Rock and roll years: the 1960s


1 AUGUST, 1960 The Beatles make their debut in Hamburg, Germany.

EARLY 1960S Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard dominate the No 1 spot on the UK singles chart between 1960 and 1962.

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Civil rights movements gain momentum throughout United States and Europe.

Lonnie Donegan and skiffle music heavily influence the Quarrymen, who later become the Beatles. Merseybeat or beat music starts in turn to influence Scottish bands and UK music.

As well as traditional jazz, pioneering R&B and rock'n'roll is heard in Scottish clubs.

The Alex Harvey Soul Band include many songs by American R&B and blues artists in their set. They record a version of the Isley Brothers' Shout.

1960-1965 New student or bohemian clubs open in Edinburgh, including Bungy's, the Temple Club, the Gamp and the Place.


The Bay of Pigs. A US-backed invasion of Cuba attempts to overthrow Fidel Castro.

1961-62 Two new beat clubs open in Edinburgh on Victoria Street.

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Andy Stewart has a hit with A Scottish Soldier. Later records Donald, Where's Yer Troosers.

Between 1961 and 1964, Karl Denver has 11 hit songs in the UK chart, including Mexicala Rose and Wimoweh.


Skiffle bands and versions of American folk tunes reach saturation point. Lonnie Donegan has 26 Top Ten hits between 1956-1962, including Commancheros and My Old Man's A Dustman. His career starts to decline in 1962, at which point many comedy and novelty songs feature in his repertoire.

The Beatles release first single Love Me Do.

Ballroom dancing is still fashionable and popular, but is rapidly giving way to pop music and bands. Friday Night by Manny Charlton and Friday on my Mind by George Young are two popular songs recorded about Scottish music lovers working through the week and dancing at the weekend.

Bobby Patrick's Big Six have hits with Shake It Easy Baby and Monkey Time.

15 OCTOBER, 1962 The Cuban missile crisis brings US and Soviet Union to the brink of war.


JANUARY 1963 The Beatles complete five-day tour of Scotland to promote Love Me Do.

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The Mark Five, featuring Manny Charlton who later plays in Nazareth, walk from Edinburgh to London, hitching a ride whenever photographers were not present. The walk is a publicity stunt to protest about the lack of record companies coming to Scotland to see Scottish bands, and a ploy to demand a record deal. They are met in Market Harborough by a record company executive and offered a contract. The Mark Five release a version of the Isley Brothers' Tango but are soon dropped by the label.

2 MAY 1963 Please Please Me by the Beatles is the first of their 17 No 1 singles. It spends seven weeks at the top.

Edinburgh venue the Place puts on beat groups from Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as blues and folk artists. Merseybeat dominates UK culture, charts and bands.

OCTOBER 1963 The Alex Harvey Soul Band record their first album for Polydor. Alex Harvey And His Soul Band is considered to be Scotland's first rock album.

28 August, 1963 Martin Luther King gives his "I Have A Dream" speech at a civil rights rally in Washington DC.

22 NOVEMBER, 1963 The American president, John F Kennedy, is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.


1 JANUARY, 1964 BBC's Top of the Pops airs for the first time on television.

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The Athenians become the first Scottish beat group to release a single.

The Poets, dubbed the Scottish Rolling Stones, score a huge hit with Now We're Thru. The band dresses onstage in the style of the 18th-century poet Robert Burns.

21 MARCH, 1964 For the first time in UK chart history, the Top Ten consists entirely of British artists. Scottish acts face difficulties as charts and record labels favour English pop acts. Many Scots bands cover songs from Stax and Motown labels.

4 SEPTEMBER, 1964 The Forth Road Bridge opens.

1964-1975 The Vietnam War.

The McKinleys release debut single Someone Cares For Me.

Dean Ford and the Gaylords are regulars on BBC Scotland shows and at the hip Glasgow club the Picasso. They release their debut single Twenty Miles.

Lulu and the Luvvers secure a record deal with Decca records but rapidly the band is seen as superfluous. Lulu releases a solo version of the Isley Brothers' song Shout, which becomes a Top Ten hit.

16 July 1964 The Rolling Stones score their first No 1 single with It's All Over Now, written by Womack and Womack.

Alex Harvey and his Soul Band release their second album The Blues.

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The Blues Council release their first and only single Baby Don't Look Down.


APRIL 1965 Bert Jansch records his first album using a reel-to-reel tape machine and a borrowed guitar. He sells the recordings to the Transatlantic label for GBP 100. The album goes on to become one of the most influential guitar albums ever.

MARCH 1965 Donovan releases Catch The Wind.

Lulu releases the album Something to Shout About.

The Blues Council's tour van crashes, killing vocalist Fraser Calder and bassist James Giffen. The rest disband.

Mid-to-late 1960s Psychedelia gradually adds its influence to folk and rock'n'roll.


The Beatles release Revolver.

Alex Harvey joins the musical Hair for five years as guitarist.

Having abbreviated their name, The Gaylords release He's a Good Face (But He's Down and Out).

The Incredible String Band release their self-titled debut album.

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Jack Bruce forms super-group Cream with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. They release debut album Fresh Cream.

Donovan's Sunshine Superman goes to No 1 in the US chart and No 2 in the UK.

Mid-to-late 1960s UK has a growing culture of social and musical rebellion led by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Literature, music and art have growing number of wild or provocative characters.


Cream release their Wheels Of Fire album, which becomes the first album to go platinum.

The Incredible String Band move away from traditional folk towards psychedelia with the release of their second album 5000 Spirits.

Rebelliousness, wild spirits and drugs become more prominent in pop culture. Jimi Hendrix sets fire to his guitar on stage for the first time. Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground start their musical careers. The Beatles release their Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Donovan releases Mellow Yellow. It gets to No 2 in the US chart and No 8 in the UK.

Radio Scotland closes down.


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15 JANUARY, 1968 A hurricane hits the Strathclyde area, killing 20 people and leaving 2,000 homeless.

4 APRIL, 1968 Martin Luther King is assassinated.

Marmalade (formerly Dean Ford and the Gaylords) have hit singles with Lovin' Things, Waitin' For Me Marianne and the Beatles song Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. The latter earns them a gold disc.

Rock and psychedelia replace old soul tunes as new influence.

Cream release their single Sunshine Of Your Love.

15 NOVEMBER, 1968 In US, 500,000 people march in Washington DC for peace, the largest anti-war rally in US history.


Following their Top Ten hit Baby Make It Soon, Marmalade release the single Reflections Of My Life, which goes to No 1 in the UK.

15 AUGUST, 1969 Over 400,000 people attend Woodstock festival in US, seen by many as the high point of the hippie era and the counter-culture of drugs, free love and psychedelia.

The Scottish band Writing On The Wall become popular on the UK live scene by nurturing rebellious image. Fights are staged in which members of the band would be thrown into the crowd.

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Scotland's 100 best rock and pop albums: Day One: Rock and Roll years: The 1950s

Edition or section: 1 Page number: 8 Word count: 964

The Scotsman 04 Oct 2003


Recession and the impact of the Second World War creates cultures in Britain and the US that emphasise calm and conformity.


Dance halls and ballrooms featuring live bands play contemporary jazz and old favourites. These halls have a polite, adult atmosphere. However, in Scotland, particularly Glasgow, a culture of knife-carrying gangs develops.

3 JAN 1950

Sam Philips opens the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

EARLY 1950s

Big Band music influences the modern pop sound. There is a gradual shift of emphasis from bands to solo singers. Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and Perry Como are popular in the US. The UK is also dominated by crooners, easy-listening, ballads and old standards.

8 SEP 1950

A coal mine collapses in Scotland killing 128 people.


The Scottish population reaches 5,096,000.


Rocket 88 released by American band Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, widely regarded by music historians as first rock'n'roll single.

EARLY 1950s

R&B styles are increasingly mixed with rock'n'roll to reach a wider audience.

26 FEB 1952

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Prime minister Winston Churchill announces that UK has an atomic bomb.

14 NOV 1952

The first British chart based on record sales is produced. Prior to this, music charts were based on sheet music sales, bought by aspiring bands and musicians.

14 NOV 1952

The first UK number one based on record sales was US crooner Al Martino with Here In My Heart.


Teddy Boy fashion becomes increasingly popular, especially with the lower classes. An infamous Teddy Boy murder puts the image on the front of the national press. Drainpipe trousers, velvet collars, greased back DA (duck's arse) hairstyles and suede shoes feature heavily in the look. Brylcreem sells well through this phase. The image is associated with rebellion, gangs, knives and violence.

30 DEC 1953

First colour televisions go on sale for about dollars 1,175.

10 MAY 1954

Bill Haley And The Comets release Rock Around The Clock.

13 JUL 1954

A record company A&R man agrees to let Chris Barber and banjo player Anthony 'Lonnie' Donegan use his studio while he is on a coffee break. They record a handful of skiffle songs.


The Chris Barber Jazz Band record 10in album New Orleans Joy. It includes two Leadbelly songs; Rock Island Line and John Henry. These are credited to the Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group. The songs are coupled as a single and released in 1955.


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Popular music is dominated by the Big Band sound from early to mid 1950s. Dixieland jazz gradually creeps in and American folk and blues artists become more influential.


Rock'n'roll becomes rapidly popular with youths in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Young Scots are inspired by records brought over by American merchant seamen.


Alex Harvey joins saxophonist Bill Patrick to form a band that plays rock'n'roll and traditional jazz. They are known as both the Clyde River Jazz Band and Kansas City Skiffle Band, depending on the booking.


Jimmy Shand has a hit single with Blue Bell Polka, a traditional country dance song.


James Dean's Rebel Without A Cause film is released.


Elvis Presley dominates popular music. His image of rebellion and liberation, particularly sexual expression, is a hit with youths looking for excitement. The influence of African-American music is made more acceptable to mainstream audiences by a white face.


Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan is a massive hit in the UK and the US. Three million copies are sold. Many young people are inspired by Donegan's stripped-down or homemade sound and start playing the guitar. A mix of folk, blues country and rock'n'roll, Donegan's skiffle sound heavily influenced early Beatles recordings. He is often referred to as the founding father of pop. Skiffle's lyrical content appealed to young working-class people with songs about outlaws, cotton-pickers, railwaymen and workers.


Ricky Barnes leads Britain's first rock'n'roll combo, the Ricky Barnes All Stars. Their set includes shuffle music, R&B, jazz and music heavily influenced by American artists.


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Beatnik culture, or the Beat Generation, has a wide influence on the world's arts and cultures. Central works are Allen Ginsberg's Howl (1956) and Jack Kerouac's On The Road (1957).


In Scotland and the rest of the UK, large outdoors parties become popular, where many take their own musical instruments. Hobos, travellers, campers and hitchhikers all attend. Political youth movements such as the Young Communist League and CND gather force.

16 NOV 1956

The tram system stops running in the streets of Edinburgh.


Traditional jazz band Ian Menzies And The Clyde Valley Stompers turn professional and release records for the Decca label. They later record songs like Ace In The Hole and Sailing down Chesapeake Bay, with Lonnie Donegan guesting on vocals.

12 APR 1957

Lonnie Donegan's first No 1 single, Cumberland Gap, spends five weeks at the top of the charts. It is the first skiffle number one.

LATE 1950'S

The UK sales charts feature more and more rock'n'roll.

12 JUL 1957

Elvis Presley's tenth single All Shook Up becomes his first of 17 No 1 singles. It spends seven weeks at the top of the charts.


Ricky Barnes All Stars play in a seated venue in Scotland. The rock'n'roll energy of the band and the audience leads to a struggle between the management and the crowd who refuse to stay seated. This develops into a riot.


Lord Rockingham's XI score a hit with the rock'n'roll instrumental Hoots Mon.


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Jackie Dennis releases hit singles La Dee Dah and Purple People Eater.

From the mid-1950s to the end of the decade, traditional pop music reaches its climax. A division increasingly occurs between young and old people, as teenagers and youth culture embrace early rock'n'roll music, its fashion and ideals.