Rock and Roll Timeline


  1. Thomas Edison invents the phonograph for playing back stored sounds. The first recording he makes is "Mary Had a Little Lamb."


  1. The Chicago Automatic Machine and Tool Company invents the jukebox that plays records (as opposed to the cylinder recordings type of player that had been around since 1889).


  1. In 1917, the first jazz record was issued in the U.S. when Nick LaRocca’s Original Dixieland Jazz Band released "The Dixieland Jazz Band One-Step."


  1. The words "rock" and "roll", which were black slang for sexual intercourse, appear on record for the first time, Trixie Smith's "My Baby Rocks Me With One Steady Roll".


  1. The 78 rpm record is introduced.


  1. Adolph Rickenbacker invents the electric guitar. Known as the Frying Pan, it was a lap-steel guitar with an electromagnetic pickup, created by Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp, in which a current passed through a coil of wire wrapped around a magnet. This created a field that amplified the strings' vibrations.


  1. Billboard puts out its first record sales chart in 1936.

  2. Bluesman Robert Johnson records his first record


  1. Pete Johnson and Joe Turnercut their first boogie records in Kansas City

  2. Boom of boogie woogie in Chicago

  3. Telefunken helps develop magnetic tape for use with tape recorders.

  4. John Hammond's 'Spirituals to Swing' concert in NYC

  5. Saxophonist Louis Jordan leaves Chick Webb's sax section to form his Tympany Five. This might well mark the beginnings of what we know as Rock and Roll


  1. Leo Mintz founds a record store in Cleveland, the "Record Rendezvous", specializing in
    black music


  1. Los Angeles bluesman T-Bone Walker incorporates jazz chords into the blues guitar with "I Got A Break Baby"
  2. Savoy is founded in Newark (NJ) to promote black music


  1. King Records is founded in Cincinnati by Syd Nathan to record hillbilly. In 1946 adds race music.


  1. Les Paul invents "echo delay", "multi-tracking" and many other studio techniques
  2. Johnny Otis assembles a combo for "Harlem Nocturne" that is basically a shrunk-down version of the big-bands of swing
  3. Jules Bihari founds Modern Records in Los Angeles, specializing in black music


  1. Muddy Waters cuts the first records of Chicago's electric blues
  2. Carl Hogan plays a powerful guitar riff on Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like a Woman"
  3. Lew Chudd founds Imperial Records in Los Angeles, specializing in black music
  4. Specialty Records is founded by Art Rupe in Los Angeles to specialize in black popular music
  5. Louis Jordan launches "jump blues" (rhythm and blues) with "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie "


  1. Billboard writer Jerry Wexler invents the term "rhythm and blues" for electric blues
  2. Roy Brown writes and cuts "Good Rockin' Tonight" in Texas
  3. Chess Records is founded in Chicago by two Polish-born Jews, Leonard and Phil Chessm to promote blues and later rhythm and blues
  4. Ahmet Ertegun founds Atlantic Records in New York to promote black music at the border between jazz, rhythm and blues and pop


  1. Detroit R&B saxophonist Wild Bill Moore releases "We're Gonna Rock We're Gonna Roll"
  2. John Lee Hooker records Boogie "Chillen'" for Modern Records, a a single, which topped the R&B charts in 1949.
  3. Columbia introduces the 12-inch 33-1/3 RPM long-playing vinyl record
  4. Homer Dudley invents the Vocoder (Voice Operated recorder)
  5. Memphis' radio station WDIA hires Nat Williams, the first black disc jockey 
  6. The magazine Billboard introduces charts for "hillbilly" and "race" records


  1. Fats Domino cuts "The Fat Man," a new kind of boogie
  2. Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" reaches the top of the country charts
  3. Scatman Crothers cuts "I Want To Rock And Roll" (1949), with Wild Bill Moore on saxophone
  4. RCA Victor introduces the 45 RPM vinyl record
  5. Todd Storz of the KOWH radio station starts the Top 40 radio program
  6. The Billboard chart for "race" records becomes the chart for "rhythm and blues" records
  7. Aristocrat Records changes its name to Chess Records
  8. Dewey Phillips (white) deejays race music show 'Red Hot and Blue' in Memphis (Delta blues, Chicago blues, boogie)


  1. The white Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed decides to speculate on the success of Leo Mintz's store and starts a radio program, Moondog Rock'n'Roll Party, that broadcasts black music to an audience of white teenagers
  2. The first rock and roll record, Ike Turner's "Rocket 88," is released
  3. The first juke-box that plays 45 RPM records is introduced
  4. Howling Wolf and Joe Turner popularize the "shouters"
  5. Gunter Lee Carr cuts the dance novelty "We're Gonna Rock "


  1. Bill Haley Saddlemen become The Comets
  2. Bob Horn's Bandstand TV program airs from Philadelphia every weekday afternoon
  3. The Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed (aka Moondog) organizes the first rock and roll concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball
  4. Les Paul invents the first solid-body electric guitar, named the 'Les Paul', for the Gibson Guitar Company
  5. Sam Phillips founds Sun Records and declares "If I could find a white man who sings with the Negro feel, I'll make a million dollars"
  6. Charles Brown's "Hard Times" is the first hit by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to enter the charts        
  7. Little Richard's first records released.
  8. Dominoes' "Sixty Minute Man" enters the R&B charts where it is #1 for fourteen weeks.
  9. Dick Clark is hired by radio station WFIl in Philadelphia.
  10. Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" hits #1 on the R&B charts.


  1. Bill Haley's "Crazy Man Crazy" is the first rock and roll song to enter the Billboard charts
  2. The Orioles' "Crying in the Chapel" is the first black hit to top the white pop charts
  3. Leo Fender invents the Stratocaster guitar
  4. Sam Phillips records the first Elvis Presley record in his Sun studio of Memphis using two
    recorders to produce an effect of "slapback" audio delay
  5. The black market constitutes 5.7% of the total American market for records
  6. Vee-Jay Records is founded in Indiana, is owned by James and Vivian Bracken, specializing in black music
  7. Elvis Presley makes his first (private) recordings, "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin"
  8. Ruth Brown's (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" enters the R&B charts where it stays #1 for three weeks.
  9. Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" spends seven weeks atop the R&B charts.
  10. Jerry Wexler is hired as a producer at Atlantic Records.
  11. Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters record "Money Honey" the first of their four #1 R&B hits.
  12. Orioles record "Crying in the Chapel".


  1. Boom of Doo Wop
  2. Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" is the first rock song used in a movie soundtrack
  3. The record companies switch from 78 RPMs to 45 RPMs
  4. Japanese electronic company TTK (later Sony) introduces the world's first transistor radio
  5. Ray Charles forms his band
  6. In 1954, Big Joe Turner recorded the original version of the 1950s hit, Shake, Rattle and Roll.
  7. Johnny Cash forms the Tennessee Two with Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant,
  8. The Crows "Gee" enters the R& charts where it reaches #2.
  9. Hank Ballard and the Midnighters record, the first of the Annie Trilogy, "Work With Me Annie" enters the R&B charts.
  10. The Chords release "Sh-Boom," where it would reach #2 on the R&B charts and would later crossover reaching #3 on the pop charts.
  11. Elvis Presley with Scotty Moore and Bill Black record "That's All Right."
  12. Alan Freed makes his debut on WINS in New York.
  13. Presley's second Sun single "Good Rockin' Tonight" is released.


  1. Chuck Berry cuts his first rock and roll records, the first ones to have the guitar as the main
    instrument, and invents the descending pentatonic double-stops (the essence of rock guitar)
  2. Bo Diddley invents the "hambone" rhythm
  3. The Chordettes and the Chantels are the first girl-groups
  4. Ray Charles creates "soul" music with "I Got A Woman," a secular adaptation of an old
  5. Ace Records is formed by Johnny Vincent in New Orleans, specializing in black music
  6. The Blackboard Jungle is released featuring Bill Haley and His Comets "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the  Clock"
  7. RCA signs Elvis Presley
  8. The Everly Brothers make their first studio recordings
  9. Alan Freed's Rock 'n' Roll Ball draws huge, half-white audience
  10. Carl Perkins records "Blue Suede Shoes"
  11. Penguin's Earth Angel tops the charts
  12. Sales of 45 rpm records finally outsold 78s.


  1. Colonel Tom Parker signed on as Elvis Presley’s manager
  2. Heartbreak Hotel starts Presley-mania
  3. Presley's first film, Love Me Tender
  4. The rock 'n' roll music of white rockers is called "rockabilly" (rock + hillbilly)
  5. Screamin Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" introduces voodoo into rock'n'r oll
  6. Wanda Jackson is the "Queen of Rockabilly"
  7. James Brown and the Famous Flames sign with Ralph Bass's Federal Records.
  8. Fankie Lymon and the Teenagers chart withWwhy Do Fools Fall In Love".
  9. The popularity of rock and roll causes the record industry to boom and allows independent labels to flourish
  10. In impromptu recording session occurs at Sun Studios with the million dollar quartet consisting of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash
  11. Alan Freed's first concert held at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater
  12. Elektra pioneers the "compilation" record, containing songs by different musicians
  13. Buddy Holly had his first official recording session in 1956. It was held in Nashville at producer Owen Bradley’s Barn Studio.
  14. Jerry Lee Lewis records his first single "Crazy Arms"
  15. Brenda Lee signs a recording contract at the age of 11, after five years of singing professionally
  16. Gene Vincent made his first appearance on national TV by performing on The Perry Como Show
  17. American Bandstand first aired on nationwide TV


  1. Chuck Berry releases "School Day" and "Rock and Roll Music"
  2. Golden Age of the  Teen- Idols .
  3. Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lot of Shaking Going On" reaches #3 on the pop charts.
  4. Ricky Nelson performs "I'm Walkin'" on ABC's The Adventure of Ozzie and Harriet television show.
  5. Link Wray's Rumble invents the "fuzz-tone" guitar sound
  6. Buddy Holly recorded, That’ll Be the Day, at a Norman Petty's New Mexico studio.
  7. Billboard begins the Hot 100 singles chart
  8. Buddy Holly and  Sam Cooke made their first appearances on the same The Ed Sullivan Show
  9. American Bandstand goes national on ABC-TV
  10. The Biggest Show of Stars tour begins..


  1. Elvis is drafted into the Army
  2. Carl Perkins left Sun Records in 1958,becoming the first big rockabilly artist on the Columbia label.
  3. Golden age of instrumental rock
  4. Billboard introduces the Hot 100 Chart
  5. Eddie Cochran overdubs all instruments and vocals on "Summertime Blues" and "C'mon Everybody "
  6. Chantel"s "Maybe" enters the R&B charts
  7. The Dick Cark Show, Clark's Saturday night television show, debuts.
  8. Lowman Pauling invents guitar distortion and feedback on the Five Royales' "The Slummer"
  9. RCA introduces the first stereo long-playing records  
  10. Don Kirshner opens offices at the Brill Building
  11. David Seville's "The Witch Doctor" and the Tokens' "Tonite I Fell In Love" are the first novelty hits
  12. Chuck Berry's "Johnny B.Good becomes one of the anthems of rock and roll
  13. Billboard's Best Seller and Disk Jockey charts are replaced by the Top 30 R&B singles chart called the Hot R&Bides
  14. Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance" begins the "dance craze"
  15. Stax Records is founded in Memphis to promote black music
  16. Little Richard quits rock and roll in 1958 to attend Bible college.
  17. Ritchie Valen's "Donna" reaches #2 on the charts.
  18. Dion and The Belmonts and Laurie Records both had their first hit when the band’s, "I Wonder Why," made the Top 40
  19. Jerry Lee Lewis had 34 of his 37 concert dates in the U.K. cancelled in 1958 when it was discovered that his new bride with him was also his 13 year old cousin.
  20. Buddy Holly makes his final studio recordings " It Doesn’t Matter Any More," "Moondreams," " Raining In My Heart" and "True Love Ways"
  21. Alan Freed's  The Big Beat television show premieres  on ABC


  1. Rick Hall founds the FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama
  2. The Drifters' "There Goes My Baby" introduces Latin rhythm to pop music
  3. Ray Charles :What I Say" tops the R&B charts.
  4. Berry Gordy founds Tamla-Motown in Detroit to release pop-oriented soul records
  5. 600 million records are sold in the USA
  6. Buddy Holly dies at 22 in a plane crash
  7. Since 1955, the US market share of the four "majors" has dropped from 78% to 44%, while the market share of independent record companies increased from 22% to 56%
  8. Since 1955, the US market has increased from 213 million dollars to 603 million, and the  market share of rock and roll has increased from 15.7% to 42.7%
  9. Frankie Avalon "Venus" reaches #1 on the pop chart.
  10. Your Hit Parade airs for the last time on April 24, 1959.


  1. Elvis appears on the Ed Sullivan Show following his release from the Army.
  2. Twist is the biggest dance-craze in the year of the dance-crazes
  3. Larry Parnes, Britain's most famous impresario, arranges a show for the Silver Beetles in Liverpool
  4. Sam Cooke signed with RCA Records in 1960, bringing his hits on Keen Records with him The Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" coins a form of romantic multi-part vocal  harmonies
  5. The British producer Joe Meek uses the recording studio like an instrument for "I Hear a  New World "
  6. Eddie Cochran dies at 22
  7. Ray Charles has his first #1 hit "Georgia On My Mind "


  1. Dick Dale uses the term "surfing" to describe his instrumental rock and roll
  2. Stax begins to produce soul records in Memphis
  3. The Peppermint Lounge opens in New York
  4. Roy Orbison has his first number #1 hit, "Running Scared"
  5. Phil Spector and partner Lester Sill released the "Oh Yeah Maybe Baby" on their new label Philles


  1. The Supremes first recordings are released.
  2. James Brown record his famous Live At the Apollo album


  1. Surf music rules the airwaves
  2. Little Stevie Wonder recorded his first #1 hit, "Fingertips – Pt. 2,"


  1. Alan Freed, the man who gave rock ‘n’ roll its name, died in 1965 at the early age of 43

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