History of Rock & Roll
Adolph Rickenbacker Guitar
Adolph Rickenbacker produces the first cast aluminum versions of the electric lap steel guitar, also known as the "frying pan." The design isn't perfect and the sticker price is high. In the following years, musician Les Paul will try to improve the design with some success.
First Billboard Sales Chart
Billboard magazine releases its first record sales chart, the Hit Parade.
Syd Nathan Founds King Records
Syd Nathan founds King Records in Cincinnati.
Race Records Produced
King Records begins producing "race records," music produced primarily by and for African-Americans.
First Billboard Sales Chart
Columbia Records releases the first 33 1/3 rpm LP (Long Play) album, a record that can hold up to 20 minutes of music per side, which allows the listener to sit back and relax for a good while before he or she has to flip it to the other side.
RCA Debuts 45 rpm Single
RCA Records introduces the first 45 rpm single, a seven-inch disc that can fit approximately one song per side, a perfect fit for the vinyl record jukebox that will become a staple in restaurants, soda shops, pool halls, and other teen hangouts in the 1950s.
Jerry Lee Lewis Debut
Fourteen-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis makes his performing debut, singing at the opening of a Ford dealership in the town of Ferriday, Louisiana.
Fats Domino Records with Imperial
Fats Domino records several tracks for Imperial Records, including "The Fat Man," which is regarded by some as the first rock and roll record.
The Catcher in the Rye Published
J. D. Salinger publishes The Catcher in the Rye. The novel's main character, Holden Caulfield, will become a popular icon for disillusioned teens seeking to rebel against a society full of "phonies." Three decades later, Mark Chapman will claim the book inspired him to murder Beatles singer John Lennon.
First Rock and Roll Record
Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm record "Rocket '88," a chart-topper, and later considered by some to be the first rock and roll record, is released.
Racy Lyrics Banned
The Dominoes' record, "Sixty Minute Man," breaks onto the rhythm and blues charts, quickly becoming a #1 hit. With its pornographic lyrics—"I rock 'em, roll 'em all night long / I'm a sixy-minute man"—the song is soon banned on many radio stations. Later it will be cited as one of the first rock and roll songs ever recorded.
Fender Electric Guitar
Radio repairman Leo Fender and musician Doc Kaufman produce the better sounding version of the solid-body electric guitar. Their design is fairly simply and can be inexpensively produced. It becomes the first relatively cheap electric guitar on the market.
Sun Records Launched
Sam Phillips launches Sun Records, which will become the home for artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash.
First Rock and Roll Concert
Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey known as "Moondog" and thought by some to have coined the term "rock and roll," organizes a concert at the Cleveland Arena. It attracts nearly 25,000 young people, mostly African-Americans. The show, featuring artists such as the Dominoes and Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams, is shut down early when thousands of ticket-holders who are denied entrance become unruly. The event will later be called the first rock and roll concert.
First White Rock and Roll Song
Bill Haley records "Crazy Man Crazy," considered by some to be the first rock and roll hit by a white artist.
Elvis Presley Discovered
Eighteen-year-old Elvis Presley walks into Sun Records Studio to record two songs for his mother as a birthday gift. The label's office manager is impressed by his vocals.
Leo Fender introduces a new, sleeker version of the Fender electric guitar—the Stratocaster—revolutionizing the sound of rock. The Fender Stratocaster will become the guitar of choice for such legends as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton.
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters record "Work with Me Annie," a song that appeals to American teens of all races.
Shake, Rattle and Roll
Bill Haley and the Comets record an energetic dance tune, "Shake, Rattle, & Roll," a cover of a Joe Turner recording.
First Elvis Single
Sun Records releases the first single by Elvis Presley, "That's All Right (Mama)"/"Blue Moon of Kentucky." Both tracks are covers; "That's All Right" is a song by bluesman Arthur "Big Boy" Cruddup, while "Blue Moon of Kentucky" is a bluegrass ballad by Bill Monroe. Presley's renditions become instant hits in Memphis, Tennessee, Presley's hometown. Elsewhere, however, the record receives mixed reviews.
Alan Freed, now working as a disc jockey in New York, throws the "Moondog Jubilee of Stars Under the Stars" at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. The performing line-up includes black artists Fats Domino and Muddy Waters.
James Dean and Rebel Without A Cause
The film Rebel Without A Cause, starring James Dean, becomes a nationwide hit, especially with teenage audiences. The popularity of the film attests to the deep relationship between authority and rebellion in post-World War II America—a relationship that will help speed the rise of rock and roll music.
Blackboard Jungle, a film about a teacher at an inner-city school, features Bill Haley and the Comet's "Rock Around the Clock" in the opening credits. The film helps boost the popularity of rock and roll among teens, but, for the rest of the population, it raises fears that rock music is related to juvenile delinquency.
Early Rock Legends
Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry each debut on the pop charts.
Alan Freed’s Rock ‘n Roll Party
DJ and promoter Alan Freed organizes a "Rock 'N' Roll Party" concert, which draws over 15,000 people—black and white—to see artists including Fats Domino and the Drifters. Freed had originally advertised his concert events using his moniker, "Moondog," but another performer with the same name forced him to choose a new title for his parties. "Rock 'N' Roll" seemed like a fairly sexy alternative.
Little Richard on Specialty Records
Little Richard sends a demo to Specialty Records. He is offered a contract the following month.
Fats Domino Ain’t That a Shame
Fats Domino records "Ain't That a Shame," which will become the first of dozens of hits for the singer that cross over from the R&B charts to the pop charts.
Elvis’ Female Fans
After a concert in Jacksonville, Florida, Elvis Presley is accosted by droves of young female fans who attempt to rip off his clothes. It is rumored that Presley, himself, instigated the riot by teasing his female fans with the invitation, "Girls, I'll see you backstage." The riot causes outrage in the South.
The Coasters Form
Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Leon Hughes, and Billy Guy form the Coasters.
Elvis Leaves Sun Records
Elvis Presley leaves Sun Records, which sells Presley's recording contract to RCA for $35,000, approximately $268,000 in 2007 dollars—quite a bargain!
Little Richard's song "Tutti-Frutti" hits the pop charts. Elvis Presley will perform the song on national television in the following month.
Elvis Heartbreak Hotel
Elvis Presley records his first single for RCA, "Heartbreak Hotel." The song will become the first of many #1 hits for Presley and will help popularize rock and roll.
Little Richard Long Tall Sally
Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," his biggest hit, reaches #6 on the pop charts.
Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun Records
Jerry Lee Lewis travels to Memphis to audition for Sun Records. The label's engineer advises Lewis to try his hand at rock and roll. Two months later, he will record his first record for Sun.
John Lennon and The Quarrymen
John Lennon receives his first guitar as a gift from his mother. He will soon form his first band, the Quarrymen.
Congress Considers Censoring Lyrics
In light of recent controversy over "obscene" music, the U.S. Congress considers legislation that would require song lyrics to be screened by a review committee before sale.
First Jerry Lee Lewis Single
Sun Records releases a second single by Jerry Lee Lewis called "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."
John Lennon Meets Paul McCartney
At a gig in Liverpool, John Lennon meets Paul McCartney. Lennon invites McCartney to join his group, the Quarrymen.
Jerry Lee Lewis on Steve Allen Show
Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" blasts to the top of the pop charts. Lewis is invited to appear on the Steve Allen Show where, in a characteristically outrageous performance, his piano bench is tossed across the stage.
Dick Clark and American Bandstand
American Bandstand, a television show hosted by Dick Clark, premiers nationally on ABC. Each episode features teens dancing to popular hits and at least one live performance by a rock and roll or rhythm and blues artist.
Jimi Hendrix Attends Elvis Presley Concert
A fourteen-year-old Jimi Hendrix attends an Elvis Presley concert at Sicks Stadium in Seattle.
Jerry Lee Lewis Great Ball of Fire
"Great Balls of Fire," a Jerry Lee Lewis smash, blazes up the charts and becomes Sun Records' best-selling record.
George Harrison Joins The Quarrymen
George Harrison joins John Lennon's group, the Quarrymen.
Chuck Berry Sweet Little Sixteen
Chuck Berry's song, "Sweet Little Sixteen," reaches #2 on the pop chart. The song will become his biggest rock and roll hit.
Elvis Drafted into Army
Elvis Presley is inducted into the U.S. Army. He will serve in Germany from October 1958 to March 1960.
Jerry Lee Lewis Burns Piano
During the opening night of a tour promoted by DJ Alan Freed, Jerry Lee Lewis is involved in a dispute with Chuck Berry over the line-up. Enraged that he had not been chosen to perform last, he torches his piano during his set-closing number, "Great Balls of Fire."
Little Richard Good Golly Miss Molly
Little Richard's smash hit "Good Golly, Miss Molly" sails up the pop charts, reaching #10. All the while, Richard has vowed to leave the rock and roll life for religion.
Jerry Lee Lewis Marries Teen Cousin
Jerry Lee Lewis is forced to end a British tour when fans learn of his marriage to a teen cousin. He returns to the U.S.
Jimi Hendrix Receives First Guitar
Jimi Hendrix receives his first guitar, a second-hand, acoustic instrument purchased by his father for $5.
Jerry Lee Lewis Explains Controversy
Jerry Lee Lewis publishes a full-page ad in Billboard magazine to help stifle the controversy that has begun to hurt his music career. "I confess that my life has been stormy," he writes. "I hope that if I am washed up as an entertainer, it won't be because of this bad publicity."
Coasters Yakety Yak
The Coasters record "Yakety Yak," which will shoot up the pop chart and become one of their biggest hits.
The Day the Music Died
Rockers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper are killed in a plane crash devastating young rock and roll fans across the nation.
Frank Sinatra Honors Elvis Presley
Frank Sinatra hosts a television special in honor of Elvis Presley's return to the U.S. from military service overseas. Elvis will be paid $125,000—roughly $868,000 in 2007 dollars—for appearing on the show. (Quite a homecoming!)
The Beatles Debut
The Beatles, formed from the members of the Quarrymen, make their performing debut at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.
Jimi Hendrix Enlists in Army
Jimi Hendrix enlists in the U.S. Army and is stationed at Fort Ord in California.
The Beach Boys Perform
The Beach Boys, in one of their first public appearances, perform for a Ritchie Valens memorial concert in Long Beach, California.
The Beatles Audition for EMI
The Beatles audition for EMI Records and are offered a contract on the condition that they replace one of the group's members, Pete Best. In the next few months, Richard "Ringo" Starkey will join the group.
Jimi Hendrix Discharged
Jimi Hendrix is injured during military training and is discharged. Upon release, he begins playing gigs with a number of artists including Little Richard and the Isley Brothers.
The Beach Boys Surfin USA
"Surfin' U.S.A.," the Beach Boys' reworked version of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen," becomes a Top Ten hit on the pop chart. Berry will later sue the Beach Boys for failing to credit him on the track.
The Beatles I Want to Hold Your Hand
The Beatles' song, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," is released in the United States and becomes an instant hit.
The Beatles in America
The Beatles arrive in the United States for a brief stay and a few live performances including a nationally televised appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show
The Beatles make their American television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Beatles Live
The Beatles perform their first live performance in the United States, at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
The Beatles Cover Long Tall Sally
The Beatles record a cover of Little Richard's song, "Long Tall Sally," which appears on the Beatles' second album, titled, appropriately, The Beatles' Second Album.
The Beatles at Top of Charts
The Beatles hold the top five slots on the Billboard chart, an unprecedented accomplishment!
Rolling Stones in America
The Rolling Stones arrive in the United States to kick off a North American tour.
The Animals top the U.S. charts with their song, "House of the Rising Sun," making them the first British group other than the Beatles to achieve such a feat.
Rolling Stones on Ed Sullivan Show
The Rolling Stones appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan disapproves of the group's long hairstyles and provocative lyrics and vows never to invite them back. The Stones will perform six more times on the show in the next five years.
The Kinks You Really Got Me
The Kinks hit, "You Really Got Me," reaches #7 on the U.S. pop chart. Two months earlier it had hit #1 in the U.K.
Jimi Hendrix Meets With Little Richard
Jimi Hendrix meets with Little Richard in New York and plays several gigs with Richard's band. Hendrix will stay in New York to take a job with a band called Curtis Knight and the Squires.
The Kinks Tour America
The Kinks begin their first United States tour.
The Beatles at Shea Stadium
The Beatles perform at Shea Stadium in New York City, for a crowd of nearly 60,000 screaming fans.
Janis Joplin Debuts
Janis Joplin debuts as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Beatles More Popular Than Jesus
John Lennon is quoted in London's Evening Standard as saying the Beatles are "more popular than Jesus now." News of Lennon's comments will reach the U.S. shortly before the Beatles kick off their 1966 American tour, and will infuriate many, inciting some to burn Beatles records.
With their song, "The Great Pretender," The Platters become the first mixed-gender group to earn a number one hit on the Billboard charts.
The Beatles Debut
The Beatles' record Yesterday And Today is recalled following complaints over the cover art, which depicts the group in butcher smocks holding decapitated dolls and raw meat.
The Beatles Final Tour in San Francisco
At a concert held at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, the Beatles announce the '66 tour to be their last.
Lennon Pulls Away
John Lennon begins to pull away from the Beatles, acting in the film How I Won the War, and writing new songs including "Strawberry Fields Forever" and, later while under the influence of LSD, "I Am the Walrus."
Jimi Hendrix Experience Formed
Jimi Hendrix and Chas Chandler, the former bassist for the Animals, form the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Rolling Stones Change Lyrics
The Rolling Stones are invited to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, but are asked to change the chorus of the song they've chosen to perform, "Let's Spend the Night Together," because Sullivan finds it "objectionable." The group agrees to alter the lyrics for the appearance to be "Let's spend some time together."
The Summer of Love
In early 1967, some 100,000 people migrate to the Haight-Ashbury region of San Francisco, California. The city will become the center for the "Summer of Love."
San Francisco Human Be-In
The Gathering of the Tribes, also called the Human Be-In, is held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The event, which draws some 20,000 people, is the first of many free music-in-the-park festivals to be held during the late 1960s.
John Lennon on Cover of Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone magazine is founded in San Francisco. John Lennon appears on the cover of the first issue.
Janis Joplin Launched
At the Monterey International Pop Festival, singer Janis Joplin gives a phenomenal performance helping to launch her career as a rock and roll star.
Jimi Hendrix Burns Guitar
Jimi Hendrix performs at the Monterey International Pop Festival. In perhaps his most notorious performance, he ignites his Fender Stratocaster guitar during his final number.
Fleetwood Mac Forms
Peter Green, John McVie, Jeremy Spencer, and Mick Fleetwood form the band Fleetwood Mac.
The Doors on Ed Sullivan Show
The Doors are invited to perform on the Ed Sullivan show. The group agrees to perform "Light My Fire" without the controversial lyric, "Girl, we couldn't get much higher." Still, Jim Morrison, the band's leader, sings the line, infuriating Sullivan.
John Lennon on Cover of Rolling Stone
Several radio stations refuse to play The Doors' single "Unknown Soldier" because of its anti-war subject matter.
The Mamas and the Papas Break Up
Just one year after performing in the Monterey International Pop Festival, the Mamas and the Papas split. The group cites tensions stemming from sudden fame and wealth as a cause for the break up.
Jimmy Page Forms Led Zeppelin
Jimmy Page, former guitarist for the Yardbirds, forms a new group and names it Led Zeppelin.
Decca Records Postpones Beggar’s Banquet
Concerned about its vulgar cover art, Decca Records postpones the release of the Rolling Stones' record, Beggar's Banquet.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono Arrested
John Lennon and Yoko Ono are arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. Lennon will plead guilty but insist that police planted the drugs in his home.
Jimi Hendrix Records All Along the Watchtower
Jimi Hendrix, long influenced by folk singer Bob Dylan, records his own version of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower".
John Lennon and Yoko Ono Naked Cover Banned
John Lennon and Yoko Ono release Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, their first album. The album, which features a photo of the couple naked, is banned in cities and towns all over the country, including New York where police seize some 30,000 copies.
Atlantic Records signs Led Zeppelin
Atlantic Records signs the British band Led Zeppelin.
Elvis Career Boost
NBC airs a special program titled "Elvis" featuring performances by the artist dressed in black leather. The widely viewed television special will mark the revitalization of Presley's waning musical career.
The Beatles Rooftop Concert
The Beatles perform together on the roof of Apple Corps, Ltd. in London, in what will become their last appearance as a group.
Jim Morrison Flashes Crowd
During a concert in Miami, Florida, a drunk Jim Morrison of The Doors encourages the crowd to take their clothes off, and seems to flash his genitals (although accounts of the event vary). The Miami Herald reports, "Morrison appeared to masturbate in full view of his audience, screamed obscenities and exposed himself." Morrison is arrested, charged, and convicted for profanity and indecent exposure, and The Doors will be forced to cancel much of their concert tour.
Jimi Hendrix Experience Dissolves
At the height of its popularity, the Jimi Hendrix Experience dissolves leaving the band's lead man to record and to perform at future gigs as a solo artist.
Brian Jones Dies
Brian Jones, one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones, is found dead in the swimming pool at his home in England. The coroner's report will state that the 27-year-old singer most likely died of a drug overdose, while some will suspect his death had been a suicide brought on by severe depression.
Give Peace a Chance
"Give Peace a Chance," a song recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, reaches #14 on the pop chart.
Elvis Performs in Las Vegas
Elvis Presley performs a live concert for the first time since 1961. The concert, held at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, will be the first of his many performances delivered in Sin City.
The Woodstock Music and Art Fair is held in the town of Bethel in upstate New York. Nearly half a million people attend the 3-day event, which features artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Joan Baez, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, The Band, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Little Richard Returns
After several years out of the spotlight, Little Richard appears at a rock and roll concert in Toronto, Canada, alongside such artists as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and John Lennon.
Janis Joplin Solo
[M31]Janis Joplin, no longer a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, released her first solo album, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again (Mama).
Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath
The band Earth Blues Company, fronted by singer John "Ozzy" Osbourne, compose the song "Black Sabbath" and begin performing it at gigs in England. Within one month Earth will rename itself after the track.
The Rolling Stones throw a free concert at the Altamont Speedway near San Francisco, California. The concertgoers clash with the Hell's Angels, a motorcycle club that has been hired to provide security. Many are wounded and Meredith Hunter, a young African-American man attending the show, is stabbed and killed.
John Lennon War is Over If You Want It
"War Is Over! If You Want It!" reaches #11 on the Billboard chart. The song is recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono as a Christmas message to the nation.
Eric Clapton Solo
Eric Clapton records his debut album, which includes blues-inspired tracks such as "After Midnight" and "Let It Rain." In the following months, Clapton will become addicted to heroin and will fail to complete recording projects.
Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, Joey Dramer, Joe Perry, and Steven Tyler form the band Aerosmith.
Paul McCartney Leaves
Paul McCartney announces his decision to leave the Beatles.
The English rock band Black Sabbath releases its self-titled debut album in the United States.
Fleetwood Mac Expands
Christine McVie, wife of bassist John McVie, joins the band Fleetwood Mac.
Jimi Hendrix Dies
27-year-old Jimi Hendrix is found dead in a hotel in London. As in the case of Rolling Stones' member Brian Jones, the exact cause of Hendrix's death is mired in controversy.
Janis Joplin Dies
Singer Janis Joplin is found dead in her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood. The coroner's report states the cause of death was a heroin overdose.
Black Sabbath Tours US
Black Sabbath begins its first U.S. tour in New Jersey.
Janis Joplin Last Album
Janis Joplin's album Pearl is released posthumously.
Jim Morrison Dies
Jim Morrison, 27-year-old front man for The Doors, is found dead of a heart attack in the bathroom of his hotel room in Paris.
John Lennon Performs at the Apollo
John Lennon performs at a benefit concert in New York's Apollo Theater for the families of inmates at Attica Prison.
Senate Pushes for John Lennon’s Deportation
The U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee reports on John Lennon's involvement with radicals. Some members of the Senate, including South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, will suggest that Lennon be deported, and for nearly four years, Lennon will fight to remain in the U.S.
David Bowie Tours US
British musician David Bowie kicks off his first United States tour.
Drummer Peter Criss places an ad in Rolling Stone magazine seeking a band mate. Gene Simmons responds and the two along with Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley form the band KISS. Within a few months the band will begin performing, disguising their faces in black and white costume makeup.
Bruce Springsteen performs his first concert. In the following months, Springsteen and his E Street Band will win over fans on the road with their incredible live performances.
The British band Queen releases its self-titled debut album.
In Australia, Bon Scott and brothers Angus and Malcolm Young form the band AC/DC.
KISS Debuts Live
The band KISS releases its self-titled debut album. The album is nearly a flop. They decide to release a live album the following year to showcase their onstage antics. That album, KISS Alive!, will become the band's first successful record.
Mama Cass Dies
Mama Cass Elliot, singer of the Mamas and the Papas, dies of a heart attack in London.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's song "Sweet Home Alabama" hits the charts. The track is a biting response to Neil Young's "Southern Man."
John Lennon’s Final Performance
John Lennon appears with Elton John at New York's Madison Square Garden, in what will be his final public performance.
Beatles Break Up
In London, the Beatles announce the official break up of the group. Many fans will blame John Lennon's wife Yoko Ono for the split.
Led Zeppelin Top Charts
Led Zeppelin has six albums on the pop charts, a feat never before accomplished by any other band.
Aerosmith Toys in the Attic
The band Aerosmith releases its chart-topping second album, Toys in the Attic, which features hits "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way."
Fleedwood Mac has New Lineup
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks join the band Fleetwood Mac. Singer and songwriter Bob Welch is also a recent addition. By this time, original members Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer are no longer part of the group.
Black Sabbath Sabotage World Tour
Black Sabbath kicks off their Sabotage World Tour to promote their sixth album. Lynyrd Skynyrd, KISS, and Peter Frampton will open for them on the tour.
Bruce Springsteen as Icon
Bruce Springsteen is officially a national sensation, appearing on the covers of both Newsweek and Time magazines.
The English band Queen releases its second album, A Night at the Opera, featuring a seven-minute rock operetta entitled "Bohemian Rhapsody."
In England, Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon, Mick Jones, and Keith Levene form the rock-punk band the Clash.
Van Halen Discovered
Warner Bros. Records signs Van Halen, a group formed by Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth, and brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen. The group is discovered while performing at Los Angeles' Starwood Club.
Stevie Nicks Tops Charts
Fleetwood Mac releases their second album featuring Stevie Nicks. Rumours will eventually become the fifth best-selling album in music history.
The Eagles top the charts with "Hotel California."
Elvis Last Concert
Elvis Presley gives what will be his last live performance at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Elvis Presley, unconscious, is rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital. Efforts to revive him fail and he is pronounced dead. The exact cause of death will become one of the great mysteries of rock and roll history.
The controversial U.K. rock group, the Sex Pistols, releases its album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols in the United States. Just one month later, during a U.S. concert tour, the group will break up.
Prince Rogers Nelson, better known simply as Prince, releases his first album, For You. The record reveals a young talent with a vivid sexual imagination.
In London, Martin Chambers, Pete Farndon, James Honeyman-Scott, and Christine Ellen "Chrissie" Hynde form The Pretenders.
In Ireland, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, Jr., Dave "The Edge" Evans, and Paul "Bono" Hewson form the group U2.
At an Aerosmith concert in Philadelphia, a fan throws a cherry bomb onstage injuring several members of the band. The incident confirms, for some, the notion that rock concerts are dangerous and crime-ridden.
Sid Vicious Murders
Sid Vicious, the bassist for the Sex Pistols and a heroin addict, stabs girlfriend Nancy Spungeon to death in their room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.
Ozzy Osbourne Solo
In the final show of Black Sabbath's "Never Say Die!" tour, Ozzy Osbourne performs with the group for the last time before he leaves to begin a solo career.
Sid Vicious Dies
While out on bail from murder charges, Sid Vicious, bassist for the Sex Pistols, dies of a heroin overdose at a party in New York City.
Chuck Berry Performs at White House
Chuck Berry performs for President Jimmy Carter at the White House.
Chuck Berry Sentenced
Chuck Berry is sentenced to five months in prison for income tax evasion.
The Clash Reach US
The Clash's self-titled debut album is released in the United States, a year after its original release in the U.K.
Bruce Springsteen Protests Nuclear Energy
Bruce Springsteen performs at New York's Madison Square Garden for the Musicians United for Safe Energy benefit concert, an event organized in protest of the use of nuclear energy.
Brian Johnson Joins AC/DC
Bon Scott, the original singer for the band AC/DC dies after an all-night drinking binge. The band chooses Brian Johnson to replace Scott. Americans, yet to be introduced to the Scottish rock group, will become familiar with its albums after the addition of Johnson.
Led Zeppelin Disbands
John Bonham, the drummer for Led Zeppelin, dies from alcohol poisoning. In the following months, the group decides to disband. They will reunite eight years later with a new drummer, Jason Bonham, John Bonham's son.
U2 Debut in US
The Irish band U2 releases its debut album, Boy, in the United States.
John Lennon Assassinated
Upon returning home from a recording session, John Lennon is shot and killed. His delusional assassin, Mark David Chapman, will claim that J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye inspired him to murder the musician.
MTV, Music Television, launches. The channel shows music videos 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. MTV will revolutionize the way people experience music.
Prince Opens for Rolling Stones
The young artist Prince opens for the Rolling Stones on their national concert tour, boosting his popularity.
Jon Bon Jovi Begins
A 21-year old New Jersey rocker named John Bongiovi convinces Long Island radio station WAPP to put his song "Runaway" on the radio; the song, with no backing from a record label, will become an unlikely hit throughout the New York area, transforming the unassuming John Bongiovi into the rock star Jon Bon Jovi and beginning a journey that will end with the band Bon Jovi selling more than 120 million records worldwide by 2008.
U2 releases War, the album that will make the group a sensation in the United States.
Van Halen Paid a Million
Van Halen is paid $1 million for a performance at the "U.S. Festival" in California, making it the highest paid act in rock and roll history.
No Makeup KISS
In a national television broadcast, the band KISS appears without their makeup for the first time.
A group of women, including several wives of influential politicians, form the Parents Music Resource Center in order to pressure the music industry to regulate lyrical content by developing a rating system similar to the one used by the film industry.
Artists Named Filthy
The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) issues an open letter to music and television media executives requesting the regulation of content in music lyrics and music video imagery. The letter also sites a list of artists that the PMRC deems most "filthy," including AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Cyndi Lauper, Judas Priest, Madonna, Prince, and Twisted Sister.
For the first time in nearly seven years, Ozzy Osbourne performs on stage with Black Sabbath at the Live Aid charity concert series. Other performers on the bill include Paul McCartney of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, U2, David Bowie, and Queen who delivers one of the most memorable stadium performances in rock history. Hip-hop group Run DMC is also scheduled to perform but is cut off during its first song.
RIAA Creates Explicit Label
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) submits to the demands of the PMRC to create a warning sticker for all music with content deemed "explicit."
Judas Priest Sued
The families of two teens sue the band Judas Priest, alleging that back-masking—hidden messages in music played backwards—was responsible for inciting the two young men to commit suicide.
Run DMC Remake Aerosmith
The hip-hop group Run DMC scores a major hit with their remake of Aerosmith's song "Walk This Way." Run DMC's rendition of an Aerosmith classic will help resurrect Aerosmith's waning career.
Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction
Guns N' Roses releases its hit album Appetite for Destruction.
Beastie Boys Release Licensed to Ill
The Beastie Boys release their debut album, Licensed to Ill, a rock-influenced hip-hop record produced by punk-rock musician Rick Rubin.
Nude Prince Banned
Prince's album Love Sexy is banned in stores all over the U.S. because its cover art features a nude image of Prince.
RIAA Explicit Sticker
The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) introduces its black and white "Explicit Lyrics—Parental Warning" sticker for music releases.
Wal-Mart Bans Explicit Music
Wal-Mart, a major national corporation, announces that its stores will not sell any music labeled "explicit."
Nirvana Nevermind and Grunge
Nirvana's album Nevermind is a smash hit and ushers in a new trend in rock based in the American Northwest. Independent label rock artists and garage bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Hole, L7, and Mudhoney will gain widespread commercial success throughout the 1990s.
Inspired by a music festival he attended in California, Perry Ferrell, front man for the rock band Jane's Addiction, organizes Lollapalooza, a series of concerts featuring a diverse mix of performers. The music exhibition is the first of its kind to tour throughout the United States and Canada and will become a huge success, boosting the popularity of a new generation of rock bands such as Jane's Addiction, Living Colour, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, L7, Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, as well as provocative hip-hop groups such as Ice T & Body Count, Cypress Hill, Wu Tang Clan, and The Roots.
Freddie Mercury Dies of AIDS
Freddie Mercury, the front man for Queen, dies of AIDS at his home in London. The following year, the surviving members of the band will throw "A Concert for Life," an AIDS benefit dedicated to Mercury. Performers will include Guns 'n' Roses, Metallica, and Elton John.
Kurt Cobain Dies
The body of Kurt Cobain, front man for the band Nirvana, is discovered in his home near Seattle, Washington. Autopsy reports conclude that Cobain died approximately three days earlier of a "self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head."
RANGEEND_LOLLA By 1996, the touring music festival Lollapalooza, tainted by the death of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, begins its ultimate decline. Founder Perry Ferrell, who had created the event to showcase new, edgy rock and hip-hop acts, quits. Fans of the event become disillusioned by the more "mainstream" acts on the line-ups and increasing violence at the shows. The festival tour, after a seven-year run, will be cancelled in 1998. It will be revived, with only minimal success, by Ferrell himself in 2003.
Prince at 1999 New Year’s
Prince rings in the new millennium by performing his 1983 hit "1999" (famous lyrics: "They say two thousand zero zero party over, oops it's out of time; so tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999") in a nationwide pay-per-view broadcast concert.
White Stripes Lo-Fi
The unexpected commercial success of the White Stripes' album White Blood Cells—more than half a million copies of the album will be old—signals a new resurgence in low-fi indie rock. The garage band's next album, Elephant (2003) will prove attain even more commercial and critical success by going double-platinum and winning two Grammy Awards.
A new, melodramatic teen soap opera, The O.C. premieres on Fox television and quickly develops a cult following. The series prominently features hot new indie rock bands in its soundtrack and even in its plot lines, helping to break previously obscure acts like The Killers and Death Cab For Cutie to a mass audience.
Guitar Hero debuts on Sony's PlayStation 2 video game console, allowing gamers to rock out on a plastic guitar in synchronization with digitized axe gods. The addictive game soon becomes a nationwide sensation, with sales of the game and its sequels exceeding $1 billion by 2008. Guitar Hero helps lead to a resurgence in popularity for many of the classic rock acts featured in its gameplay.