Leo Fender introduces the Stratocaster electric guitar
The Stratocaster was unveiled by Leo Fender as a sleeker update to the Fender electric guitar in 1954. The guitar revolutionized the sound of rock, according to Norman Abjorensen, author of “Historical Dictionary of Popular Music.” It would be the instrument of choice for a number of famous musicians, including Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Holly.
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Frank Sinatra gives birth to concept albums
“Songs for Young Lovers” was Frank Sinatra's seventh studio album, released in 1954. It is considered one of the first concept albums, according to Alva Yaffe of Musicoholics.
Chuck Berry releases Maybellene
“Maybellene,” a rock version of a Western fiddle tune, was Chuck Berry's first big hit. The song, released in 1955, is widely considered to be one of the world’s first rock ’n’ roll tracks.
Elvis Presley thrusts his hips on TV
His racy hip thrusts sparked controversy during Elvis Presley's performance of “Hound Dog” on “The Milton Berle Show” in June 1956. Fans loved it, but critics blasted the pelvis-shaking dance moves as vulgar, according to PBS.
Harry Belafonte’s Calypso sells more than 1 million copies
The LP album “Calypso,” featuring Harry Belafonte's version of the Jamaican folk song “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” was released in 1956. It would become the first record album to sell more than 1 million copies in a single year.
First Grammy Awards ceremony is held
The ceremony for the first Grammy Awards took place at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on May 14, 1959, to recognize the biggest names in music that year. Award winners included Ella Fitzgerald for “Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Songbook,” Perry Como for “Catch a Falling Star,” and Domenico Modugno for “Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu (Volare).”
The day the music died
Rock ’n’ roller Buddy Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson, died in a plane crash in Iowa on Feb. 3, 1959. The tragedy would later be called “the day the music died” in singer Don McLean’s song, “American Pie,” released in 1971.
Phil Spector formulates the Wall of Sound
Record producer Phil Spector invented the Wall of Sound music production formula in 1962. The radical recording technique, which created a soundscape with many layers and more reverb, would add immense dynamism to rock and pop music.
James Brown performs live at the Apollo
James Brown performed in front of 1,500 fans at the Apollo in Harlem on Oct. 24, 1962. The show was recorded and released on record, later becoming “one of the greatest albums of all time,” according to James Maycock of The Guardian.
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Philips introduces compact cassette tapes
Philips introduced the compact cassette in September 1963. The new recording medium offered more portability than records, and would eventually allow countless teenagers to record mix tapes.
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