Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States.

What is the first band that could be determined as Rock?

I mean the first band that had some different features from the past genres and that determine the passage to this new gerne known as Rock.

I have some ideas, such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who...

Help me in this deep research!

  • Interesting problem - even wikipedia skirts the issue, shifting from R&R through what it terms 'the British invasion' [which sounds odd to someone from there ;) a bit about garage rock [which never made the journey back across the Atlantic at all] then onto psychedelic & prog. It misses the main transition entirely - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_music
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 6, 2017 at 6:38
  • The Beatles were releasing two albums a year in the early 60's so if 'Hard Day's Night' & 'Can't buy me Love' aren't quite rock yet - 6 months later there was 'Help' & 'Ticket to Ride'. Not quite rock as we know it - but certainly nothing like it had gone before. The Stones' The Last Time or Kinks You Really Got Me might also be contenders.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 6, 2017 at 7:06
  • The Dave Clark Five were getting close as early as late '63 - early '64 with 'Glad All Over' & 'Bits & Pieces'.
    – DaveP
    Apr 6, 2017 at 9:36
  • the yardbirds had an album in 1963
    – Jared
    Jul 9, 2019 at 5:31

4 Answers 4


If we are talking about 'Rock' distinct from 'Rock n' Roll', then it should have these features:

  • Power chords, or at least aggressive chords on guitar, featuring the minor pentatonic scale
  • Guitars are distorted (amplifiers)
  • Driving drums
  • A guitar solo would be a boon here

A lot of suggestions have been given to the forefathers of the early rock n roll landscape.

  • The Beatles were a pop band more than anything. None of their albums featured anything this driving until the White Album
  • The Dave Clark Five emulated the Beatles sound. They are, therefore, more pop (or rock n' roll if that offends some) than Rock
  • The Animals released House of the Rising Sun in early 1964. Wikipedia identifies this as one of the earliest Folk Rock songs. This song lacked distorted guitars (the organ was the prominent voice)
  • Surf Rock started as early as 1961. The signature guitar sound of Surf Rock lacked distortion (but featured reverb)

This leaves two real contenders:

  • The Kinks released 'You Really Got Me Now' in 1964
  • The Who released 'My Generation' in 1965, about a year later

Both of these songs satisfy the conditions above. Both have distorted guitars and angsty vocals. Both have guitar solos.

The Kinks, FTW.

EDIT: since there is discussion based on the comment to my first answer, I will put that back up here:

Chuck Berry is the first musician to play a guitar in a Rock fashion. Whether or not his backing band were all playing what you might consider Rock, none of us might be playing Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, etc. without Chuck Berry.

You have to mention his name as The Inventor.


In 1958, Link Wray released Rumble, the only instrumental song to be banned on the radio. This song featured distortion and tremolo effects. I am unsure you could qualify his band as rock; while there are elements of surf rock, most of it sounds like county and soul.

  • but rock ' roll is not rock - and had effectively died out by the early 60's. There was a hiatus, filled by The Beatles et al in 62, but that wasn't yet rock either. By the time The Who did My Generation in 65, that was clearly rock; but idk if it was first.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 6, 2017 at 6:24
  • 1
    @Tetsujin, to me rock'n roll is included in rock, don't you think ?
    – Bebs
    Apr 6, 2017 at 13:26
  • @Bebs - in so much as they are related, one led indirectly to the other, sure - but if someone posted 'Chuck Berry' as an answer to 'who was the first rock artist', I could not agree. The re-worked answer is much more along the lines I was thinking... that it came from somewhere in 60's Brit pop, using elements first borrowed from R&R, but then discarding the elemental 12-bar structure for something fresh. No-one yet mentioned R&B, which has got to be a real contributing factor too.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 6, 2017 at 13:31
  • The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" is a strong contender from 1964, which they started playing when on tour with Chuck Berry according to wikipedia.
    – DaveP
    Apr 6, 2017 at 18:19
  • Are we omitting surf rock here? Because I know such bands that predate 1964 by a fair bit. Apr 7, 2017 at 1:18

So this is a work in progress. I am quite versed in Canadian music but not so much rock & roll history so bear with me.

Features I will be focusing on:

  1. There is no headliner. The headliner is the band. So no Dick Dale & The Del-Tones. No Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks.

  2. The drummer must tour with the band. Bands in the early days of rock n roll did not have a consistent drummer as they were often forbidden in some of the venues that would hold rock & roll concerts. This was a major reason for the prominence of individual headliners in the early days.

  3. The band must have begun as a rock n roll band. This excludes bands like The Four Lads (who began as a doo-wop band).

  4. I will posit that rock & roll is in fact rock and try not to separate "classic rock" and "oldie rock" as others may be wont to do. I posit this as rock bands through the years do in fact turn back and play these tunes with the understanding that they are in fact rock & roll.

  5. I will posit that rockabilly is not rock & roll as it has a unique development pattern stemming from the late 1930s early boogie period. Songs with pronounced backbeats are rock & roll, songs without are to be reviewed for further study.

  6. The minimum components of any candidate band will have at least one guitarist, one bassist and one drummer. Any further instrumentalists must not overwhelm these components, but compliment as in creating a sustaining tone or creating rhythmic embellishments. There may or may not be a vocalist or two (or more!)

So, the first band.

The Four Frantics were formed in 1955 but as far as I can tell, their first recording was in 1959.

This is not a complete answer, suffice to say, but it will be a launch pad when I find more when I take a bit more time to look at what is out there.

  • 'rockabilly is not rock & roll'? Not having that. youtube.com/watch?v=9H2Rl5NMf2o
    – DaveP
    Apr 10, 2017 at 9:16
  • That's got a boogie bassline. It is a good tune though. From a year earlier we get this with a more rocking bassline. youtube.com/watch?v=UM4GkJnOu8o Apr 11, 2017 at 0:50
  • 1
    "The band must have begun as a rock n roll band." Just wondering why that's a requirement. Are the Bee Gees not a disco band because they started off playing soft rock? Did James Brown not originate funk music because he first came to fame as a soul singer? Apr 14, 2017 at 23:26
  • I excluded them because this question was about when rock separated and became distinct from other genres. I thought it was a good distinction point because such a band who did start out as a rock band would be designed for rock and roll and less something else. Apr 14, 2017 at 23:34

The Beatles definitely weren't the first band. The reason being that their whole band layout is inspired by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (who are also the reason for their name being after an insect). Buddy Holly was super influential on virtually every rock 'n' roll band of the 1960s and, in my opinion, kickstarted the whole band concept.


The Frantics are not Rock. Rock has a feel or essence that can't be measured on paper. It's deep and strong and true to itself. It's heavy guitars have no room for pop, rockabilly etc. We didn't get the full experience until we heard Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and a few others. My personal choice for the epitome and beginning of Rock is Led Zeppelin's albums I (Jan. 1969), and II (Oct. 1969). No one before them is stronger.

  • Using your own definition, Hendrix predates Zeppelin. One would have to be mad not call the Are You Experienced album (1967) rock :)
    – Amarth
    Feb 23, 2023 at 20:03

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