A Chronology/Timeline of Rock Music

Excerpted from my book "A History of Rock and Dance Music"

Created by Piero Scaruffi

TM, , Copyright 1996-2008 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.

(Restyling by Marc Zoutendijk and Luca Congia)

Books by Piero Scaruffi: History of Rock | A History of Jazz | A History of Pop

Main music page | History of rock music | Best albums of all time | Bibliography

Origins 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

Legend: Avantgarde | Music industry | Instruments | Media | Necrology | Exotic

Versione Italiana

The arrow signifies "birth of a new genre"

These, of course, are my personal opinions on when genres where invented, who invented them, and which were the most significant events. To understand how I justify these opinions you have to read my book "A History of Rock Music".

The Chronology of Rock Music actually starts from the 1950s, but this chronology of mine is being extended to pop, blues, jazz, etc. So this page starts from the beginning of published music. Skip to the 1950s if you are only interested in modern music.

  • Eduard-Leon Scott invents the phonautograph and makes the first visual recording of sound
  • The first collection of "Slave Songs of the United States" is published
  • Thomas Watson, Edison's assistant, is the first person to listen to noise (on the first telephone test line) for pleasure
  • Thomas Edison invents sound recording, and a phonograph to play sound recorded on cylinders
  • The tango is born in Buenos Aires
  • Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward Franklin Albee set up a nation-wide chain of vaudeville theaters
  • Emile Berliner builds the first gramophone, that plays sound recorded at 78 RPM on a flat record
  • Charles Ives' "Variations on America" is the first polytonal piece
  • Columbia is founded by Edward Easton
  • Popular music becomes big business and music publishers rent offices around Union Square in New York City, an area that is renamed "Tin Pan Alley" (sheet music is the primary "product" of popular music and the industry is dominated by music publishing houses)
  • Kerry Mills's Rastus On Parade is the first published cakewalk
  • Hawaiian guitarist Joseph Kekeku invents the slide guitar (by fretting the guitar with a comb)
  • The weekly Billboard magazine begins publication, offering "charts" of music sales
  • Ben Harney's You've Been a Good Old Wagon is the first ragtime piece to be published
  • The first jazz band, the Spasm Band, first performs in New Orleans
  • Gugliemo Marconi invents the radio
  • Edwin Votey invents the player piano
  • Emile Berliner sells the European rights to the gramophone to the Gramophone Company or HMV (His Master's Voice)
  • Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag (1899) starts the ragtime craze
  • Emile Berliner founds the record label Victor Talking Machines
  • Melville Clark builds the first full 88-key player piano
  • Will-Marion Cook's musical revue In Dahomey exports cakewalk to Britain
  • Arnold Schoenberg composes atonal music
  • Thaddeus Cahill builds the first electronic instrument
  • Ferruccio Busoni publishes "Entwurf einer neuen Aesthetic der Tonkunst", predicting the use of dissonant and electric sound in musical composition
  • Fred Barrasso creates a chain of vaudeville theaters that evolves into the Theater Owners's Booking Association (T.O.B.A.).
  • Cubism is the new fad in Paris
  • The term "jazz" is used for the first time in the song Uncle Josh in Society (but it refers to ragtime)
  • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti publishes his "Manifesto Futurista" in Paris

Origins 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

Legend: Avantgarde | Music industry | Instruments | Media | Necrology | Exotic