However, the terms "rocking", and "rocking and rolling", were increasingly used through the 1920s and 1930s, especially but not exclusively by black secular musicians, to refer to either dancing or sex, or both.
Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in the United States in the early to mid-1950s.
It derived most directly from the rhythm and blues music of the 1940s, which itself developed from earlier blues, boogie woogie, jazz and swing music, and was also influenced by gospel, country and western, and traditional folk music.
A double, ironic, meaning came to popular awareness in 1947 in blues artist Roy Brown's song "Good Rocking Tonight", covered in 1948 by Wynonie Harris in a wilder version, in which "rocking" was ostensibly about dancing but was in fact a thinly-veiled allusion to sex.
Such double-entendres were well established in blues music but were new to the radio airwaves.
At the same time, the terminology was used in secular contexts, for example to describe the motion of railroad trains.
It has been suggested that it was also used by men building railroads, who would sing to keep the pace, swinging their hammers down to drill a hole into the rock, and the men who held the steel spikes would "rock" the spike back and forth to clear rock or "roll", twisting it to improve the "bite" of the drill.
After a night of heavy drinking he and his friends came up with the name The Rock and Roll Party since he was already using the phrase Rock and Roll Session to describe the music he was playing.
As his show became extremely popular, the term caught on and became widely used to describe the style of music.
Originally Freed used the name "Moondog" for himself and any concerts or promotions he put on, because he used as his regular theme music a piece called "Moondog Symphony" by the street musician Louis "Moondog" Hardin.
Hardin subsequently sued Freed on grounds that he was stealing his name and, since Freed was no longer allowed to use the term Moondog, he needed a new catchphrase.
The alliterative phrase rocking and rolling was originally used by mariners at least as early as the 17th century, to describe the combined rocking (fore and aft) and rolling (side to side) motion of a ship on the ocean.