The History of Rock: A Timeline

This timeline is inspired by a project outline of Professor David Carlson's for his 'Music's Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock 'n' Roll' CourseRa course.

This timeline concerns the history of rock music. It is intended to cover many essential dates and events, but certainly does not cover all of the important events in the history of rock music.

1949-12-10 00:00:00

Fats Domino Records "The Fat Man"

The boogie-woogie piano classic is considered by some to be the first rock 'n' roll record, but is more commonly considered a direct inspiration for rock 'n' roll instead.

1951-03-03 00:00:00

First Rock 'n' Roll Record?

(Note: It is unknown if the song was recorded on March 3rd or March 5th.) "Rocket '88", an R&B song credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (aka Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm.), is released. Song goes to #1 on Billboard's R&B chart. Not popularly considered a candidate for 1st rock 'n' roll record until the late 1960s.

1952-03-27 00:00:00

Sun Records Opens for Business

The highly influential U.S. independent label is famous for launching the career of Elvis Presley, as well as releasing records by such important artists as Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

1953-07-18 00:00:00

Elvis Gets Discovered

18-year old Elvis Presley creates his first record at the Memphis Recording Service at the Sun Record Company: a two song birthday gift for his mom. (His cost: $3.98.) The songs: "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin."

1954-06-07 00:00:00

Bill Haley & His Comets Cover "Shake, Rattle and Roll"

Influential 12 bar blues rock 'n' roll classic. (Original by Big Joe Turner.)

1955-03-19 00:00:00

Film 'Blackboard Jungle' is Released

Film considered to play a pivotal role in introducing rock 'n' roll, with its social commentary on teenage anti-social behavior and inclusion of Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" as a theme song. "Rock Around the Clock" hits #1 on the Billboard charts, and holds the position for 8 weeks.

1955-09-14 00:00:00

Little Richard Records "Tutti Frutti"

Little Richard's first hit record would be popularly covered by Pat Boone and Elvis Presley.

1958-03-24 00:00:00

Elvis Drafted into U.S. Army

Some expected it to be the end of his music career.

1959-02-03 00:00:00

The Day The Music Died

Rock 'n' Roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, as well as pilot Roger Peterson, die in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Name 'The Day The Music Died' would come from Don McLean's 1971 tribute single "American Pie."

1959-11-21 00:00:00

Alan Freed Fired from WABC

Freed accepted payola: record company payments in exchange for record plays on the radio. Some were also suspicious that he gave more plays to songs he had songwriting credits on.

1962-08-16 00:00:00

Pete Best Dismissed From The Beatles

He has not spoken with any member of The Beatles since.

1964-02-09 00:00:00

The Beatles' 1st Appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show

73 million viewers estimated: a U.S. television viewership record. Performances considered to play a major role in ushering in the British Invasion.

1965-07-25 00:00:00

Bob Dylan Booed at Newport Folk Festival

Folk purists upset at legend for going electric, which opposed their idea of folk music purity.

1966-07-29 00:00:00

Bob Dylan Gets in Motorcycle Accident

Crashes a 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle near Woodstock, NY. Dylan does not tour again for approximately eight years.

1967-06-01 00:00:00

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Released

Cited by music historian David Scott Kastan as "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded". Over 30 million copies sold worldwide.

1970-04-10 00:00:00

Paul McCartney Leaves The Beatles

Business disputes among the related tension.

1971-07-03 00:00:00

Jim Morrison Dies

Heart attack, in the bathroom of his Paris hotel room, is cause of death.

1974-12-29 00:00:00

The Beatles (Officially) Break Up

Legal hold-ups kept band technically alive for approximately four years after McCartney filed to end Beatles' contract.

1977-10-27 00:00:00

'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols' Released

Controversial, sociopolitical British punk album gives teeth to the punk rock revolution.

1979-06-01 00:00:00

Chuck Berry Performs at White House

Requested by President Jimmy Carter.

1980-07-21 00:00:00

AC/DC Releases Back in Black

Album dedicated to Bon Scott. It is the best-selling hard rock album of all-time: approximately 50 million copies have been sold worldwide!

1980-12-04 00:00:00

Led Zeppelin Breaks Up

Official Press Release: "We wish it to be known, that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were." - LED ZEPPELIN

1980-12-08 00:00:00

John Lennon Assassinated

Lennon autographs a copy of his album Double Fantasy for Mark David Chapman. At approximately 10:50 PM, Mark David Chapman returns and shoots Lennon four times, in his back. Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital (11:07 pm.)

1981-08-01 00:00:00

MTV Launches

MTV's 1st music video: "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles. The 2nd: "You Better Run" by Pat Benatar.

1983-09-18 00:00:00

KISS Performs Without Make-Up for the First Time

MTV appearance. Same day as their then-new album, Lick It Up, is released.

1991-08-27 00:00:00

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" Hits Radio

Formally becomes a single on September 10th (2 weeks later.) Song is credited for ushering an era of commercial alternative rock, and bringing Seattle's alternative rock scene (referred to as 'grunge' by media) to the mainstream.

1992-01-11 00:00:00

Nirvana Beats Michael Jackson on the Billboard Charts

Nevermind tops the King of Pop's Dangerous LP.

1994-04-05 00:00:00

Death of Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain commits suicide. Shotgun and note found at scene. (Date estimated by coroners.)

2004-09-20 00:00:00

Green Day Releases American Idiot

Sociopolitical pop-punk rock opera depicts the misadventures of anti-hero 'Jesus of Suburbia.'

2008-11-23 00:00:00

Guns N' Roses Releases Chinese Democracy

First studio album released under the Guns N' Roses name since 1993; band has dramatic line-up changes over the years.

2009-05-29 00:00:00

Phil Spector Convicted of Murder

Convicted of second degree murder of Lana Clarkson. Sentenced to 19 years to life.

2009-08-28 00:00:00

Oasis Breaks Up

Cause attributed to a backstage fight between Liam and Noel Gallagher.

2009-09-25 00:00:00

Alice in Chains Releases Black Gives Way to Blue

LP is their first since 1995's selftitled album, and their first since the passing of vocalist Layne Staley. Album in tribute to Staley and the band's fans.

2013-10-27 00:00:00

Lou Reed Passes Away

Liver disease is cause of death. In May of the same year, Reed had a liver transplant.

2014-04-30 00:00:00

RIAA Certifies Ramones Selftitled Album Gold

Just a week after its 38th anniversary of release.

The History of Rock: A Timeline

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