Back in 1955, R&B was already rock and roll. Little Richard, Chuck Berry and other artists were pioneering a new form that was highly theatrical, distinctly integrated in appeal, and loaded with sexual overtones. What isn't well-documented is the battle that was brewing within R&B. As rock and roll expanded, the form not only began crowding-out jazz but also shoved aside the older, more formal 78-era R&B styles.
In the following full video of the Rhythm and Blues Review (sent along by record-promoter legend Dick LaPalm), you can see that the film was an attempt to revive the form that thrived prior to the invasion by brasher and more outrageous artists of the 45-rpm era.
Oddly, while the small type at the bottom of the movie's opening credits says the date of the film is 1955, it must have been filmed earlier over a series of dates and pieced together—probably in 1950 and 1951. The artists, their dress and their performances clearly aren't mid-50s. For one, Nat Cole was a huge TV star in 1955 and Sarah Vaughan was well on her way. And Basie's group with Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco and Wardell Gray was a 1950-51 ensemble. [Pictured above: Big Joe Turner]
In fact, Basie's discography shows him in New York with this group in October 1950, appearing in a "Snader telescription film." Snader produced the Rhythm and Blues Revue for television. The 1955 date must have been tied into the proliferation of TV sets nationwide. In 1955, 77% of American households owned at least one set v. 56% a year earlier. In 1950? Only 9%. [Pictured above: Buddy DeFranco]
By 1955, there was a sufficient older audience of black and white TV viewers in specific markets to make the revue's production and leasing to stations profitable.