to A Day in The Life are all examples of work he contributed.
It makes sense to look at who's songs were covered by the Beatles:
Anna (Go To Him) -- Arthur Alexander
Chains -- The Cookies
Boys -- The Shirelles
Baby It's You -- The Shirelles
A Taste Of Honey -- Lenny Welch
Twist And Shout -- The Isley Brothers (originally by The Top Notes)
Till There Was You -- Peggy Lee
Please Mr. Postman -- The Marvelettes
Roll Over Beethoven -- Chuck Berry
1You Really Got A Hold On Me -- The Miracles
Devil In His Heart -- The Donays
Money (That's What I Want) -- Barrett Strong
Long Tall Sally -- Little Richard
Slow Down -- Larry Williams
Matchbox -- Carl Perkins (originally a traditional country blues)
Rock And Roll Music -- Chuck Berry
Mr. Moonlight -- Dr Feelgood & The Interns
Kansas City / Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey -- Little Richard
Words Of Love -- Buddy Holly
Honey Don't -- Carl Perkins
Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby -- Carl Perkins
Act Naturally -- Buck Owens
Dizzy Miss Lizzy -- Larry Williams
Bad Boy -- Larry Williams
I Got A Woman -- Ray Charles (used Elvis's arrangement)
Too Much Monkey Business -- Chuck Berry
Keep Your Hands Off My Baby -- Little Eva
Young Blood -- The Coasters
A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues -- Arthur Alexander
Sure To Fall (In Love With You) -- Carl Perkins
Some Other Guy -- Richie Barrett
That's All Right (Mama) -- Arthur Crudup (used Elvis's arrangement)
Carol -- Chuck Berry
Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms) -- Arthur Alexander
Clarabella -- The Jodimars
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You) -- Elvis Presley
Crying, Waiting, Hoping -- Buddy Holly
To Know Him Is To Love Him -- The Teddy Bears
The Honeymoon Song -- Manuel & His Music of the Mountains
Johnny B. Goode -- Chuck Berry
Memphis, Tennessee -- Chuck Berry
Lucille -- Little Richard (used The Everly Brothers' arrangement)
Sweet Little Sixteen -- Chuck Berry
Lonesome Tears in My Eyes -- The Johnny Burnette Trio
Nothin' Shakin' -- Eddie Fontaine
Hippy Hippy Shake -- Chan Romero
Glad All Over -- Carl Perkins
I Just Don't Understand -- Ann-Margret
So How Come (No One Loves Me) -- The Everly Brothers
I Forgot to Remember to Forget -- Elvis Presley
I Got to Find My Baby -- Chuck Berry
Ooh! My Soul -- Little Richard
Don't Ever Change -- The Crickets
That'll Be The Day -- Buddy Holly & The Crickets
Hallelujah, I Love Her So -- Ray Charles
Searchin' -- The Coasters
Three Cool Cats -- The Coasters
Lend Me Your Comb -- Carl Perkins
Shout -- The Isley Brothers
Leave My Kitten Alone -- Little Willie John
Rip It Up -- Little Richard
Shake, Rattle and Roll -- Joe Turner
Blue Suede Shoes -- Carl Perkins
Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues -- Buddy Holly
The first time John met Paul, Paul impressed him by playing:
Twenty Flight Rock -- Eddie Cochran
The Beatles were heavily influenced by American pop and rock and roll, particularly that of black musicians including "girl groups".
The context of John Lennon's comments about Elvis Presley was that Elvis was the only white American musician that Lennon felt influenced him; he said that beyond that he was heavily influenced by American pop and rock and roll but only by black musicians and singers.
Harrison and Starr, on the other hand, were clearly influenced by other American white rock and rollers, notably guitarist-singer-songwriter Carl Perkins.
The Beatles arose from their previous group The Quarrymen, which was a skiffle group, not a rock and roll group. Skiffle, although largely forgotten, was a brief movement of British folk-rock -- much more derived from British folk music than from American rock and roll. The quintessential British skiffle musician was Lonnie Donegan.
Several outstanding Paul McCartney compositions recorded by the Beatles are reminiscent of the British dance-hall style of music popular in the 1920s and 1930s. This was a British variation on jazz, often with vocals. By all accounts McCartney got this influence from his father, who was an accomplished amateur pianist who played in this style and taught the style to McCartney. Some of the songs that McCartney wrote for the Beatles which reflect this style are "When I'm Sixty-Four", "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", and "Penny Lane". The thematic concept behind Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was that of a fictional British dance-hall band with a lead singer named "Billy Shears" performing a concert after 20 years of existence. Elements of British dance-hall music, especially with horns and woodwinds, can be heard throughout the Sgt. Pepper's album.
It was twenty years ago today/ That Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.
They've been going in and out of style/ But they're guaranteed to raise a smile.
So let me introduce to you/ The act you've known for all these years
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The other lists are pretty comprehensive, but none of them mention Billy Preston. He was a young black American R & B musician who toured extensively with the band in their late years, was featured on the Let It Be album, and who was even once nominated by John as a possible official addition to the band. Although the Beatles were much further along in their careers than he was when they met, his bluesy rock style is a pronounced influence on a number of Let It Be era tracks.
He later became famous as a solo artist for his hits Will it Go Round in Circles and Nothing From Nothing.